Thursday, March 14, 2013

Things I've Learned By Being a Writer & A Mom

(I saw that pic going around Facebook and thought it was so funny! And so true . . .)

As you all know I have eight children and I've learned a few things along the way about being a writer and a mom.

1.  Sometimes my best story ideas come while I'm playing Barbies or cowboys with my little kids.  So take the time to play with them.  Then you can act out the plot with the Barbie and cowboy and the kids think it's a fun new game.

2.  Don't talk about plot lines (especially terrorist plots) when you and your children are out in public.  Well-meaning people can overhear and think bad things about you as a mother.

3.  Encourage writing in your own children.  When I'm sitting on the couch, scribbling in my writer's notebook, my children will often come over with their own paper and pen and make up a story.  I love that and try to encourage it because no matter what imagination and communication skills are essential in this world.

4.  Let your children see your successes and disappointments.  I share my excitement over new books, good reviews, and royalty checks, but I also share my disappointments over rejections and such because I think it's important for them to see that not everything comes easy.  If it's worth it, it's work.

5.  We play people-watching games like making up backstories for people who pass by us.  Sometimes I end up laughing so hard I have tears running down my face.  It sparks my imagination as well as theirs.

6.  Make up stories for them.  Some of my favorite memories are of lying in a tent or a cabin between rooms and making up stories where my kids are the stars.  Someday I want to write all of those down, so they can have them for their children, too.  It's a worthwhile use of my storytelling, I think.

7.  Don't ever make them feel like they are second to your writing.  That's why I write in snatches, or in a notebook in the car, or when they're in bed.  My family always comes first.

8.  On the flip side of that, make sure the children know that sometimes Mom needs time at the computer.  I have my Barney time or Caillou time and they know that while they're watching their show, Mommy is typing.

9.  Sometimes kids (especially junior high or high school kids) have great ideas for villain and hero names, depending on how their day went at school.  Of course, if I do use a name of someone at their school I always switch things up a bit so no one would recognize themselves if they read the book.

10.  Share your research at the dinner table.  At least the interesting parts.  When I was writing Ribbon of Darkness, I talked/watched documentaries about cargo ships for a while and my kids know a lot of useless trivia about them.  We've talked about oil leases (from Time Will Tell) the origins of Ring Around the Rosy (from All Fall Down), and we've also participated in collecting food and hygiene items for our troops because the military unit helping me with my research mentioned they missed having Skittles in the field.  Some of these things have really bonded us together as a family and other topics have become fodder for family jokes.

11.  I've learned how to type one-handed for those times when I'm nursing a baby at my desk or holding a child in my lap.  A very useful skill for a mom/writer.

12. Keep in mind that your child's teachers are some of your biggest fans so always dress up for parent/teacher conferences so you don't have them say, "You don't look anything like the picture in the back of your book."  (Which just barely happened to me.  *sigh*)

Have you learned anything by being a parent and a writer?


Debra Erfert said...

And never talk about where to dump dead bodies strangled with silk scarves while out in public. People will back away from you. Hahahaha!!! Being a mystery writer is so much fun.

I think all your ideas are top shelf. I get so afraid that the new, and very young writers will devote so much time into their writer's world that their children will feel abandoned. I'd hate for that to happen.

You're super, Julie.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Debra. You're pretty amazing yourself! :)

Jon Spell said...

I need a little more concentration than I can muster when the little ones are around, so I can only write when they're asleep.

I have to be careful even when talking with my wife about some of my more "out there" ideas. Like, ok, this one is so far out there that I have no desire to run with it.

(apologies in advance if people find this blasphemous. I'm not remotely suggesting this is the case; it's just a speculative question.)

It's been said that the Earth has a spirit. Some people refer to it as Mother Earth. What if HM is the Earth?

(Also, not looking for reasons why this is implausible. Just pointing it out as one of those things you can't discuss in certain places. Julie: if you think your blog is one of those, snip it out. I won't be offended.)

More lighthearted discussion: sometimes horses are depicted as being decked out in armor, mostly for your medieval knight-type movies. Suppose you had a war dog. How would that look? What could you add to make a dog a more fearsome fighter?

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

That is an interesting question that I've never really thought about. I think of the earth as one of HF creations, going through the same sort of process we are. Would HM need to go through that?

As for dogs, that brought some funny images to my mind of decked out in armor dogs that could barely walk. Haha! You always have the most interesting ideas that I would love to see in your book sometime. ;)

A M Jenner said...

A Great Dane in armor would be a frightening sight, and I can even see a leprechaun, elf, or dwarf riding one into battle. However, I get the giggles imagining a chihuahua in armor.

Debra Erfert said...

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who had Bull Mastiffs. They are as tall as Great Dane's but are as muscle-bound as Pit Bull's. He would hitch them up with special harnesses and have them pull a wagon with his children in it. I can see those dogs wearing armor, growling and chasing the enemy. No man in his right mind would stick around with those monsters chasing them.

Angie said...

Great lessons, Julie! I love being a mom and a writer.

Lynn Swayze said...

Great post! As a soon-to-be mom of four who is trying to juggle freelance writing (which I hate) with finding time to do the writing I love (blogging and fiction), I have a strong desire to learn how other moms do it. I don't like the idea that I have to put my kids in daycare all day to accomplish my goals. Thanks for posting your tips!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Lynn and Angie! Glad you enjoyed them. :)