WRITTEN BY YAASHA HEPPERLE
I’ve talked about what it is to be a Christian writer mom and the importance of praying for your writing. I’ve talked about what it is to be a writer mom, and how your journey and process as a writer is unique to you. Today, I’ll talk about what it is to be a mom who writes. Some time ago, I browsed through a book that promised to help me learn how to write 2000 words a day. Since my writing was sporadic and I could only eke out 1000 words on my best days, the idea of 2000 words a day sounded really appealing. What was the secret? I had to know.
The deeper I got into the material, however, the more discouraged I became. The secret sauce involved things that I could not replicate as a mom. Then the book pointed to a popular author who recharges his creative juices with regular afternoon naps and quiet time and said I should do the same.
I just about threw the book across the room.
Did I want regular naps? Yes. Heck, I wanted eight hours of sleep a night too. Did I get that?
Why? Because I was a mom, and my infant daughter’s daily (and nightly) needs took precedence.
Don’t get me wrong, I crammed in sleep wherever I could get it. But what if the choice was between napping and writing? What then?
I realized that much of the available advice intended to boost your writing potential is targeted toward some variation of specific demographics: people who are not primary caregivers, parents who have regular childcare available to them, and singles.
Now I’m not saying that people in those groups don’t have their own troubles. As a mom, I have occasionally lamented, “Why didn’t I use my singleness to get more writing done?” Then I recall all the craziness of my single years: the chronic illness, the juggling of multiple jobs, the ministries and church activities. I had many obligations that vied for my energy and attention.
Whiny, hungry kids are distracting. An overflowing diaper can’t be ignored.
If a child’s school project is due tomorrow and your writing deadline isn’t for another three weeks, guess what gets put on the back burner?
The urgency of a child’s needs displaces or delays writing constantly. For most of us, we have husbands also, and while their needs may not always present themselves as urgent ones, they are certainly vital ones. Our marriages underscore our mothering, our creativity, and our daily life.
I once told my husband that I did not want him to get my “leftovers,” after I had given my best and brightest to my children, my daily obligations, my ministry opportunities, and even my writing. And yet, that’s often what he gets.
Never mind my time with the Lord. Without Him, the creative well from which I draw runs dry. But without intentionally putting Him first, He easily takes last place in my heart and schedule.
It is tempting to say, “Well, this is clearly not a season for writing.” For some of us, that is true. We should put writing away for another season in life, and focus fully on these precious years raising our little ones. There is no shame in that. The stories that we are writing in our children’s lives and souls are more important than any story than we could publish. For others (like me), writing is the thing that keeps us sane. We don’t know how not to write. In fact, hitting those writing milestones gives us the creative release and the sense of accomplishment that makes us better moms, wives, and daughters of the King.
It may feel like we fail as mothers if we take the time to write, and yet we can feel like failures anyway if we don’t take the time to write.
So how do we write without distracting from motherhood? How do we mother without diminishing our writing?
One day at a time.
That sounds trite and eye-roll-worthy, but bear with me.
If Future-Me came to Present-Me and presented the lifetime accumulation of parenting obligations—the hours of sleep lost, the anxieties, the prayers, the inconveniences and messes, the conflicts, the tantrums, the difficult parenting decisions—I would not want to parent. Nope. Too much work.
But when I face each day’s work as it comes, it is manageable.
We tend to do the same thing with writing. We see the big, overall goals. I need to write 100 thousand words. Then I need to send it to my beta readers. Then revise. Then send to my editor. Then revise again… (Insert long list) And then, after all this publication business, I need to continue my marketing efforts…
We wallop our brains with months or years of to-dos before we’ve even written a hundred words of our draft.
What if we just didn’t? What if we said, “What can I do today?” Today, I will write during my baby’s naptime. Today, I will write in the evening after the kids are in bed. Today, I will write on my phone while the kids are at their lessons. Another thought: What if we changed our expectations?
When our daughter was born, my husband and I just added “Care for child” onto our already full lists and continued on as before. Now, a year later, we are paying the consequences through severe burnout. We failed to recognize our finiteness, and we are now taking steps to prioritize our marriage, our child, and our Sabbaths.
You, mama, cannot be everything to everyone. If you have decided that writing is something you must say Yes to, either as a matter of mental health or obedience to the Lord’s direction, then you must say no to an uncomfortable number of things. Obviously, do not use your writing as an excuse to walk away from necessary obligations, but do prioritize. Don’t expect that you can do all the things and still have energy for writing. Decide what matters most.
You must also recognize that 2000-word days may no longer be possible. Embrace your 150-word days. If you write 150 words every weekday, that’s still 450 words that didn’t exist before. Don’t feel ashamed of your work or diminish its worth. Celebrate it!
If we saw each day as its own opportunity, if we protected our writing time by saying no to good but unnecessary things, and if we accepted even small steps of progress with gratitude—how would that change our writing?
Yaasha Hepperle is a Christian writer mom with a mission to share the unexpected good—that is, those gifts from God that are different than the desires we’ve prayed for and yet so, so much better. She writes general-market YA/adult speculative fiction as Yaasha Moriah (YaashaMoriah.com) and Christian encouragement for women as Yaasha Hepperle (theunexpectedgood.com). She lives in Virginia with her husband Paul and her daughter Keziah, and loves good coffee, all things purple, and outdoor adventures.
Contributing author to the anthology Faith in Fiction: Divergents, Tributes, Games, and Sandworms
Flash fiction “Forest of Fear” appears in the Havok Season 3 Bingeworthy anthology
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