Guest Post – Angela Boord “Writing and Parenting”

WRITING AND PARENTING

Hi, my name is Angela. I’m a writer, and I have nine kids.
 
Since I have nine kids, you might think I have this writing while raising a family thing figured out. That would be… wrong. 
 
I actually stopped writing for many years, while I had Kids Four and Five (twins) through Kid Nine. Well… I didn’t stop writing but I did stop trying to write novels. I played around with a homeschool blog, and I wrote a lot of beginnings. But I didn’t finish anything. I don’t regret the homeschool blog, but I do regret the years I spent thinking, It’s too hard to get started again. It’s too hard to make time and I can’t write enough. Anyway, even if I did write a book, I don’t have the time to try to get it published. Probably wanting to be a writer was just a pipe dream anyway.
Now, pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones are real, and so is postpartum (and prenatal) depression, and I can lay a lot of that kind of thinking at their feet and dole out some forgiveness to myself. (And if you think you’re having problems with postpartum depression, please go get help.) But my main regret is that I made such a big scary monster out of writing that I wouldn’t even let myself be happy and do a little bit of it.
 
Here’s the thing. Writing fiction is not a big, scary monster. It’s more like when you were a kid and you dressed up in your dad’s motorcycle helmet and your mom’s weird colored sunglasses and pretended to be the captain of a spaceship. (Maybe that was just me?) Writing novels is just the grown-up version of let’s-pretend. But there are a lot of voices out there in the world that want to make it Serious. 
 
When you’re the exhausted parent of a couple of toddlers and you hear advice like, “If you want to write, you must carve out your writing time and defend it no matter what!”… writing becomes a big, scary monster. When you sit down to write and all you can hear in the other room is kids wrestling with each other, and then you read on social media, “If you really want to write, you need to get rid of all distractions!” or “In order to be successful, you need to write faster — x thousand words a day!”… writing becomes a big, scary monster.  
 
If I can mix my metaphors a bit, that kind of advice turns writing into a mountain that is almost impossible for a parent to climb.
 
The thing is, the big, scary advice makes it seem like everything has to be perfect and pristine in order to write, like you have to be able to write thousands of words a day or why are you even doing this, like writing must be the center of your life and everyone else’s life, too.
 
I’m going to call bullshit on that.
 
A long time ago, I read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, and what stuck with me most was how he said his life improved when he moved his writing desk out of the center of his office and into the corner, so his kids could come in and play. Most of us don’t have to recover from a cocaine addiction and an overdose of fame, but over my own years of trial and (a lot of) error, what seems to work best for me is if I treat writing as that thing I do, about as glamorous as cooking dinner every day, instead of making a huge deal out of it.
 
This isn’t to say that I don’t try to carve out times of the day for my writing when I can concentrate more, but mostly I just have to accept that life is the way it is and try to work with it instead of against it.
 
This means that I am rarely alone when I write.
 
 I homeschool my kids, so I tend to divide my day into blocks. When I sit down with my breakfast, I usually do things that don’t require a huge amount of brain power. I like to read through what I’ve written the day before, so I’m not starting cold. I might make some small edits, or if I left off at a place where I’m excited to keep writing and the kids cooperate, I might put in some words. 
 
 I try to stuff as much writing as I can into my three year old’s nap time, or if I’m waiting on her at therapy (she has Down Syndrome), I take my laptop with me and write a little sitting in the parking lot. When I’m at home, I write at the kitchen table where I can field questions (sometimes a million questions) from my other kids. I try to sneak in a few more words while I’m making dinner. I get my laptop back out when the little ones go to bed. If I disappeared into an office to write, my husband would never see me, so we sit on the couch together. He watches Netflix on his computer, and I try not to watch Netflix. 
 
How many words do I get out of this a day? It varies. My goal is a thousand words because I know from experience that I can usually hit that. Usually. Some days — especially if somebody is sick or if I have more commitments — I can’t. And some days I’ll get on a roll and do two thousand or more. I’ve written some big novels that way, but I’m never going to be churning out more than one or two books a year, especially ones at the length I write. 
 
I’ll just say one more thing and then I’ll bring this really long post to a close. I think one of the most important habits you can cultivate as a writer in general, but especially if you’ve got a family, is the habit of not judging your work too early… which brings us back to writing not being a big, scary monster again.
 
If you’ve only got thirty minutes a day to write, and you’re working on the rough draft of a novel, you can’t afford to worry about how good it is or if other people are going to like it. Don’t go down that road. Just sit down and write more words. 
 
Writing got a lot easier for me when I stopped trying to fight my life and started trying to have fun with my writing. I try to treat it like a reward, now that I know what life was like without it. I do worry about what other people will think (and I hope they like my books) but I try not to when I’m writing. Maybe it sounds selfish to say things like, “I write the books I want to read,” but writing is hard, and writing when you’re raising a family is really hard, and there are times when all I want is to be able to watch more shows on Netflix, but then I wouldn’t get to see what crazy thing these people in my head will do next. 
 
The thing is, when I was avoiding writing because it was big and scary, I was miserable. There came a point, about two years ago, when I was tired of being miserable. I started out working writing into my day in little ways, and now writing works into my days in bigger ones. I self-published my first book in June. And you know what? My kids are proud of it, too. I haven’t taken myself away from them by writing. 
 
Instead, I’ve given them a more interesting mother.

If you would like to visit her indie spotlight page it can be found here. 

About Angela

Angela Boord published a handful of short stories in the early 2000s, then had a bunch of kids and took a long break from writing. She lives in northwestern Mississippi with her husband and their nine kids, plus two dogs, one cat, and varying numbers of chickens. Recently, she has stopped noodling around with the beginnings of stories and started finishing them again with the intention of publishing.

Her current project, a dark and twisty epic/historical fantasy set in a Renaissance-inspired world, is titled FORTUNE’S FOOL and is planned for release in June 2019.

Where to find Her

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