Writing Wednesday: Story-Babies, or What I Learned about Balancing Work/Writing/Life from a Parenting Blog Post

21 Sep

Somehow, in the midst of a heat wave over the summer, I got a cold.  When I emailed my sister to complain, she lovingly sent me some kind words, saying:

Be gentle with yourself.

She related she’d read the phrase on Cup of Jo, a blog written by Joanna Goddard that my sister and I both enjoy reading.  I decided some blog reading might be a good distraction so I decided to peruse Cup of Jo, while sucking down a Coldbuster from Jamba Juice.  What I discovered was that it was Joanna Goddard’s mom, who told her, “Take gentle care of yourself.”  The advice was part of a series on juggling work/baby/life.

I don’t have a baby—at least not in the obvious sense.  Jack Kerouac once said:

“I’m going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”

I rather like that.  Although I don’t have flesh-and-bone babies, I am constantly giving birth to little stories.  I have my work-work (the 9-to-5 job that pays the bills) but I also have my “babies” (my creative writing projects).  Oh sure, if I don’t “feed” my book, I won’t be taken away by Child Protective Services, but I feel guilty when I don’t spend quality time with my story.  Like a parent, I feel like my life (sleep, socializing, etc.) often suffers as a consequence of my story-baby.

I turned to the Cup of Jo series on work/baby/life balance fully admitting that a book and a baby aren’t the same thing, but hoping to glean some useful tips.  Some of it gave me hope … and some of it made me bitter.

What I took away from the work-life balance series:::

  • Take care of emails in batches.  Ie, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  That gives you more time than constantly checking your inbox.
  • Some things will inevitably slide.  Mothers who work full-time and don’t have nannies around 24/7, don’t look as put together as Katie Holmes and Angelina Jolie.  Writers who work full-time and go to grad school full-time and freelance may have bad hair days.
  • Some mothers can get nannies or hubbies to help out.  Writers are the only ones who can write their books.
  • Maybe instead of paying babysitters for a little free time, writers pay delivery men and cleaners for a little free time.
  • I’m not the only one holed up in my room.  Writers, freelancers, and moms work from home.  Maybe a trip to the playground is in order at lunchtime.
  • Compartmentalize.  Work hard and stay focused on the task at hand, instead of giving into distractions that lead to one job eating into the next.
  • Pamper yourself.  Moms almost never get time to themselves, and when they do they spoil themselves with pedicures.  Mental health days are okay to take.  Doing nice things for yourself is okay.  Writers, take note.
  • Create a schedule, tweak as necessary.  It helps mommies and writers to have a game plan for each day.
  • Make time for your husband, or in the writer’s case, a good book.  We write because we first loved books.  We need to always cherish the art of literature and never neglect it, lest we begin to lose our passion and vision.

I wonder if other writers feel like their books are all-consuming babies sometimes.

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