Last Friday, while packing up the kids, dog, and husband for a weekend getaway, I phoned my mom and dad to see how they were doing on their trip to my sister’s house. What started as an innocuous conversation turned out to be a near hang-up on my part. And it started with a simple question my mom asked:
“So when are you going to finish this book?”
That was not the time to ask me about the book. I’d just come back from ten amazing days in England and was still jet-lagged, yet was so inspired and ready to do war with the problems I’d been facing in my story (and had been ignoring for no other reason than a sense of apathy that I’d never be able to solve them). However, on my return, I was absolutely barraged by normal family demands, which resulted in almost zero time to do anything writing-related. I knew this would happen, but it didn’t diminish my frustration that I hadn’t been able to work on my story at all. Everyone’s allowed to be frustrated, right?
You just can’t complain to my mom about it.
So when she asked the “when will you finish the book?” question, I ranted. I ranted about how school was out now for the kids and I had no idea what sort of predictable work schedule I’d have with them around. That I had some awesome ideas for fixes to make that would require some rewriting (“more rewriting? Aren’t you done writing? Aren’t you editing?”). That I SO WANT to finish this book, but that I can’t make predictions about when I’ll finish it anymore, because every time I do that, I am proven wrong. And I ranted about how, if I didn’t have a husband and children, I’d be working on my story all the time.
Well, that last one was the straw that broke my mom’s back. She said, “If you’re going to be this crabby about writing, and you’re going to ignore your family for the sake of it, then you shouldn’t be writing.”
Ouch. Stab me in the heart, why don’t you?
Upon reflection, I realized that she likely still regards this writing this as a hobby rather than a career. Perhaps if I were getting paid for it, she’d be less inclined to say something so downright mean to me. Perhaps.
But here’s the thing about writing…I’m not getting paid for it (yet). I do it because I love it (and yes, I do want to get paid for it someday). I love it more than anything else I’ve ever done. I don’t want to watch TV, I want to write. I don’t want to get a mani-pedi, I want to write. I don’t want to go shopping, I want to write.
I just want to write!
I realize I have to balance that with my mommy/wife responsibilities, which I know are important. But it doesn’t mean I can’t vent about it every now and then, right? How is me venting about being dragged away from writing any different than someone else venting about their shitty boss or their overtime? In both cases, we’re unhappy about something related to our work.
But my mom is overly concerned about me neglecting the family. I don’t think it helps that she lives 3,000 miles away and only catches glimpses of my day-to-day life.
It doesn’t help, either, that she doesn’t understand a writer’s life. Unless you’re a writer, I doubt you do, too. Which is why I’m fortunate for my fellow Eight Ladies. It really does take a village to navigate a writing career…the creative, business, and emotional sides of it.
I don’t think my mom knows how much her words hurt me, nor am I going to tell her (she doesn’t read my blog posts, so no worry about her catching it here). It’s kind of pointless. Mom has been making those “take care of your husband/family” comments since I met my spouse. Deep down, it’s her way of showing me she loves me (and loves what’s important to me). It’s her way of making sure I’m looking after what really matters. And my family IS important, more important than anything else in the world. I’m incredibly fortuitous to have such an understanding husband and children.
But I’m still going to write. I’ll figure it out, figure out how to keep my minor frustrations to myself, figure out ways to sneak in some writing time so it doesn’t impact the family too much (for example, I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks across the street from our hotel at 5 a.m. while the hubby/kids sleep), figure out ways to just make it work.
Because I have to.
I have to finish this book. I have to start on the next one. I have to keep pursuing this dream. It’s part of who I am now.
Unfortunately, I just can’t talk to my mom about it. Right now, anyway. I hope someday that will change.