if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

A Balancing Act, Part II

AmySonnichsenauthorpicthumb_Krista Van DolzerWelcome back! On Monday, I turned this space over to debut authors and KT Literary clients A.L. Sonnichsen and Krista Van Dolzer, who discussed the tricky balancing act of motherhood (with multiple young ones) and writing. Here’s the thrilling conclusion to their conversation!

A.L. Sonnichsen: I like how you talked about leaving your afternoons free so you could write. Is it hard to keep that writing time guarded? What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to protect that time?

Krista Van Dolzer: Guarding my writing time hasn’t been terribly hard because I’m an introvert and don’t really like going out, anyway:) But as my kids get older and more involved in their own lives, I’m not sure how I’m going to balance it. Like you said, though, when you have a will to write, you find ways to squeeze it in. (Which isn’t to say that I think writers have to write all the time, mind you. Not everyone writes every day, and sometimes, you have to take a break, even an extensive one, to refill your creative well.) Even though I don’t know exactly HOW I’m going to balance it, I feel confident that I WILL, because I can’t not write.

As for the sacrifices I’ve had to make, it’s funny that you mention housework, because my house is never, ever clean. That’s definitely one of the sacrifices I’ve had to make to be a writer mom (and I do see it as a sacrifice, because I’d rather live in a clean house). I’ve also had to give up the illusion that I can do and be it all. I’m never going to be the Wonder Mom whose kids look picture-perfect every second of every day, whose house is neat and spotless, and who has dinner on the table at six sharp every night. (I’m very fortunate to have a husband who genuinely likes to cook and often spends his evenings experimenting in the kitchen.) I’ll admit that I’ve had a hard time with this transition, because I’ve always been the sort of person who could juggle however many balls life decided to throw at her. Giving myself permission to put some of the balls down has been tough for me.

Of course, there are some balls I won’t put down, and those are my husband, my kids, and my church obligations. I don’t always feel like I have those things in the proper balance, but at least I haven’t stopped trying. I think–I hope–that counts for something.

Do you ever feel like you’re not living up to your own expectations?

AS: Yes to being an introvert! (It does make it so much easier to hole up at home and write. I don’t know how extroverts do it!)

Yes to the messy house! (I’m convinced that if people are going to make writing with children work, they have to be okay with a little mess every now and then. Most of the time, a lot of mess.)

Yes to the “important balls” analogy! It’s so important to figure out what those things are to you personally. Maybe to some people clean houses are up there on the list, but for me, like you, it’s God and family, then writing (plus daughter’s gymnastics).

The biggest struggle I have with expectations is the clean level of my house. I don’t like living in a messy house, either–it causes me a lot of stress. And I feel embarrassed if someone drops in and it’s a disaster. At the same time, I have to remind myself that it was my decision to be this busy. When I try to think of giving up something (like writing, for instance), I realize I’d rather live in a messy house. But it’s still hard.

There are other times when things slip through the cracks. I remember one particularly hard couple of months where I forgot week after week to take my daughters to their ballet classes. Those kind of slips make me feel like Flake of the Year, especially when they happen more than once. But they’re bound to happen when my brain is as full as it is, so I try to give myself grace, even when I feel horrible for letting my kids (or their teachers) down.

Lately I’ve been feeling occasional guilt about not blogging often, and not visiting my friends’ blogs like I used to. My blog attendance really fell flat when my daughter started gymnastics this year. The good thing is, I’m using my afternoons to write! The bad thing is, I try to stay offline so I’ll be focused, which means I’m not thinking about blogging as much. But to me, blogging isn’t one of the “important balls.” It’s one of those things I have to let slide if I’m to stay sane.

The balancing game. Not easy. But very cool, because the fact that we’re playing it means we’re living the dream!

Thanks, ladies! Readers (and fellow writers), what do you find falls to the wayside when you’re writing? What do you wish didn’t, and what are you glad you have an excuse to ignore?

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