Writing Mama

Today I’d like to have a mango margarita. Then I’ll take a sip, close my eyes and imagine I’m on a tropical beach. Cue sigh.

My day job at present is parenting and writing. I’ve been thinking that they’re alike in several ways. Most writers refer to their books as their children or at minimum hold them almost as dear. As a parent of two teens, I can say that when the words won’t flow- it’s as frustrating as when kids are stubbornly silent. When I face a brutal edit, it is the same feeling I had the day I picked my oldest up from school and was told she was waiting for me– in the principal’s office. Uh oh. When you send out those queries or make those pitches, it’s sending your babe into the world and hoping everyone loves her as much as you do.

Here are few bits I’ve learned as a parent and writer:

1- Listen for the silences. My youngest is just entering the toddler phase. He moves all around the house, exploring, playing, chasing the dogs– all accompanied with a wonderful baby chatter. I can fold a few clothes and load the dishwasher as long as I hear that chatter. When I hear nothing at all, that’s the time to spring into action. His silence speaks volumes. Usually, it’s saying something like “hey this stuff on the floor tastes good”. Silence is something to listen for in writing too. Is there something communicated in the spaces between the words and chapters? The best writing reverberates beyond the words.

2- Don’t bring out all the toys at once. When I plan vacations or even with the baby’s toys, I pace the fun. When we plan a road trip, I don’t reveal all the car games (and prizes) at once.  One year, we told the kids what to pack and then as we hit the road, they had to assemble a jigsaw puzzle  to find out where we were going. With the baby, I have a few toys out and rotate. The blocks are more interesting when he hasn’t seen them for a while. I received this advice from an editor about my writing too: “You’re trying to do too much too soon. Save something for the rest of the story.”

3- Be efficient. With teenagers and a toddler (in addition to everything else in a full life), I don’t have time to waste. I make lists, keep a calendar and things have a place. In writing, don’t waste words. Make your point and move on. Keep the pace moving in the story arc as well. Leave the boring parts out. You’ve got other things to do.

4- Planning only goes so far. I’m a planner and a recovering perfectionist. But I also know when it’s time to loosen up. I’ve had some of the best conversations with my teens just riding in the car to the grocery store. I’ve laughed the hardest at the unexpected. I’ve been touched the deepest at the impromptu. On our road trips, often my favorite memory is of something we discovered along the way. In my books, I have to be willing to ignore the outline and let the story go somewhere new too. My current WIP (work in progress) is a perfect example. It is entirely different than what I planned, and I love it.

5- The most important thing is love. With the spread in years between my kids, I see this more clearly. Trends come and go, parenting advice changes and remains the same. But if you love them, do your best and own your mistakes- it kind of works out. I’m not published (yet), but I love writing, do my best and learn from my mistakes. I think it’ll work out.