I realized something this week. Well, last week. My oldest child is now 18.
Let that sink in for a minute.
My first stories were published while I was pregnant with him. I even got paid real money for one of them, not contributor copies.
I toyed with my writing from that point on, since Real Life demanded more of my attention. I still wrote, but I didn’t (couldn’t?) focus on the goal of getting published again.
Until my mother was in hospice. I realized if I really wanted to get published, that is, publish a novel, I needed to get moving. I’d putzed around with my stories, finished the first iteration of my fantasy novel, written various scenes as they burned to escape my head, but I wasn’t focused on writing. I had two kids, a full-time job, a monster garden, … did I mention the kids?
The summer after my mom passed, now ten years ago, I read an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about a group in the Twin Cities that participated in a novel-writing marathon every year. NaNoWriMo.
I remember the “fire in my belly” when I read through the article. This was it. NaNoWriMo was my ticket, a way to get my shit together and start focusing on my writing again. I had an almost-eight-year-old and a five-year-old, but I needed to write.
I knew I could write passable fiction–hell, I’d been published. I also knew, however, that there was more to writing than I thought. It’s kinda that way with everything, isn’t it? Parenting, working, even the whole being married thing. The whole Real Life thing.
My wonderful hubby (don’t know how I snagged him, and certainly don’t know how he’s put up with me for so many years) gave me time to write. Still gives me time (hell, he makes me go write when I become unbearably aggravated because I’m not writing).
Ten–wait, eleven NaNoWriMos, a stint on a writing critique website (thank you to RedRider, Dawn, Les, Helen, and my other mentors from Fanstory.com), a couple online classes, writing books, Writer’s Digest magazine, a writing conference, and a week-long writing retreat in a Master Novel class later, I’m here.
I try to focus on writing even through the RL time commitments, including a full-time job, a house that doesn’t get the cleaning and organizing attention necessary to prevent embarrassment when visitors show up, and the various parenting oversight an 18-year-old boy needs to prepare for graduation and subsequent college (read: grad pics, scholarship apps, college registration, job hunting, you get the picture). Add to that a teen-aged daughter (if you’ve ever had one, ‘nuf said), and RL really starts eating into my writing time.
Oh, boy. Did you catch that? Real Life is important, but dammit, so is my writing.
Right now I’m deep into a heavy revision I want–need–to finish by the end of the year. So, where does my time go? Full-time job, check–can’t go without that one. Hubby, check–he picks up my slack on the homefront (and it’s a lot of slack, but he’s a stay-at-home dad/handyman/mechanic/cook/hug-supplier). Kids, check–counting down to the day my daughter leaves for college. Household chores, check–I clean (hate it), it gets dirty again, but there is a limit to the procrastination. Christmas stuff, check–baking, still gotta get the kids’ gifts, etc.
RL or writing? Both would be ideal. But I can’t prioritize writing all the time. To all those writers who have no children (or grown children), have a spouse that works so they can stay home to write, are retired, or have enough resources while devoting time to writing, I envy you.
Real Life has farther-ranging consequences than my writing. Each day is its own, and priorities change day by day. Today, writing. Tomorrow, RL?