Devi Laskar is an old friend of mine from graduate school. She took last year’s Book Writing Cycle course: planning, writing and revising an amazing novel. (I just got to read a good chunk of it, and I was blown away. You’re sure to get a chance to read it yourself in a few years when it’s a NYTimes bestseller. You heard it here first.) While Devi has not one but two master’s degrees, including an M.F.A. in Writing from Columbia University, she faced her own challenges while writing an entire book last year, as you shall see:
I think moms are some of the most creative, resourceful people on Earth. They are able to multi-task (it is practically a prerequisite of being a modern mother to be able to talk on the phone, make a sandwich, change a diaper and tie a shoe simultaneously!) and accomplish so much for their families during the day. Every day. But it is a thankless job and if you’re successful at it, you’re taken for granted. Unfortunately, it is the same in the vast world of creative writing – some of us are able to multi-task and get “things” done but we (the writers) often take ourselves for granted at the end of the day, and leave our most creative ideas swirling inside our heads and not on the page.
As a mom of three girls, I have found it to be challenging to get my brilliant future-Pulitzer-prize winning thoughts on to the page some years. Yep, I said it: years. When my oldest was merely an only child, I was writing so much – especially when she took naps and at night when she was asleep. I was organized, I was motivated, I was in charge. I was making time for myself, even if that time meant a half-hour here and a half-hour there. A few years later, I had three little girls and I was lost in the vacuum of diaper duty and late-night feedings, and chained to the vacuum cleaner, too.
My daughters are now a little bit older, they go to school and I’m back to writing again. It is a matter of consistency. Just like we make time to eat and sleep and take showers, we writers must make time to write. I was very proud of my family last year when I told them I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo – they knew I had to write 1,700 words a day and they left me alone for those few hours when I did it. If they caught me slacking off, they’d offer me alternatives: “Hey mom, can you fix A….” or ,“Hey mom, can you make B….” or, “Hey mom, why don’t you drive me to C…” and quickly I’d scurry back to my writing table and churn out more sentences. I finished NaNoWriMo, got my 50,000+ words and gained so much more confidence – I felt I could go back to older projects that had been languishing in my desk drawer and finally finish them.
I feel the Book Writing Cycle was a real asset. It was great to be on a schedule and to have a community to commiserate with – we checked in with each other frequently and our conference calls with Elizabeth helped immensely. I felt as though I started friendships, and the course helped me to focus on the book at hand.
And that leads to me to my most important point: it’s about quality, really, not quantity (although if you have both, it’s great to have both). There are plenty of writers out there who are lucky enough to be writing full-time and they are constantly stuck. If you are a busy mother, like me, eek out that 30 minutes or one hour during the day and make it YOUR TIME. Put it on the schedule of your busy day, sometime right after the early morning shower and before the dinner dishes are put away. Start slow. Buy a cheap spiral notebook and a pull out a ballpoint pen that comes in a package of ten. Tell yourself that all you have to do today is write 10 sentences in the notebook, and then you can go do something else. After a month, you’ll find your notebook is full and you have a wonderful go-to source of inspiration that’s all your own.