I didn’t see it coming…the brick wall that I seem to have hit while going along at a good speed, writing away. It seems to have loomed up out of nowhere, although in retrospect I can see it was there all along.
I’m fighting a difficult battle in my mind right now, one that I know with God’s help will pass. I have been trying to think of how to put it in words, but it’s not coming easily so you’ll have to bear with me.
Writing is part of me, it has been what I do since I was a child. Words flow so much more easily for me through pen and paper or keyboard than they do through speech. It’s how I speak what’s inside, how I share what burns to be shared.
I had taken a long break from writing, while my kids were very young and I was so busy with daily life that finding the time to write was hard. In retrospect, I was also running from writing…both from hearing what I would say if I wrote it all down and from the fear of what being “A Writer” would mean for me. Picking the pen (Ok, the keyboard) back up last year was a wonderful thing in so many ways. I felt the flow again, words moving through me rather than backing up and sticking inside, festering with the need to come out. I heard my voice again, and realized how much I had missed it.
But writing comes with baggage. I grew up with A Writer for a mother, and there are scars I’m running into that I didn’t realize were there. I want to say right off that there were wonderful things about my childhood. I have an amazing father who spent a measureless amount of his soul holding us together. I also realize that my mother’s problem wasn’t writing…that her writing was not the main reason she wasn’t able to be a mother. It was much, much more complicated than that. And I have been blessed through the last year of blogging in meeting mothers…wonderful, committed, loving and present mothers…who are also successful writers. You writing mothers have given me the ability to write again.
So what’s my problem? It’s not writer’s block, not in the sense that the term is usually used. I have no problem with the creative part of writing, no interruption in the flow of ideas or words. In fact, when I stop writing the ideas and words and stories just keep writing themselves in my mind…characters continue to develop, scenes are painted verbally, conversations and exultations weave themselves and wait, eagerly, to travel from brain to page. If you know me in real life, you might notice that the less I write, the quieter I am. But it’s noisy inside, believe me!
The closer I get to being “A Writer,” the more successful I am at getting the words down on the page or a screen, the more I struggle with this. I want to be a writer. I want to be a mother, first. I have a terrible fear of becoming a mother like my own was…as much as I love her, the truth is that she wasn’t able to be a mother. I grew up in the shadow of her writing, an afterthought and an inconvenience. I know now that other factors were at work, and the writing was just the most visible way that she was leaving us. But as a child I vowed that when I had children, I wouldn’t let anything else come first. And the more success and joy I have when I write, the more that dark fear comes forward. Can I find a balance? Am I spending too much time on writing, which is a me thing, and losing time with my kids?
My family used to tell a funny story about how clever I was as a toddler. How, when I needed something, I had learned before the age of two that the only way to get my mother’s attention was to crawl under the table and unplug her typewriter.
It wasn’t really funny.
Intellectually I know that my life is very different from my mother’s, that my family does come first, that I homeschool my kids and have chosen to stay home with them full time rather than work, that I am fully and wholly committed to my job as wife and mother before anything else. I know that I can and probably should use the gift that God gave me, and that doing so (as long as my priorities are in order) will build us up and provide a good example to my kids. I know that my faith makes me a new person, one that without God my own mother couldn’t have been.
But when I sit down to write, the fear claws at me and pushes me away from the keyboard. And when I don’t write, the silence deafens me and the words claw from inside, seeking a way out.
I miss my voice.
I am working on finding balance. Part of the problem is that I don’t know what that balance looks like. I have let a lot of opportunity pass me by in the last months and I have not written many things that longed to be written. But I’m not sure how much time I’ve gained back by not writing…I did most of my writing before the kids woke up in the morning, and if I got up even earlier managed to curb the urge to “check in” frequently during the day I could probably get a lot more writing done without losing face time with the kids. I know that many of you out there are doing it and doing it well, and I’d love to hear any advice you have to offer on the balancing act!
I feel like I have turned a corner, or at least I’m in the process of doing that. I’ve looked the fear in the face, I’ve named the beast. Now I just have to tame it. I’m getting this worked out because I have to work it out, I can’t have these two parts of me warring when they should be part of one, seamless whole. So thank you for your patience, and for your example. Fighting these little internal battles makes me stronger, builds my faith and helps me know myself better…stumbling helps you know your center of balance, even if it’s not pretty.
Edit: I just want to say that in talking about my decision to stay home with the kids and my struggles with writing I’m in no way saying that working (writing or otherwise) mothers are not good mothers. That’s not at all my intent, and the SAHM debate isn’t at all what this struggle is about for me. Being a mom is what I’ve wanted to do all my life, and I feel lucky to be able to do just that…the question in my mind isn’t whether or not a woman can be a good writer and a good mother, but whether I personally can be. I’ve been thinking of the Proverbs 31 woman and thinking that perhaps the “linen garments” she makes to sell could just as easily be woven with words as with wool…but balancing it with all the other things is the difficulty.
Photo: stock photo from the Big Box of Art