Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Balancing Motherhood and Writing

My friend Lysa TerKeurst is running a series this week on her blog about writing. As a published author of more than 11 titles, she is a wealth of wisdom for people who are interested in writing for publication. Many women, I find, are content for blogging to be the extent of their writing and their reach-- and that is totally great if that is you! But if you have ever had that glimmer of interest in seeking publication, I would encourage you to head over to her blog and read her last few entries. She is taking questions too, if you want to ask!

One of the biggest questions she got asked this week is how she balances writing and family. I had already answered this question a few months ago with Tricia Goyer for a series she did on her blog on that subject, so I am posting it here. If you are visiting from Lysa's blog, welcome! And for my regular readers, you already know of my love for writing so this post shouldn't surprise you at all.

Marybeth, please tell me a little about yourself:
I have been married for 16 years and have six children ranging in age from teen to toddler. We have homeschooled up until this year and for the first time this year I am experiencing what it is like to have kids in school. It has been an interesting transition. I absolutely love to write-- and have written since I first learned to form the words. I majored in it in college and feel very blessed to be using writing to minister to others.

How do you balance being a mom, writer, AND speaker?
Hmmm, some days are better than others! Ü
I live according to something I call AIM-- which stands for Aware, Intentional, Methods
1. You have to be aware of your limits, your commitments, and your situation as a whole. This means saying no to extras that don't match your priorities-- even when you feel guilty for saying it! With practice, it gets easier to say no.
2. You have to be intentional about making a plan and then working towards it. This is true of every aspect of your life-- from keeping your home to raising your kids, to making your marriage a priority above all else, to your "professional" pursuits. One of the mantras I adopted years ago was from Elizabeth Elliot-- Do the next thing. This simple phrase keeps me from feeling overwhelmed when there is a lot on my plate. I simply do the next thing, then the next, and so on. It is very freeing!
3. Determine some methods that will work for you. I have had to learn to be organized so that I don't drop too many balls. My systems/methods are very unique to me. They are solutions I have stumbled upon through trial and error. Mostly I took the suggestions of others and adapted them for my situation. Reading books on organization is helpful if this is something you struggle with. I have read my share, that is for sure! I am not naturally organized-- but my life requires it! My friend Karen Ehman just released a book on being organized that I highly recommend!

What insight can you offer to moms who think they have to "wait until the kids get older" to follow their dreams?
Wow-- that is a great question! I WAS that mom-- I always told myself I was being a good mom because I was waiting til "someday" to pursue my dreams. The trouble was, I realized, I got to a point where I was hiding behind "someday" because it was safe and I didn't have to step out and DO anything-- I could just wish and dream without taking any risks. I think that moms can pursue their dreams-- more than that I think they should pursue their dreams. However, I am also very quick to say that they should not abdicate their God-given roles as wives and moms. That is where the balance comes in-- and where you have to find your sweet spot. That place will look different for everybody, as we all have such vastly different situations.
For me, my husband is a great accountability person in my life. He is not shy about telling me if he sees me going too far off the deeep end and reigning me back in! But he is also so encouraging and affirming of my dreams. So I trust him to tell me the truth and hold me accountable. We talk about everything I say yes to before I say yes-- looking at both our calendars and taking into account his work, our time limits, our church, and the kids' situations. He has been a great accountability person in that he supports me, but also tells me the truth. I would urge a mom to find that person in her life. I also get advice from other women who have been doing this longer than me and seek to learn from their successes and mistakes. Their wisdom is valuable!

Finish this sentence, "I know it's been a good day when ...."
I spent time with the Lord, got a run in, made something yummy for dinner, the house is neat (notice I didn't say clean), the kids have been loved on and tended to, my husband and I have had a conversation where we finished at least one sentence, I got something written, and there is a great book waiting for me on my nightstand when I fall into bed exhausted! (And yes, these days do happen from time to time!)

