Writing with the rug rats
Please join me in welcoming an dear friend, funny (might we even say wacky) person and New York Times bestselling author, Angie Fox.
Note: Angie is participating in Unleash Your Story as the team leader for the MORWA team. You can join Angie’s team or sponsor Angie by clicking here. All donors (through Angie’s team or through any UYS participant) who give $25 or more between Sept 9 and Sept 21 will receive a free book from our $100 book list.
A few weeks ago, my daughter came to me with a broken Ariel doll. She’d snapped the tail fin right off and was shocked when I couldn’t repair the plastic. “But mom,” she pleaded. “You can do anything!”
I didn’t know whether to correct her or to thank her. Because the truth is, most moms I know are a bit frazzled (myself included). It can be hard to find ten minutes for a shower some mornings, not to mention time to write a novel.
So what is the best way to write while raising kids? I wish I knew. But here are a few things I have learned along the way.
Just like your kids have a schedule (mostly), get yourself on a writing schedule. Personally, the only time I can write is when my kids are unconscious, so I write during afternoon nap times. If one or both of the kids don’t cooperate, I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. the next day and sneak in a writing session before the family wakes up. It’s not always easy. Heaven knows I’m not a morning person. But it’s the best way I know to keep my books, and my writing, on track.
Plus, you’ll be surprised at how your muse really does cooperate when you commit yourself. For example, when I sat down to write the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’
I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I ended up having a ball with it. Pirate can say and do things that my heroine can’t. He’s such a kick to write.
But you know what? I’ve noticed that nine times out of ten, those kinds of “ah hah” writing moments only happen when I’m on schedule and wholly committed to my writing. It’s like making an appointment with your muse. She knows when to show up, and that you’ll be there.
Know you can do it.
Just like the time my five-year-old emptied her Barbie pool on her bed “to see what would happen,” I had to go with the flow when I realized I had written a talking dog into a story with a geriatric biker witch gang that was about to hit the road. When unexpected things pop up, the trick is to push forward.
In the case of the Barbie pool, we used plenty of towels – and a hair dryer. In the case of my manuscript, I researched and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).
As moms, we’re so used to doing everything for everybody that we sometimes forget about ourselves. This writing, this time with your book, is something fun and amazing that you can do for just you. What have you always wanted to write? What will you do for the pure joy of it? How can you get started?
Luckily, my critique partner is also the mom of two small kids. We’re always trying to amuse each other as we write. Typical feedback will come like this, “What are you doing? Don’t get me wrong. I like it when you come up with quirky new hideouts for the Red Skull biker witches. But we’re heading into the climax of the book. Why do we need a new one?”
I usually don’t have any good answer to questions like that except, “I did it because it made me smile.” But, really, if I’m amusing myself as a writer, won’t my readers have more fun too? At least that’s my excuse. In the case of the new hideout, it worked out. The Red Skulls end up on this abandoned riverboat that they’d enchanted years earlier (while drunk on dandelion wine). Now they not only need a safe place, but they need to catch the Choking spells, Lose Your Keys spells, not to mention the Frozen Underwear spells ready to attack from around corners and behind the old jukebox.
And in conclusion (because your kids are probably emptying your underwear drawer as you read this), I think it might be easier in some ways to write while balancing the needs of a family. When you have distractions, you have to take a stand for your writing time and your story. You have to let yourself have fun along the way. And you have a profound sense of accomplishment when you do sit down and let those words flow.
Besides – we’re moms. From what I’ve heard, we can do anything.
New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox writes the Accidental Demon Slayer series for Dorchester. Well, when she’s not chasing her daughter (age 5) and her son (age 2). Visit her at www.angiefox.com