When the inevitable “and what do you do?” comes up in conversation I always hesitate to say, “Oh, I’m a writer.” This is because so far in my experience it conjures one of two stereotypes for people, neither of which apply to me.
The first is that of Joanne Rowling. I mean, yes it’s the stuff of my dreams, but it’s not my reality at present. It’s like people immediately imagine me sitting in some gothic, sweeping castle in Edinburgh, a piece of fine bone china full of English tea next to my neat writing station. They think that my car, my purse, my everything was financed by my lucrative but somehow not too time consuming writing career. I’ve even had one guy ask me if my hand cramps at signings. While I wanted to give a snarky, “Yes, just like Tom Brady’s does,” I can’t pull off snarky. My sarcasm immediately goes into b**ch territory but I digress.
The second and unfortunately more common reaction is the eye roll totally not a real job response. These people think of me lounging comfortably about in pajama pants, checking my Facebook more often than opening a Word document. To them my writing career is something I do when my time isn’t filled with getting my nails done and having a beer. While I personally have nothing against beer or Facebook (and was very good friends with both throughout college) this is also particularly untrue.
So what does being a writer and mother look like for me? It’s probably less relaxing and glamorous than you (or I when I started out) can picture.
It looks like me surfing through job sites every few months, chewing my bottom lip in indecision at every full time opportunity that I am qualified for. Should I apply, I ask with my internal mean girl. I wonder all the time, but especially during the months when the already unpredictable cash flow is sluggish, if I would be doing my family a better service by taking a 9-5. I’m young, the angel on my shoulder says comfortingly. But you’ve been at this for years, the practical devil quickly responds.
It looks like me working 1000 part time jobs to make ends meet. While I have not participated in the expected waitressing, call centering, or sandwich artistry so common for writers and actors (and props to them all for working hard and keeping the dream alive) I have been a group leader for at-risk youth, an education coordinator, and for approximately $200 I will write and perform your wedding ceremony. Think I’m joking? Who has two thumbs and an officiant’s certification? This girl!
It looks like receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, sometimes a handful in a day, and then pasting a smile on my face so that my children aren’t subject to my disappointments. Because they, those sweet gifts of mine, are never disappointing to me. I want them to know I am doing what I love, what’s important to me, and they’ll always have a joyful, available mama because of that.
Finally, it looks like me stealing whatever time I can to write. Although I’d love to (and sometimes weakly give in to the urge to do so) play candy crush while soaking in the bath, even this becomes my stolen moment of writing. I trade in that extra hour of sleep a night for researching my next project or communicating with an editor.
However, I’m in it because I love it. From where I am sitting that’s one of the greatest lessons I can give my beautiful girls. I am doing what I love, what I’ve dreamt of doing since I could first flip the pages in picture books. I am making time for them, for diaper changes and games of Jedi Elsa, along with maintaining my goals. I’m building a future for them and for me. At least that’s what the angel on my shoulder tells me when she’s feeling particularly pleasant.