Friday, January 9, 2015

Working Around Your Work--Motivation for the New Year (Hopefully)

by Elizabeth

My depressing pile of clean laundry
Most writers of fiction don't have the luxury of having writing being their main job. I'm lucky enough that my primary job isn't one that pays in dollars, but in dividends. (College beckons soon. Scholarships? Hopefully--but I'm talking about the lives lived after the degrees are earned.) I had a revelation sometime last year that keeping four lives running is indeed a job, and despite the jokes about bonbons and pajamas, life around here would be much less smooth if I weren't at the house every day managing the schedules and keeping the towels clean.

It's funny, there is a silent war, undeclared, that American (Western? worldwide?) moms are aware of and that is perhaps on the radar of others, between those who "work" and those who "stay home."* It's ridiculous, really, because whether a family chooses to have a parent at home is up to that family, and that's it. Sure, factors like money and satisfaction come into play, but it's still down to the family and there's no universal right or wrong answer. It's what is right or wrong for that family, period. And "family" can mean one parent, one kid, or two of each, ten of each--just like who gets a paycheck and who does not, I wouldn't dream of determining that for anyone else.

Where was I going? Oh, yes: the Mommy wars. Thinking about that also made me consider the Writer Wars (unspoken? Unheard of?). There are writers who get to be full time by virtue of success or family choice, and writers who toil for a paycheck, while writing when not at the paid job. Neither is invalid, and both can be a choice. (Plenty of very successful writers keep doing what brings in the insurance benefits, and not necessarily for the insurance benefits.) There's no war; there's only right. Right for that person.

My work is in the home, and I spend as much time as I can carve out working on my writing. Sometimes that is as much as any 40 hours-a-week job, and sometimes other tasks require so much time that the writing takes a backseat. Projects often beckon, necessary or onerous or delightful--I'm thinking of my entire fall which was like a marathon--and just when it seems like a breather is in sight, another project looms. So it is now, and while the latest time-sucker is optional, it's also optimal, so I need to act while the fires burn hottest. Time suck.

Please know I am not complaining. I don't even think I am explaining. I'm merely musing, and realizing that the world's literature gets written anyway. Sure, I'm busy; who's not? There are senators and literary agents, astronauts and teachers who find time to write novels and memoirs, stories and articles. I've managed to complete three manuscripts while getting two kids to the teenage years. Not bad, though others have done far more, but you know what? It's not a contest. There's not a first prize, not even the Pulitzer. There's work, there's good work, there's your work and mine, and we each have to figure out what works for us, for ourselves and our families, for our sensibilities and needs, and do what we can. The real contest, not that there is one, is doing it anyway. Sitting down whenever we can and getting the words out. Working, whatever that means, whenever that means, in a way that makes us feel accomplished.
Mission accomplished!

And that's another term up for interpretation. Whatever makes us feel accomplished makes us accomplished. It might be the Pulitzer (and good luck with that! Sincerely!), but it doesn't have to be. It might be getting a book deal, an agent, or even a story finished. It might be getting through the day, some days. And if that's the case, and you feel accomplished? Guess what? You are.

*My staying home consists of many, many hours at the supermarket, the dry cleaners, sitting in carpool waiting for various kids to emerge, driving all over town both to deliver and return kids and goods, and sitting in various waiting rooms. For starters.

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