Posted by: oneyearbook | August 22, 2009

The Writing Life: “Once I got inspired on the treadmill”

writinglifeIn the second installment of the Writing Life, we hear from Carol, who is a mother and a writer who lives on the same West Coast Island that I do. You can check out her blog here. (The previous installment of the Writing Life can be found here.) Again, this issue of the Writing Life looks at the balance that either faces or will face many writers: family vs. writing.

Carol, who has worked as a teacher, focuses her work on writing for children/young adults, and is currently tackling a YA novel after originally writing stories, poems, and songs for the younger set.Maternity leave (she has three boys) gave her some time to put more focus on her writing, and she has since been a finalist in the Writing for Children competition, held through the Writer’s Union of Canada. She hopes to break through and find publishing success (and, as she puts it, “consider myself a writer, and not just a wannabe.”) She’s a part of the local Writer’s Society and helped start their critique group for YA & children’s writing. “We’re a small and diverse group, but we’re mighty,” she says. “I love the dynamics we’ve built up and completely respect the nuggets of writing wisdom I receive from my fellow writers. I find the bi-weekly meetings a great opportunity to be productive, and can’t imagine myself writing without such a support network. Besides, the cookies are good.”

Without further ado, here she is:

OYOB: Your blog talks about the ways in which you try to find time to write while raising your children. What’s been the biggest challenge of bringing the two together?

C: The biggest challenge by far is finding a balance between writing when inspired, vs. the need to care for my boys.  If I take time to write while I’m with them I tend to feel guilty like I’m neglecting them.  If I’m working on a piece for children, I share my writing with them immediately – and I think they enjoy being invited into the process.  I find it more difficult to work on pieces for teens, because they are too young to read them.  I just say, “oh, I’m working on my novel for just a second” – I seem to say that several times a day for brief periods (writing two or three sentences at a time).  I’m not sure hiring a babysitter for a couple of hours a week would work for me – what if I’m not inspired to write during that time?  I’m more likely to do the groceries/dishes/laundry.

OYOB: When and where was the last time you wrote something, and how long did you spend on it?

C: Last week I took my youngest son for a walk along a nearby trail.  While I walked I was thinking about my mother’s snowball tree, and thought that might be the kernel of a new story for kids.  After half an hour Aidan fell asleep in the stroller, so I found a bench and scribbled a complete first draft.  It probably took 20 – 30 minutes – though I had it pretty much worked out in my mind before I wrote it down.

OYOB: What keeps you wanting to write?

C: Complete and utter joy of the experience.  I need to write down my ideas in the same way I need to drink copious amounts of coffee every morning.  Often one story will lead to another story – so I tend to write in clusters.  For example, one weekend I wrote three children’s stories – and felt hugely rewarded for being able to follow the different paths that led me to them.

OYOB: Have you found, since you had kids, that your writing habits have changed? In what way?

C: Yes and no – I still feel a need or urge to write when ideas pop into my head – but before I had kids, I would tend to go to a cafe with my notebook to write.  I could go write whenever I wanted.  Now, for obvious reasons – I can’t stop, drop and write. . . I have to negotiate, balance, tread lightly, and scribble.

OYOB: What do your children think/say about your writing?

C: They’ve grown up with me acting this way – so to them it’s just something I do – like knitting.  But on occasion I’ve gone into their classrooms to share my writing and they’ve been pretty excited when I tell the class I want to be a writer when I grow up.  They also seem to enjoy the fact that they know the story before their classmates do.

OYOB: What would you say is the best thing about your current writing lifestyle?

C: I enjoy the moments I can create a written piece; it gives my life a good balance between the needs of my children and my own needs.  Also, I find a real need to strike while the iron’s hot.  If a scene comes into my head, I have to write it down as soon as I can.  I’ve even been known to take a writing notebook to the gym with me.  Once I got inspired on the treadmill and paused the machine so I could jot some notes down.  I’ve also written in doctor’s offices, cafes (one of my favourite places), park benches, and occasionally when my youngest falls asleep in the car, I pull over and get to work.  So, the best thing, is taking advantage of those inspiring moments – and sneaking them in whenever I get a chance.

OYOB: In an ideal world, what would your ‘writing situation’ look like?

C: I used to say I would love a little shed for myself in the backyard so I could be near the kids, but apart from them at the same time – I even thought of calling it The Hen House.  But now that I’m on the island, I’ve been looking at the floating houses at the wharf with a little envy (okay, a lot of envy).  A cozy sailboat might be nice, too…but that’s my if-I-win-the-lottery dream.  A writer’s retreat would be an amazing experience for me.  Lastly,  I would love a really great agent, because I don’t enjoy the business-side of writing.  Truth be told, I’m not keen on rejection letters.

OYOB: What if there was just one thing you could change about your current lifestyle, in order to facilitate your writing – what would it be?

C: To get a foot in the door by breaking into the publishing market.

Thanks, Carol! She also added that she felt blogging was a good idea for writers: “I’ve enjoyed blogging about the writing process because it provides yet anotehr place to think about writing. I don’t currently have a big readership – and that’s okay. It’s just nice to put my thoughts out there in the blogosphere to see what happens.”

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