Being a writer and a mom is hard. Often, my creative energies are put into organizing the kids’ clothing, planning their activities, and trying to come up with something to make for supper that they will actually eat. I’d rather be writing. Cassie Stocks is a mom writer who understands the struggles between the calls of motherhood and the story that wants to be written. Here, she talks about what it’s like to write a novel while being a single parent.
The first time I met other writers, I was almost thirty years old, the single parent of three-year-old son, and working in the office of a steel fabrication company. I saved up enough money to go to the Banff Centre for the Arts Writing with Style Workshop for a week. I left my son with my mother and sat in heap in my room every night after I talked to him on the phone. He’d tell me, “Momma, just get out of there and come home.”
I was so nervous, all these WRITERS. Who was I? The day it was my turn to workshop I was ready to vomit. The instructor of the class, Sharon Butala, held up my piece and said, “This is Art.” I cried for the rest of the class. The poor workshop people were all saying, “No, we like it. It’s great.” I couldn’t stop crying. After writing for so many years alone, to have anyone read and discuss my work, never mind enjoy it or call it Art, was incredibly over-whelming.
My advice for mom writers would be to, at least once a year, get out and meet other writers. You’ll discover that they’re not all in penthouse apartments in New York City instructing the maid not to mess with the papers in the study. They’re in the trenches with the bills and the babies and the dirty dishes.
The trick is, of course, to write there in that trench. Don’t tell yourself that once the children are grown, or the renovations complete, that then you’ll start writing. Start now, write around the dirty dishes, write about the dirty dishes. The right time to write is when you sit in the chair. Writers make all kinds of excuses. I’ve made them myself. “I can’t write unless I have two uninterrupted days.” “I can’t write without the newest software.” “I can’t write without a cabin in the woods and six elves to do the typing.”
A room of one’s own would be nice but it’s not always possible. Create a room of your own in your mind. That’s where the writer in you lives. The inner processes are what matter, not the outer circumstances or locations. Writing builds its own momentum. The more you write, the easier it will be to write. Creative work is like a bowl of goldfish. You have to feed it, even a little, every day. If you forget about it or leave it alone too long, one day you’ll try to go back to it and find a bunch of dead goldfish floating upside down.
It is a juggling act to be a mom writer. Some days it seems like I’m dropping more balls than I’m keeping aloft. Then, some nights, I’ll be at my desk, the house almost clean, the bills almost caught up, and, as I write, I experience moments of purity, of surfing on waves of words, keeping my balance, and the gift of beautiful sentences that come unbidden. This, I think, is what it is all about.