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A Balancing Act, Part I

thumb_Krista Van DolzerAmySonnichsenauthorpicI’m currently in Bologna, meeting with dozens and dozens of foreign publishers, pitching my authors’ manuscripts for foreign translation, but while I’m there, I’m delighted to turn the blog over to my clients Krista Van Dolzer and A.L. Sonnichsen, both of whose Winter 2015 debut novels I’ll be chatting up with foreign editors. A few weeks ago, I mentioned to Krista being curious about how she juggles motherhood and writing, since it comes up a lot in my own work/life balance, although without the added challenge of creativity that is the hallmark of a writer. As always, Krista took an idea and ran with it, and roped in Amy to answer as well. Here’s Part I of their dialogue — Part II will follow on Wednesday!

A.L. Sonnichsen: Maybe we should start with the most obvious question: What have you learned over the years about balancing writing and motherhood?

Krista Van Dolzer: It’s ironic now, but motherhood was actually what got me writing again. I’d written stories as a kid, but I had to quit in college. Then I graduated, got my first job, had a baby, quit, and suddenly found myself with a lot of extra brainpower (and a lot of extra time). I-gots slept like a champ, and three people don’t create a ton of housework (especially when one of them can barely move). When a new idea came to me, the first idea I’d had in years, I decided to write it down.

I wrote in the mornings before I-gots woke up, during his morning and afternoon naps, and after he went to bed, so I’m a writer now not in spite of my kids but because of them. Even though I now have three–and two of them no longer nap–they’re usually pretty good about giving me time to write. Lady knows the afternoon when I-gots is at school and Monster’s taking a nap is my time to write, and for the most part, she respects that.

So I guess what I’ve learned is that you have to use whatever time you have. And you have to be willing to make sacrifices for that time. I rarely schedule afternoon activities because I need that time to write. It helps me stay productive (and the truth is, it keeps me sane).

What about you? You have a lot more kids and a lot less time:) How do you balance writing and motherhood?

AS: That is so cool that you made writing time because you’re a mother and not in spite of it. I can relate to that feeling of needing a space to create. I also became a lot more serious about my publication journey after I already had a couple kids. I was almost thirty and I remember thinking, “This isn’t going to happen if I just sit around dreaming and/or write a few words here and there.”

I’ve struggled a lot with boundaries since I started writing seriously. Eventually I started a routine a lot like yours, where I wrote only during my kids’ nap times. I had to develop the self-control to stop writing when the nap time ended. (Writers know how hard it is to stop when you’re on a roll, or having a great editing day!)

This year my life changed drastically. One of my daughters started a rigorous gymnastics schedule–twenty hours a week, twice a day, four times a week–that required home school. When I looked at our upcoming schedule, I realized I wouldn’t have any writing time anymore. Nap times would be filled teaching 2nd grade home school. I knew I wouldn’t have the energy after our busy days to write every night, so I needed to come up with a different plan.

That’s why I decided to resort to day care for my youngest daughter at the beginning of this school year. Now in the afternoons, I drop off my three-year-old and head back to my other daughter’s gym to work on my projects (we live too far away from the gym to make going home feasible). I have at least a couple hours four times a week to work and it’s been amazing! I love having dedicated time to get my work done with very few distractions. I don’t struggle with boundaries as much anymore because I rarely write at home. Everything I do happens during that “office time” in the afternoons, so I can be completely present with my family when I’m home. That’s been a nice change for me personally.

I know it’s terribly cliché, but it’s so true that when you have a will to do something, you can figure out a way. For me, it was figuring out the logistics to make this year work for me, even with my insane schedule.

Check back Wednesday for the exciting conclusion. And in the meantime, what are some tricks you use to balance writing with the rest of your personal life?

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