What is the biggest challenge you face? How do you overcome it?
Right now, I would say discouragement-- letting my emotions determine my actions. When I get a rejection for something I wrote or another speaker gets chosen for an event, it is so easy to say, "I just wasn't meant to do this!" or "It's no use even trying!" As far as overcoming it-- I have found that it's best to wait til the feelings pass without making any decisions. I have to lay down whatever situation is bothering me, and pray and ask God whether these feelings are just feelings or something He truly wants from me. Time usually helps my perspective, I have found. Usually after taking a break, I come back with fresh wind in my sails ready to charge forward again! But it isn't easy when those times come.

In what ways does God strengthen you on your journey?
Through His word, His presence and His people. With my Abba Father, I am never alone on this journey-- and that strengthens me immensely!
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Wrinkled Shirt Ministries said...

Marybeth, I so enjoyed reading this. It was another great nudge and confirmation from the Holy Spirit. Girl, I am so ready to read your novel. You tell that agent of yours that there are people out there wanting it!

Celly B said...

What great comments about writing. I was especially touched by the section on moms and pursuing their dreams. When I stayed at home with my first baby, I really wanted to write. I discovered, though, that instead of my writing being for God's glory, it was for mine. I was so trying too hard to make an identity for myself now that I was staying at home instead of embracing my new role as a homekeeper. Now when I write my impetus is foremost providing a record of my interactions with God for my children. I'm excited, though, by Lysa's contest. In fact, I've created my first-ever blog and have posted my entry on it. I'd be honored if you'd drop by.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

My biggest fear is fear itself. I stick to blogging because I am scared of putting myself out there for failure.

Sarah said...

I have so enjoyed browsing through all the resources for writing that you offer yourself and the links to so many sites. I could stay here all day! It was good to catch up with you after all these years. Your spiritual transparency and humble spirit are a joy to share.

Do you know who I should ask about writing children's fiction? I have about 3 chapters written of an early reader and a stack of books on getting published to read. Off to the races (getting kids to bed before anything!)

God Bless.

kristenm said...

As one of the women who asked this very question, thank you. Your willingness to share your experiences is appreciated.
Thank you for also pointing me to your other blog at preciousmoms. I will visit there regularly for more of your advice on writing.
Blessings to you.

Praise and Coffee said...

Thanks Marybeth,
I appreciate your insight!


Heather@Mommymonk said...

Wow - Marybeth, your "good" day sounds overwhelming to me. Honestly, I think it's important to realize our own personal limitations too (have you noticed how some people can cram more into a day than others.) And, I'm grateful to hear that I'm not the only one fighting discouragement.

Mary Lou said...

Marybeth, your writing encourages me. You are to be admired for all you do in one day. God bless you as you go.

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Great post! I need to find my sweet spot. Balance is the most difficult thing. Like you I am so thankful to have a good husband to help me stay balanced. I too can totally relate to the emotions thing! You are a true P31 woman with a beautiful family of 8 (including you and hubbie) and doing these things you are doing for the kingdom! Keep it up. You are an encouragement.

Tina Vega said...

Thank you so much for your insight Marybeth!

Owlhaven said...

Here from Lisa's. As a fellow writer-mom I enjoyed reading this!

Mary, mom to many

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Marybeth. I needed to hear this today.


Dawn Ward said...

Thank you for sharing that, Marybeth! I think all moms probably struggle with balance. Your suggestions are great, and for me, well-timed.


Amy Carroll said...

I was reading through your blog. Lots of your pics and stories made me smile, but this post really encouraged me. I'm about to dive into starting my first book proposal. Everything in me says that I've got too much other stuff to do, but this is the first idea that I feel called to pitch. Thanks for giving practical advice on how to actually follow the call.

AIMEE said...

Mary Beth,
I just put my kids in school for the first time (only homeschooled for 3 years but it seemed an eternity :) and was just wondering if you have blogged somewhere in here about that decision?