Sunday, May 15, 2011

Author vs. Mother

Trying to get writing done with two six-month-old boys can be challenging. Last week--with the twins being sick, exhausted, teething, traumatized, and generally ill-tempered--it was especially challenging. Saturday, my self-imposed deadline, has come and gone, and I'm still trying to finish the rough draft of Road from the West

While pondering all the infant-provoked adversities that have afflicted my writing schedule (pardon me as I pause this blog post to go clean vomit off the rug), I ran across an interview with Nichole Bernier about the challenges of being both a writer and a mother. Ms. Bernier is "a freelance writer based in Boston, and the author of the novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, to be published by Crown/Random House in early 2012." She has five children ranging in age from 21 months to 10 years old and offers an excellent perspective on mixing authorship with motherhood.

When asked about the impact of children on her writing career, Ms. Bernier says:
Being a mother has made me a lot more disciplined, because you have to take advantage of writing time when it comes, and I can't procrastinate deadlines until the last minute, because you never know what might get in the way. All-nighters aren't a viable option anymore.
All-nighters aren't the only thing a mom/author has to give up. Ms. Bernier mentions a theory of hers called "Three Things," the idea that anyone who has kids can only successfully devote their time to three other activities. "If you work outside the home, that's one big thing. If you exercise regularly, that's another. If you knit or belong to a book club or hold a board position at the kids' school or adore reality TV, there you go."

So what exactly has it meant for Ms. Bernier to juggle the roles of mother and author?
In practical terms, it meant years of giving over babysitting time to something that may or may not pay off financially.... In mental terms, it means finding the discipline to work when you have the time. The faucet has to go on and off based on the family schedule, not the ebb and flow of your ideas or mood. Emotionally, it's meant sometimes curbing the inner toddler that wants to throw a foot-stomping tantrum about not being able to write as much as some other writers do. Spending all day on revisions, or traveling for conferences or retreats--those aren't things that happen easily with family life. That's when I have to go back to square one and remind myself how lucky I am to know what it is I love to do and pursue it, because many people never do.
In an effort to help other mothers pursue that love of writing and break into the publishing world, Ms. Bernier offers a list of advice: make your writing as good as it can be, learn about agents and the querying process, and have a thick skin to rejection. But my favorite piece of advice is this one:
Network on social media. Write essays, articles, blogs, clever email, anything that's a limbering-up exercise to keep your thinking process sharp and your creativity going. But don't let that become so time consuming that it usurps the actual writing you want to see published.
*Sigh* Better get back to that manuscript I was working on.... New self-imposed deadline: Tuesday.


  1. That was very inspirational. I hope you meet your deadline (and any other ones you put before you in the future).

  2. Thanks, guys! :-) I'm doing my best. Got down 2200 words today, and I still have all of tomorrow....

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  4. Good luck to you, Rosanne, and thanks for excerpting my interview! Glad you found it useful.

    What I should have added: Remember to give yourself credit for what you DO get done. Because there are many days when getting anything accomplished beyond the care and feeding of the little people is unfathomable.


  5. Thanks, Nichole! Your article was very inspirational to me!


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