Valerie Parv blogged the other day about 6 things she wished she’d known about being published. You can find that post here. It got me thinking. I’m soon to be published so I can’t outright steal her blog heading and add my own words (I could but I don’t actually really know how it feels to be published or the pitfalls, etc.)This is 5 things I wish I’d have known before I started writing... Well, this is the top five on the list, it goes on forever!
RWA – God, how I wish I’d known about RWA and SARA and all the other amazing writer’s groups out there in the wide world and on the www. When I look at how terrible my writing was at the beginning when I was going it alone to show the author of the book I’d just read that I could do better, I gasp! Yes, literally gasp at the awfulness. Over the years of attending monthly meeting and yearly conferences, having published authors around to answer questions when they came up, to have people who could honestly critique my work and tell me where I was going wrong. Wow! What a difference it makes. If you haven’t joined, are sitting on the fence or didn’t know, finish my blog post and then rush off and google to find a group near you.
Grammar and Punctuation – My recent revisions show me just how bloody bad I still am but I wish someone would have pulled me aside in High School and told me to stop mucking around and concentrate. Didn’t help that I had a teacher who gave out A’s for writing stories about cats. I learn more and more everyday but there’s still so much I don’t know. I nearly jumped for joy when I finally came to two pages in a row on my revisions that didn’t have any changes or marks. On the last two pages!
You are not alone – Writing is such an isolating job. I felt so alone and if it wasn’t for the support from my friends and my man, I would have given up long before I discovered RWA and Facebook. With the invention off Facebook and Twitter you are never, ever alone. If you have a question, want to rant or get stuck and need to talk out a scene, you can log in somewhere and someone will come to the party. I didn’t know this way back when either.
Ideas will wake you up in the middle of the night – You will never be without a pen and a pad ever! I thought it was bad enough being woken every few hours by the babies, try having an idea in your brain that feels like it is trying to manipulate your hand into picking up a pen. I can’t sleep without getting up and writing it down. Hence the notepad in every room, oodles of notes in my phone and scraps of paper with bits and pieces all over the house and car.
You need your own space! – had I known this particular gem, I would never have given our cubbyhouse a second look. Not only do I not have an office, I barely have a third of the dining table and a spare chair to balance my Flip Dictionary. If I want to get my sewing machine out, I have to unplug the computer which it like switching off my own life support. Then I war with myself over what I want to do versus what I should be doing. Like right now. I have a pinafore cut and pinned and I have revisions to do but here I sit tapping out a blog post while the man does the dishes I hadn’t got to yet...
Another reason why I stopped at five =)
I like to think of myself as a good mum, mostly because the alternative is just too hard to bear, but the challenges of being a good mum and a writer are uncountable (or is that innumerable?), some days even, unfathomable. So how do we do it? How do we juggle the kids, the house, the day job, the hubby, time for ourselves? The answer is that we don’t. Or at least I don’t.
My writing was just starting to take off when I stopped to have two beautiful girls and when they were little, I was still stuck in must-write-all-the-time land. We had a three metre gate across the kitchen so I could sit at the dining table and write but still see the kids as they sat in front of the babysitter. I was in the same room but often on another planet, in another reality. I know this doesn’t make me a bad mum, just a passionate writer. It was the first time my eldest said she couldn’t play with the little one because she was too busy that made me feel kind of crappy. How many times had I said I was too busy to read a story? How many times should I have been on the floor playing with them instead of nutting out a scene? But then how many times did I miss putting them to bed because I was at work five nights a week? Sometimes I beat myself up, other times I just put it out of my mind and did what I had to do. Sometimes the five nights a week were like a holiday that gave me some of my sanity back.
As authors and mothers I think we need to find our own line in the sand and then choose. Do you stay on the safe side and put your dreams on hold for the few years they are little? Do you live on two minute noodles so you don’t have to work just so you can say goodnight? Or do you ride the line? I think if each and every one of us sat down and took a look at the hours in the day, we could find a happy balance. My kids are now at the age where they know I’m writing love stories because that’s what makes me happy. They are okay with playing outside while I try to organise a scene. They’re okay with getting themselves a snack or a glass of water so I don’t have to get up and out of the zone. Does it make me feel good? Not really. What makes me feel good is when my four year old tells me she wants to write stories too. Or when they wake in the morning and the little one jumps in the big one’s bed so they can read together. I have two independent, well adjusted and very intelligent children. All those times I wondered if too much television as toddlers would hurt them and they rarely watch the idiot box now and when they do, it’s because I ask them if they want to. Otherwise they read or make craft stuff or run outside. I tortured myself for nothing. But on the other hand my first book comes out this year and my family all know just how important this is to me. They forgive a little neglect. They ride out the days I don’t do the washing. They love it when I make mac and cheese after forgetting to take something out of the freezer for dinner.
