Some people say, “you can’t have it all.” It’s almost impossible to have a career and raise a family and do both well at the same time. I agree–at least, to a point. But I also believe that mothers make the best writers, and they do it WHILE raising kids. My advice would be, if you want to write, don’t wait.
There are five months left until my book, “How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces,” comes out, and I’m constantly getting the same question over and over: “You have three kids…how did you find the time to write a book?” When I explain that I got up at 5am and wrote until my kids woke up, and again from 9pm til late, they usually shake their head and say, “What made you want to do that?”
Truthfully, it does sound crazy. A year ago, if someone had told me I’d be publishing a book in addition to the craziness of raising three kids under 6, I would have laughed (accompanied by a nervous twitch in one eye). But something changed last February. After years of shoving book ideas aside until a calmer year or kids were in school or in college or whatever, something whacked me upside the head. It was like cosmic forces got right in my face and screamed, “If you don’t start using these ideas, someone else will.”
So I started writing. And an amazing thing happened. The emotions and ideas that had bottled up inside spewed onto the screen like a volcanic eruption. I couldn’t write fast enough. Apparently my subconscious had something to say–it had been writing all along, and my fingers just had to catch up. Within weeks I had a book deal.
Any mother can write. It takes a little juggling, and probably sleep deprivation, but it can be done. Some of history’s most influential writers have been mothers. There is something about giving birth to a strange, purple, and wailing human being that makes us love more deeply than we ever thought possible. Somehow being interrupted every other sentence and typing on a keyboard littered with graham cracker crumbs gives us a unique perspective on life. And looking into the three messiest and most beautiful faces in the world–namely, my kids’–simply gives me something to say. That comes out in my writing.
In our history, there is one small and comely mother who managed to ignite a movement that rocked civilization and started the civil war. Legend has it that President Abraham Lincoln told her, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Her name was Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book? “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She once said, “I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”
It was a time of tumultuous change when she wrote that book, but isn’t today as well? She had something to say about slavery. I think every woman and every mother has something equally important to say, and we all do it differently. I’ve read some mommy blogs that were so powerful they brought me to tears. I’ve seen websites that lifted my spirits, and read novels that changed the way I saw the world. Fiction, nonfiction, news articles, blogs, whatever. I agree with Ms. Stowe: “I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”
Want some examples? We’ve all heard about how JK Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter on a train and wrote while her child slept in a stroller. But here are a few more.
Mary Higgins Clark, with 42 bestselling novels under her belt, is a mother of five children. She lost her father during the Great Depression, her husband to a heart attack, her son in the military, and her mother in adulthood. It’s no surprise that her novels have a haunting theme of death and family. She had something to say, and she said it well.
Danielle Steel, who has sold almost twice as many books as Rowling over her lifetime, has seven children. Stephanie Meyer has three energetic boys. Anne Tyler, Pulitzer Prize winner, has two. Anna Quindlen is a Pulitzer-winning feminist and columnist whose best writings have come about, not in spite of her children, but because of them.
If you ask any of these women, I guarantee that being a mother didn’t really retract from their writing careers, but rather enhanced it. They have all thrown a part of themselves into the melting pot of society, and it has shaped our nation by the inches that add up to miles.
If you have something to say, say it. It doesn’t matter if you have one child or ten. The time will not fall into your lap, and life will never slow down. There will never be a better time than today to say what you need to say. And who knows? Maybe your kids will carry your voice across the barrier of generations.
Write? Get up early? Why would you want to do that?
Because there is power in words. And we have plenty to say.