So much of a writer’s life is spent hunched over messy desks under the glares of overworked computers, all alone, trapped inside the creative avalanches of one’s own mind. Those few times each year when we congregate at conferences, book fairs, and workshops, we marvel at and cling to one another with abandon. The connections we make and those intellectual bonds we form sustain us year-round, often throughout our entire careers. They buoy us during hard time as well as success. I was fortunate to come across just such a friend in author Leslie Lindsay this past April at the University of Wisconsin Writers Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. My very own home state, no less.
With all I’ve had on my plate these last few months–putting together this incredible poetry anthology, finishing my novel, promoting Girl, working a full-time day job, and trying to keep myself and my dog in good spirits, I am fascinated by how writer-mamas manage to throw their families into the mix. I damn sure plan to keep writing as I move through life and, hopefully, one day become a mother myself. I asked Leslie what writing means to her as she evolves, and how she balances those dual identities of artist and mother. Here’s what she had to say:
As I write this, I have a load of wash going, towels in the dryer, a happy basset hound at my feet, dinner simmering in a Crock Pot and two children happily playing outside with rocks, sticks, and their imaginations.
Am I distracted? Of course! Am I a driven writer? Yes. Can I do it all and still have time to do the things I love? Well, that depends.
The art and craft of writing takes time. Lots of time. It also takes a certain doggedness, a thick skin, a passion for the written word, and more time. To make it work for me and my family—which is comprised of a devoted hubby, a basset, and two very busy elementary-aged children—I must be very disciplined. Some days it’s easier than others!
Perhaps you’ve heard of the jar and the rock scenario. Bear with me as I explain. Take a glass jar…one of those big canning jars and fill it with a few large rocks. Those are your main priorities in life like home, work, church/synagogue, family, school. You have to do those things to make it in life, right? But the jar’s not full yet, is it? Okay, so go out and grab a few smaller rocks—the things you like to have as part of your life. Maybe that’s time to shop, study, read, time with friends, etc. Still not full, right? Then you add in sand and water…now the jar is really full.
As a mom-writer, I’ve had to shift my priorities so that writing is one of my “big rocks.” It’s quite literally what grounds me. When I am writing, I am in my own world where nothing seems to matter except my story and the characters that inhabit that world. Yet, all of those other things need to get done. It’s about balance. For me, writing is as integral as eating, breathing, and being with my family; it’s a strong fiber of my being.
At times, you’ll find me writing in the car while my kids are at Brownies or soccer practice. Every small moment I can carve out becomes a time to edit, revise, or craft something new. When my laptop isn’t available, I do it longhand (which interestingly generates some of the best writing.
The drive to keep writing has evolved as I’ve changed. Sure, as a kid it may have been about entertaining myself. As a teenager—a way to make sense of the stuff that hurt or bewildered me. As a young adult—a time to explore my life’s philosophy. As a married working person, writing became intertwined with my career as a child psych R.N., crafting stories and examples of working with depressed or anxious teens. As a mother-to-be, I catalogued and chronicled hopes and dreams for my unborn children. When my babies where little, I crafted books of their first year. And now, with the publication of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012), I learned how to help my daughter and countess others struggling with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).
Perhaps now I can say I’ve arrived back at my initial drive—to entertain—but this time, I hope expand my circle as I tackle my first fiction project. Which at times delights and frightens me.
Does money ever filter into the desire to keep pushing on? A little bit. Those who persevere may find it a lucrative career, but in the interim, the drive to write must be acknowledged as a friendly, desirable job.
Leslie Lindsay is the author of Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide for Childhood Apraxia of Speech (Woodbine House, 2012), a finalist for both Reader’s Choice and ForeWord Review’s book of the year awards. She is a member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild as well as an honorary member of the RWA-Windy City. She has participated in several workshops, most recently at The University of Wisconsin—Madison. In addition, she contributes to two critique groups, works closely with a critique partner, and maintains a robust blog consisting of author interviews and writing tips. She is also closely associated with PRbytheBook, a marketing and publicity company for authors, reviewing material monthly.
Huge thanks to Leslie Lindsay for sharing her thoughts with us. For more information about Leslie, her books, and her work, check out:
- Leslie Lindsay, Author of Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide for Childhood Apraxia of Speech
- In addition, you can find Leslie’s work on her companion-to-the-book website, SPEAKING OF APRAXIA at www.speakingofapraxia.com where she hosts SLPs, parents, and writes on a variety of topics related to childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), a neurologically-based motor speech disorder affecting approximately 1-2 out of every 1,000. Her oldest daughter (bright and spunky) Kate is currently resolving from apraxia.