So the point, I hear you ask? I have the best family who even when I’m not, make me feel like the best mum in the world. I drew my line in the sand and I’m so glad they’re standing there with me!
Well, it’s international women’s day so I thought what better day to celebrate being a woman! Easier said than done for me as I recover from surgery that saw most of my women’s bits removed (I had to have a hysterectomy ten days ago). But my father in law gets squeamish when I go into the details so I won’t do that today.
Here a few things I love about being a woman...
1 – The ability to create life (well, before the surgery). Yes I know we still need a man but nothing made me feel more feminine than having babies. It is the right of women everywhere who want to, to experience how it feels to be kicked from the inside, to nourish your child at your breast and to know you are the bomb to a couple of little people.
2 – My girlfriends make me feel blessed to be a woman. We talk about everything and anything, they are there for me the same way I’m there for them and guys just don’t get that.
3 – Dresses. I would look funny wearing them if I had equipment and facial hair (no offense to drag queens or transsexuals). Dresses are so fun and feminine and comfortable.
But seriously, the point of international women’s day is, ‘International Women's Day is celebrated across the world on March 8th each year. The day is about celebrating the vital role women play in enhancing economic security for their families, communities and countries as a whole while recognising that significant barriers to achieving women's economic security and equality continue to exist.’
I’ve been working since I was fourteen and earning my way in the world even before that. I’ve studied and grown as all women should have the right to do. Apart from maternity leave after I had the kids, I’ve never been unemployed or bitten by the i-don’t-want-to-work bug. Just as we have the right to learn, work, and play, we also have an obligation to contribute to society. This starts by being the best mums we can. I know that sounds strange and for those who don’t have kids, you can still help with your friend’s and family’s girls.
My girls are only 4 and 6 years old but already I foster in them a sense that they can be whoever they want to be. I tell them they can be doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, teachers, or checkout chicks. When they get a little bit older, I’ll teach them the importance of each of these roles in society, I’ll show them what they can do to change the world. After that, I’ll try to give them empowerment to make sure they achieve all they set out to. It starts with self confidence. It starts with raising them up rather than putting them down.
Which brings me to the mothers and fathers of boys. Please raise them to be against the objectification of women. Raise them to be respectful and courteous, to treat the girls around them as though they talked and walked with their mothers. If each and every one of us start here, we can begin to change the world. If the men in the highest places stopped seeing us as manic for twelve weeks of the year and only half insane for the rest, we may get picked for top jobs. Two hundred years ago men saw women as heir carrying vessels and the attitude continues in every bare foot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink joke told today.
If they stopped seeing us as the weaker or fairer sex, we may earn as much as they do because they would see just how strong we are. When one of our women get through and hold an element of power, then we can look to the bigger picture.
Eradicate the slavery of girls for sex. Ban underage marriage in third world countries. Teach those men that their women should be schooled, should be given rights. I certainly haven’t seen Julia Gillard step up to exercise any women’s rights. Abortion, adoption, equal pay and jobs. The last huge fight I remember (before paid maternity leave) was if there should be GST on tampons and hygiene products.
A woman I have a lot of respect for is Oprah. She gave so much to women, in America and Africa and so many countries and circumstances around the world. If we all took a leaf out of Oprah’s book, we’d be on the right track... Another very important woman I love is my mum for giving me confidence. For showing me that women are strong and very capable! For doing a man's job in a man's world and giving them hell along the way.
I'm a published author but I'm still mostly stumbling about in the dark looking for the right paths so this blog is about that, though sometimes something will give the me the shits and I'll have a bit of a rant. I'll try not to be offensive but occasionally my mouth opens without asking my brain's permission so I'll apologise in advance.