In addition to my sporadic writing on this blog, I also write (and edit and work) on another blog. It’s a fascinating blog, which mainly focuses on travel and parenting issues around the world. Even though I’m on the site several times a week, editing other writer’s posts, I only get to publish my own articles about once every 6-8 weeks.
Since I have a post running on that blog next week, I sat down to write. I chose the topic: children and discipline. As I got into the article, writing about how important discipline and enforcing rules is in our house, it occurred to me that I’m not very good at practicing what I preach and I started to wonder why that was.
It’s times like these where I really wish I had taken more psychology classes in college or understood more about what makes people tick.
When I think about my own upbringing, about going away to school just at the time in life when most kids begin to test boundaries for the second time—the first boundary testing period being ages 1-3, when children are figuring out just what the boundaries are; the second being the teenage years when kids test the exact limits of those boundaries—I realize that much of my life has been about testing boundaries and pushing limits.
This is often true even in my writing, which is something I really love. As soon as it becomes something on my “need to do” list instead of my “want to do” list, I have a hard time making it a priority. I don’t like when something starts to be in charge of me, I’d rather be in charge of it (hang on, I’m having a parenting epiphany here in regards to my oldest child…save the comments DH)
Take this morning for example. I woke up before 6a.m. and in a rare instance of “sleeping in,” both of my kids slept until almost 7. This gave me a glorious, fresh, early-morning hour to myself. But, in a twist of irony, rather than sitting down to write, I sat down to read. The book in hand: Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone.
My dear friend over at Slightly Wonky gave me this book a few weeks ago. It’s a book (as the title suggests) about finding time and having the discipline to write so that writing becomes not only a priority but also a habit. On multiple occasions, during the precious 45 minutes I spent reading, I found it ironic that somehow I’d found the time to read but the message of the book I was reading was telling me that instead, I should be using just such found and precious time to write.
You see, I got into this whole blogging business for the specific purpose of practicing the skill of writing. I’m a firm believer that all skills require practice and if you truly want to master one, it requires discipline too. So what happens if you lack discipline?
Let’s take my friend and fellow blogger over at Edited to within an Inch of My Life, as an example of someone who has truly made writing her focus and discipline. I met Heather just as her youngest child (of three) was entering elementary school. Heather has wanted to publish a book for a long time but for the past twelve years, she’s been raising kids. Still, she always managed to find time to write, resulting in multiple manuscripts in various stages of completeness.
This year—with six glorious hours a day, five days a week for 180 days from September to June—Heather has really made time to write. Now, seven months later, she has a manuscript in a near-complete stage and not just one but two agents interested in working with her! Why, because she made something she loved to do and wanted to do into something she had to do. It meant giving up other things (like sometimes housework or errands) but look what she’s accomplished.
Heather began her laser-focus on writing as a daily discipline in September but our friendship officially galvanized in late October, when she not only introduced me to but also encouraged me to get involved with NaNo. But since I’m not out to write a novel (yet) and my initial focus is on a younger audience—the picture-book-set rather than the YA-crowd—she felt PiBoIdMo might be more my style.
PiBoIdMo challenges writers to come up with a picture book idea a day for the entire month of November; 30 book ideas in a month. I made it through 21.
This is where I discovered the power of accountability.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for me as a stay-at-home-mom and a freelance writer is carving out my own time. Some how mothers always seem to be able to manage everyone else’s time and schedules in the family but their own hobbies/outlets/pursuits get marginalized.
In fact, this past Mother’s Day, when I was thinking about how I really wanted to spend the day, taking some time to write actually crossed my mind. Then I realized that I needed to make that a priority on a regular basis, not just on the one day a year that celebrates motherhood.
So, here I sit, two days later, making writing a priority. Of course, the notebook where I jotted down all of those great, future picture book ideas back in November sits here next to me. But hey, it takes all of us practice and discipline to get where we’re trying to go.