Jan here: As Halloween approaches, I can think of two good reasons to introduce you to my friend Jennifer Walkup:
1. She’s going to tackle a scary topic for most of us: how to blend motherhood and writing in a way which doesn’t compromise both and leave you with two areas of failure.
2. We’re celebrating the release of her debut, Second Verse, which Kirkus called “A supernatural murder mystery with a love interest rooted in the past and present. … A fast-paced thriller best read with the lights on.” (Blurb below the post.)
Take it away, Jenn!
Hiya everyone! Thanks so much to Jan for having me here at her blog.
Okay, so one of the things people are forever asking is: HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO WRITE?
Short answer: Stop separating your lights and darks.
Long answer: What I mean is, cut corners where you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. (Also, by the way, you really DON’T have to separate lights and darks. I discovered this quite by accident, but seriously, try it sometime. IT’S LIBERATING!)
But, I digress. Back to the topic: Finding time to write.
Here’s the thing. I have a job, two young kids, a husband, a dog and a house. Plus I freelance edit for a few publishers and a literary magazine. I’m pretty good at multitasking and I think I thrive off keeping busy. But there is still only so much time. And, there are things I won’t cut corners on. I will never sacrifice time with my kids and husband for anything – not even writing. There will always, ALWAYS be time to play with my kids, take them on outings and cook meals for my family (my second favorite pastime, I do love to cook, SO MUCH more rewarding than laundry, by the way!). It is tough to balance family time and writing time, but the kids will only be little so long, so I want to soak it up while I can.
So where to find the time then? It has to come from somewhere. Here are a few ways to find balance when juggling the mom/wife/employee/writer roles (and whatever others you may be balancing!). It isn’t always easy (as a matter of fact, it’s often a struggle), but there are some tried and true ways that I’ve found helpful.
1. Cutting corners.
Besides separating laundry, obviously (tee hee), there are other little things too that I cut corners on. There are probably too many weeds in my garden, and the dust hangs around longer than it should. But those are my choices. I choose family time and writing time over the small things I could be doing. I know this approach isn’t for everyone, but letting go of all the little “have-to’s” really makes room for the things that feed your soul. The “need-to’s.” (Need to’s = need to for you, those things that make you feel alive, the things that are much more personally satisfying, once you learn to let go.)
2. I don’t watch tv.
This isn’t to say I don’t waste time, because I do (I’m looking at you, twitter!), but TV is not something I’ve ever really been into. If you don’t watch tv, you have a lot more free time (even with the internet distractions, which I’m working on!)
3. Actually enjoying the writing.
This is a tough one because it’s not a choice. I have written many different things and some have been fun and some have been a chore. The ones that are fun, are obviously easy to eek out. The ones that are a chore, less so. But still, I do enjoy writing so much when it’s flowing. Without it, I think I’d be a bit lost, which is why making the time for it is easy a lot of times, when I’m in the groove. There have been times the writing has been my life-preserver, and others it’s been my nemesis, but mostly it is like a private little bubble of ME that I can hunker down in happily.
4. Being accountable.
This is the BIGGEST one that keeps me in line (when it does keep me in line, that is) and also the biggest hurdle. One of the hardest parts of staying on track is that it’s up to you to keep yourself there. Luckily, I have a lot of writer friends and we egg each other on. Sometimes it’s just “meeting up” online or through text messaging and having a “word war” where we write for a set amount of time and report in with our word counts when we’re done. Or making a set time to write and then posting snippets and give each other feedback, or even just favorite lines. Knowing someone is counting on you, makes you get it done. It’s kind of like a work out buddy.
6. Support system.
Absolutely vital. My family is amazing, in particular, my husband. He’s an amazing dad and he’s also a huge help with housework and the like, giving me the extra time needed to work. And, he understands my pattern. When I’m first drafting (which luckily for us all, is usually a pretty short process, usually one month-ish), things get pretty neglected. He picks up the slack and knows I’ll be back in the game soon. I am so incredibly grateful. Even with trying to balance myself and the house and kids and the jobs, there is no way I could write without that support. I’m lucky.
So you tell me, any ways you’ve found to sneak in writing time and find work life balance. Let me know in the comments. I could always use some new tips!
More on Second Verse: Bad things come in threes. In Shady Springs, that includes murder.
Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted, 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt: an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake.
Weeks before The Hunt, Lange and her friends hold a séance in the farmhouse’s eerie barn. When a voice rushes through, whispering haunting words that only she and Vaughn can hear, Lange realizes it’s begging for help. The mysterious voice leads Lange and Vaughn to uncover letters and photos left behind by a murdered girl, Ginny, and they become obsessed with her story and the horrifying threats that led to her murder.
Murder Yet to Come
But someone doesn’t like their snooping, and Lange and Vaughn begin receiving the same threats that Ginny once did. The mysterious words from the barn become crucial to figuring out Ginny’s past and discovering how their own past is connected to hers. They must work fast to uncover the truth or risk finding out if history really does repeat itself.
When Jennifer Walkup isn’t writing or reading, she’s spending time with her husband and young sons, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and coming up with costume ideas for Halloween. She’s obsessed with good coffee and new recipes and likes broccoli on her pizza, flowers in her hair, flip-flops on her feet, and the number 13. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review and teaches creative writing at The Writers Circle. Second Verse is her first novel.