The Writing Mama: What I Learned From My Kids (Part 1 of Many)

Frequently I’m asked how I manage to get my writing done with my (homeschooled) kids around most of the time.

There’s no one easy answer to this, but because so many of us who spend our days with children also write (or yearn to write) I’ve decided to write some posts (which I’ll post intermittently) on how the writing life intersects with the mothering life. Here’s the first installment:

In some ways, I think I’ve actually learned from my children how to be a better writer. Good writing comes from deep feeling, close attention, a sense of playfulness, an urge to solve a problem, discern a pattern, break a code, or tell a story, and these are all things that we’re good at until someone tells us otherwise, until we become conscious of ourselves doing these things and begin to edit out the parts that we feel (or are told) are unpresentable.

My sons spend an enormous amount of time with Legos. They build castles, fortresses, prisons, parks, dragons, vehicles, weapons, ships–anything that they can imagine, really. Over the years I’ve noticed how their play reflects what’s going on around them: they would see a construction site and return home to re-create it in Lego, or watch a movie and then play out the plot with Lego figures, or blend bits of stories and plots heard and overheard to create hybrid stories with dinosaurs, castles, dragons, Robin Hood, and One Ring To Rule Them All. Their stories are wild and free and true and brave because they don’t think anyone’s going to listen or judge or critique, and because they really care about what they’re doing.

It’s hard for grownups to do this. It’s embarrassing to care a lot about something, to ask odd questions, to pay close attention to things that no one else cares about, and to do and say the things that you really think because doing that makes you vulnerable. Many of us have buried that urge to play aimlessly at something–to spend time transferring dirt, water, or sand from one container to another just for the joy of doing it. But what looks like aimlessness in children is often deep attention and care, and that, for me, marks the beginning of good writing: being willing to be unashamedly, aimlessly curious until you find what you care about and pay it deep attention.

{Are you a writing mama, or do you know a writing mama? Share this, and consider it an invitation to post your own reflection on the writing life with kids.}

9 thoughts on “The Writing Mama: What I Learned From My Kids (Part 1 of Many)

      1. I’m really looking forward to following your series. The daily juggling act of writing/mothering is at the forefront of my mind! I’m constantly evaluating how I can do a better job of BOTH.

  1. So glad to see you doing this! I’m finishing my second book (Thomas Nelson, May 2013 Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith while You’re Expecting) and have two little ones at home (two and 6 mos). I’ve been very much drawn to homeschooling and know that Lord willing, writing will continue to be a part of my life. So I’ve been looking for encouragement that doing both (well) is possible. I’d love to hear any practicalities of how you manage. For instance, do you get any outside help? When do you write? What has had to give to make it a discipline. For me, right now, I’ve got someone cleaning my house every 2 weeks which takes a bit of strain off and once a week, I get a young teen to come watch my older son for a few hours. Other than that its naptime and nighttime that I write.

    1. Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story. I’m planning to have a few more posts on the practicalities of how it works…right now, we have grandma & grandpa to help take care of them, but it’s also that my children are a bit older (6 and 4) and play together A LOT. I can work while they’re playing…but when they were younger, it was all about naptime. 😉

  2. I just posted on being a mother who writes, instead of a writer who is also a mother, so a friend sent me a link to your post. Thank you. It’s easy to assume that everyone else has a full time nanny and housekeeper and I’m the only one who fits all of this in around my children.

    1. I know! It was freeing for me to realize that other moms write and create in the midst of chaos, too!

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