On writing and motherhood – Dealing with the guilt

I thought I should write a quick post about my constant companion when writing: Guilt!  It’s that constant, nagging feeling that I’m taking time away from my boys to do something that feels self-indulgent; I keep questioning my motives, my principles, my priorities, everything… But at the same time, if I don’t write, I feel unhappy and I’m not a very nice person to be around, I’m not a great mother. So what to do?

The guilt really seems to attack when I’m writing; I don’t feel too bad when I’m working or doing more “productive” stuff… I guess it’s to do with an underlying feeling that I’m “wasting” my time. But what it means to waste my time? After all, when I’m cleaning, or cooking I’m wasting my time as well; it’s just that those actions feel more immediate, more urgent. There is a voice in my head that keeps telling me that writing can wait, but deep down I know this is not true; writing is something I need to do. Besides, I think it is a good example for my kids; it’s important for them to see that their mum is working on projects that make her happy. But somehow, no matter how much I rationalise things, no matter how much I tell myself that wanting to be creative is not something to be ashamed of, I am. And I feel guilty. I guess I’ll just have to embrace guilt and learn to live and work with it…

I’ve been looking for examples of successful writers who are also mothers and stories on how they deal with similar emotions; I came across various articles and blogs covering this issue (there are tons!). From the many views and opinions I read, the points I take away in terms of techniques for me to apply are:

1 – Find time to write and don’t make excuses. Don’t wait until  your children grow or until “the day” you are truly inspired and magically find that you have lots of free time to write. That day may never come…

2 – Set clear, but realistic, writing goals. In order for you feel that you have achieved something and didn’t waste your time (I feel guiltier when the time away from my kids amounts to “nothing”). The writing goal can be anything from daily word count, specific outcomes (e.g. describe place x) or longer term goals. In my case, the goal that I picked for August (i.e. to start a different play every day) has greatly fired up my creativity. As a goal for September I’ve decided that I’ll write one 10′ play a week (based on some of the stories I came up during August). It is a realistic goal that is still challenging and fun at the same time.

2 – Learn to compartamentalise your life, so you can enjoy your different roles (mother, wife, writer, lawyer, whatever…) more, with less guilt.

3 – Have some sort of routine. In particular in the beginning. Most writers I’ve read about tend to have a set time for writing that is sacred, usually when the kids are asleep or at school. I have not yet found the ideal time for me. I am more productive early in the morning but that’s when my boys need their breakfast, so I have to find an alternative…

4 – Learn to accept that you cannot do everything and that there are things that you may want to delegate or simplify. This will always depend on your personal priorities.

Some interesting resources I’ve found:

Book: “Writing Motherhood“. I stumbled into this book and was impressed by its reviews. I’ve just ordered it and look forward to reviewing it here later on.

There is a very interesting article in the Boston Globe (click here), where five writers who are also mothers discuss how being mothers has helped/hindered them.

Podcast: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m not a big fan of hers and I’ve only listened to the first two episodes of this podcast, but I liked what I heard so far, in particular the second episode, where she has a conversation with Cheryl Strayed on motherhood and creativity.

There are many blogs dealing with this subject as well. It made me feel so much better to read about so many successful writers who experience similar feelings to mine. The blogs I liked the most:

Motherese (it’s got interesting articles about different mother-writers)

The Rachel Papers (blog of the Australian writer Rachel Power, who wrote a book on Motherhood and Creativity, which I also hope to read soon…)

Literary Mama

Ok, that’s my weekly blogging time gone… time to go back to my boys 🙂