Don't forget your work, Shell.
When your passion is writing, your work is writing, and your friends are writers, it's not hard to get lost in a tornado of projects. There are always blogs to be written and content to produce; poems and stories to craft and edit; videos and images to create for all the platforms. Words, so many words, needed for so many things.
But sometimes, I lose sight of why I started this journey. When I'm packing on the projects, helping my fellow writers edit or plot, raising my hand for another freelance assignment, Of course, I have time! When really, I don't.
In my writing tribe, we talk a lot about doing all the things and how we can't possibly expect ourselves to live up to that standard– we just can't.
We can't keep our houses intact and keep the kids alive and go to all the events and volunteer for all the work (and then do the work) and jump in the writing meetups and the workshops and writing circles and beta reading rings and do all the social media events. Well, I guess we could...if we had no intentions of reaching our own dreams.
When your creative goals are getting pushed aside
Every morning, I plan my day in my Dreambook Planner. I review my personal monthly goals, enter the appointments and meetings, list the freelance deadlines, and writing group tasks. I make sure I have all the kid's sports and playdates scheduled. Finally, I create a personal writing goal for my WIP, which I put at the top of the list and star and highlight. It's a great system, but the last step was once just for show.
I can't tell you how many times I did this in the morning with zero intention of following through. After about an hour of taking in all the morning emails and activities, jumping in the group chats, and sizing up my toddler's mood, my book goal for the day was always pushed to the bottom.
It made it on the To-Do list in spirit, but let's be honest. It really was on the 'If I meet all other obligations and make everyone around me happy first then maybe' To-Do list. I considered my goals fluid, and easy to put on the back burner. After all, I was only disappointing myself, right?
Getting lost in all of the good
I started my writing journey to forge a career as a creative writer, making an income as a freelance writer on the side. At first, it was just me, dabbling in stories between my work assignments. Then something amazing happened that changed my life and everything I knew.
I joined Moms Who Write, an inspiring group of women who exchange resources and support. It was here that I made the creative friends I have always longed for.
We started an Instagram page that became a website that became an LLC. We realized how many exceptional services we could provide mom authors, struggling just like us, to do all the things while striving to reach their publishing goals.
Starting something from the bottom takes a lot of time and work– sweat equity well worth the effort. I became the Managing Editor of the blog, I threw myself into helping with the first MWW anthology. I pretty much was raising my hand for everything I could.
I may have got a little lost in the bliss and the good that was going on. I may have also allowed the financial guilt of working on my own book (for free) to eat away at me.
Forgetting my writing goals
Every week, I was encouraging mom authors to push through: Write your story. Keep going! Make time for yourself, take a break when you need to. You are important and your dreams are important. Creative work is real work. Here are some ways to help you keep going.
And yet, as a mom author myself, I wasn't focusing any of my own advice.
I was standing by watching my fellow writers do it all: dropping bits of the projects they were working on, their book covers, their Kindle Vella series, their manuscript drafts. They were posting pictures of their trips and triumphs and family time. I was so happy for them, but it dawned on me that I had not been working on anything of my own. Like the time in high school, when it was time to graduate and I realized all my friends had been socializing AND doing their homework. Whoops.
If I did start to focus on my book, I was dropping it like a hot plate if I saw a freelance update come through. I'd break a perfectly good flow to proofread a piece or handle a quick problem. These distractions always led me to segway from my creative ventures and into paid work opportunities (that I could have done later) instead.
What was I doing? Did I not create this space for myself? Did I not dream of holding my book in my hands? Where did I get lost?
The harmful narrative plaguing creative mothers
Unfortunately, this story isn't uncommon when it comes to creatives.
We're keen to hold ourselves accountable to others while pushing our own desires under the rug. It probably stems from the belief that creative passions are more or less considered 'hobbies', unworthy of the bulk of your time compared to other higher-paid industries. We always feel the need to prove our worth. Sometimes, that can come at the cost of forgetting why we started creating.
This isn't uncommon for mothers either. We are used to giving up bits and pieces of ourselves to keep our families going. We push our needs to the side to fill others' cups too. Then, we forget where we put our cup and figure it probably wasn't that important anyway.
Mom authors battle both harmful narratives. We battle the internal struggle to make money creatively, with the pressure to show we CAN bring in an income for our family, all on top of making sure we keep our children alive and happy. It can feel like an uphill battle on all sides, but we keep climbing the hills, again and again, to try and reach some peak of success– at least once.
It's not an easy balance. I've failed many times. I've focused not at all on myself, just on freelance work, and I was miserable. I've focused just on my personal writing and missed the collaboration of my group. I've focused strictly on my writing and my group and my work, only to watch my house implode with children seeking attention. I tried to focus on personal writing and my group and my children, finding my pocket change a little too light for comfort.
I knew I needed to focus on all of the above. But I wasn't sure how to start.
Making a small change to prioritize myself
Last week, I was mulling over everything in my head, reading my morning emails while editing someone else's blog. All of a sudden, a poem popped in my head. Initially, I pushed it aside. I'll do it later, after my work. But then it hit me–poetry is my work. Poems are my product. Writing is my service to those around me. Creation is my work.
So, I stopped, closed the tabs, and wrote the poem. I created the graphic and shot it up on my page. Surprisingly, my world did not fall apart.
The other work was still there, waiting for me where I left it. I didn't miss any deadlines or disappoint any clients. They didn't know I put them second. The only difference was, that I had done something for myself first. I had taken another step towards my own dream. My work made the top of the real To Do list.
Change your internal narrative
It hit me eventually. It took some spiritual practice and soul searching but I finally asked myself: Why am I so quick to dismiss my own goals? Why is it that if I'm working on my book, and someone messages me to do something, I use my available energy to work on their tasks first?
We're so quick to highlight and red star our commitments to others. We hate to disappoint, or, cancel. And yet if our goals are lucky enough to make the To Do list, we are so quick to break commitments to ourselves.
My bit of advice: change your narrative.
Consider your goal's priority above all others. Do them first. Wake up a little earlier (if you can) or schedule some time before your day job begins to do something creative for yourself. Edit, write, read, draw, design, something. Something that propels your creative dream forward.
Starting with my own work has put a whole new spin on the day. It reminds me that I can live a creative life, that my passion can be my work if I continue to prioritize it. It feels amazing. Everyone needs a little more amazing in their lives right now.