There are craft books on writing and parenting books galore, but nothing on how to be a “Writer Mama.”
Still, I wondered—how exactly do we do this thing: write for a living or with a passion (passion earns us a living, I promise) and mother?
1. Podcasts: In the first few months of life, babies spend six to eight hours a day feeding. Your hands and breasts may be busy but your mind needs stimulation. Find a podcast you love! (Bonus if it is about writing and creativity.)
2. Hunt for the Time: Friend and mentor, Kathi Appelt said when her kiddos were little she’d write in 15 minute increments. This is doable.
The clock is ticking—but even so the first torn moments away feel so heavy. Push through the worry and guilt and do the work you love. Craft one sentence then another.
3. Enlist Help: My husband and I made the tough decision about childcare, finding a home daycare we love.
4. Circle of Creative Friends: As an older mama, I don’t have many friends with little ones—but I do have friends.
5. Don’t Do It All: I have a full co-parent in my partner and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nor would he. But no matter what the load is on your shoulders, don’t take it all on. I may have a cluttered living room for the next 15 or so years but I will have books on the shelves—or scattered across the floor—that this writing mama wrote.
|Co-writer Arun Gandhi holding Taru|
6. Look for Inspiration: I am a children’s writer. You don’t have to be a parent to be one. Now or ever—but if you are, use it. Seeing the world through my son’s eyes is changing my work, just as it has changed me.
7. Change Form: I am a novelist and picture book writer. I will continue to do both but since my son’s birth I’ve been crafting more creative nonfiction than working on novels.
I am finding pleasure in finding the through lines in the lives of my chosen subjects, as I give my guy his beginning.
8. Gold Stars: This one isn’t from me—as my son’s chores consist of drooling and pooping and making me laugh and surge with love—but it is from Printz-Honor author and mother of two, Ashley Perez.
Keeping a chart for her son, nightly he asks her, “Did you write your five pages, Mama?” And he watches her put a gold star next to her name.
9. Trial and Error: Anne Lamott has a saying I love: “Scooch, scooch, stall.” Trying is trying and tiring.
I prefer to take baby steps. And rest. Lots and lots of rest.
Know the pressure is out there—and in here. Feel it and then let it go. Talk about the joys and struggles both—with your partner, your friends, and even with the page. Be real. Your writing and mothering will be all the better for it.
There is no one-sized fits all for anything in life, being or becoming a writer mama included. Write your own list—you have your own wisdom to share, with yourself and others.
Additional resources and links:
- Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar
- Cheryl Strayed on Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast
- Motherhood is No Threat to Creativity, author Zadie Smith
- A Writer Mommy’s Guilt by Amy Shearn from The New York Times
- A Residency of One’s Own: Navigating the Complicated Path to a Writing Retreat by Melissa Scholes Young from Poets & Writers
Bethany Hegedus, mom to now 19-month-old Taru, has sold three picture book biographies, since becoming pregnant. Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, illustrated by Erin McGuire (Balzer + Bray) releases in January 2018. She hopes one day to have enough brain power to write another novel.
She is also the owner and creative director of The Writing Barn, a writing retreat workshop and event space in Austin, Texas.
Her books include the award-winning Grandfather Gandhi (Atheneum, 2014) and Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story (Atheneum, 2016), both co-written with Arun Gandhi, grandson to the Mahatma, and illustrated by Evan Turk. Her pre-motherhood novels are Truth with a Capital T (Delacorte, 2010) and Between Us Baxters (West Side Books, 2009).
She is also a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and the former editor of the literary journal Hunger Mountain.