river secrets was voted by teens in the US as a Teens' Top Ten! Thanks so much everyone for voted. I'm so thrilled for Razo's sake. He's such a dear.
One of the most common questions I get in email and when touring is, "How do you write and be a mother? Where do you find the time?" I wrote about writing and mothering a couple of years ago. Here's my new update:
Before I begin, let me acknowledge that there are superstar moms who have nine children and still write, so I know I'm not particularly harried. But I have reached that new stage, that more awkward stage, where there is more than one child and one never naps. How do I keep writing? When do I find the time? Here's the truth: there's always time. It is not easy. If you wanted a nice easy hobby, you wouldn't have picked writing books. You'd be knitting scarves or raising an orchid. You want to write books because you must, because those stories and characters and words won't leave you alone. So you will find the time. Here's some more thoughts on how I've adapted to my new situation:
I mostly fail. It feels like that most days. And I have to let myself be okay with it. My output is significantly decreased, my wordcount goals very tiny. But I am first a mother and second a writer. And I love being a mother of small children. Life is very, very good. Times and seasons for everything, my mother-in-law reminds me. Times and seasons.
I try to know my limits. I'm not going to keep up a book a year. I can't do as many book tours, I can't answer email and do local school visits and book clubs. I can't make homemade Halloween costumes or keep my scrapbook up to date. I can only be a mother and write a little on the side, and occasionally take a shower.
I get my 15 minutes a day. Everyone can make this a reality. Fifteen minutes. That's reachable. And sometimes opportunity allows for more. Sometimes the baby is napping and my toddler will sit still and play by himself while I write for 45 minutes. And sometimes he sits beside me and holds down the spacebar. Ah, helpful, helpful lad. You win some, you lose some. And it's okay. [by the way, Marcus, have you been doing your 15 minutes on your book? You promised so faithfully.]
I use my brain. Whenever I have some space for thought, I've trained my brain to return to the story. Showers are particularly productive. Driving. Folding laundry. I can keep writing even when I don't have time to sit at my computer because my brain keeps working on the story. This, for me, is absolutely essential. I could not be a writer if I didn't allow (and insist upon) daydreaming about the stories.
Keep notes! You get an idea for a line, a scene, a character, and you think you'll remember. You won't. I have to make myself to write it down. Sometimes they're bad ideas, many I'll never use, but I write them all down. Keeping a notepad in my purse (aka diaper bag) and by my bed really helps. This helps me focus on my kids more, because once I write the idea down, I know it's safe, and I can let my attention leave worrying about it and return to them.
I keep reading. I know so many people who give up reading once they start writing, but I find reading good books (besides being a blast) inspires the same part of my brain where I create stories and sentences. I really believe being a reading writer will make you a better and more productive writing writer.
I take advantage of what I can now and not try to wait for a mythical era of free time. Megan Whalen Turner, fabulous writer and mother of school age children, recently told me, "a number of people warned me that I shouldn't expect to get any real work done until my youngest child was in school full time. But, I didn't find small children any impediment to writing. I hired a babysitter (several great ones, actually, thank you Trisha Falvey, thank you Nancy Schaffstall!) and wrote The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. It wasn't that hard to find someone to feed babies, change babies and take babies to the park. Then they grew up and went to school. You can't pay someone else to go on field trips for you, or help them with their homework. Never mind that when you hire a babysitter you get to set the schedule and hire them when it is convenient for you. The elementary school is just not as accommodating. So write, quick! Quick!"
The truth is, if I wasn't a mother, I could get so much more done. For one thing, I could say yes to all the local school visits and book clubs and signing requests I get. I could tour the country more, doing 20-city tours instead of 4-city tours. I'd sell a lot more books. I'd make more money, have a wider fan base...and I wouldn't have my amazing little sweethearts. Sheesh. Not even worth it. I'm so so so happy to be a mother, so honored to have these little people in my family. Whatever your passion is, you can see it through and still be a mother. Somehow. Bit by bit. And all the rest of us working mothers, creative mothers, fitting-it-in mothers will be hooting for you and shouting, "You rock."