The problem I have as a stay-home-mom who teaches her brood here is time. There never seems to be enough time for everything. Six years ago, I’d thought leaving a career would give me all the time in the world to write The Great American Novel while I was home with the growing family, but in truth it has only been the last two years that I’ve journaled with regularity, and only this month where I have committed to crafting work with any regularity.
Already though, my husband and children can tell when I’ve been successful at blocking off time and writing; no one can find clean towels or underwear for days; I burn or otherwise disfigure dinner; The dining room floor remains crunchy with crumbs even longer than usual; I am tired from being up too late into the night; I accidentally doze when the kids read aloud to me.
This is all true, and I have been oddly rejoicing in it. As long as no one drops in unannounced, this life is fine.
I used to sell books online, which was a fantastic way to generate the money we needed to fill in between my husband’s salary and the fiscal needs of our family. My posting items on Amazon Marketplace kept us from going broke, saved us from having to charge groceries, and at times helped to pay down some debt. I was pretty proud of this contribution, of the morning rhythm of reading and entering SKU numbers, checking against the lowest prices posted, filling and shipping orders.
Yet six or so months ago the endeavor began feeling like a weight on my chest, keeping me from breathing. Even over the summer months, when homeschooling slows and stops, I could not get my motivation to navigate the changing Amazon seller website and post items for sale. My inventory posted for less and less. What I earned barely broke even with my seller fees and shipping costs. I had to admit to myself that posting books for sale on Amazon was not worth the time and energy I was putting into it. This was wasted time, a distraction that left me further burned out, snippy with the kids, anxious and bitter.
If emotions are gifts from God (and they are) then I wondered whether these feelings were communicating something. I decided to listen more closely. I asked, “Why am I bitter and anxious about this business?” What dawned on me, beyond the pragmatic and practical changes I’ve mentioned, was that I needed this precious time. I burned with the knowing that I should be doing something else with it... but what?
After wrestling with the guilt of quitting what was my own financial contribution to our fiscally strapped household, an odd thing happened: my life-long writers block ended and I started this blog.
What does that mean, if anything? It has been only two weeks; I have no idea. I just feel as if finally, finally, I have enough radical trust to answer a call God put in me when I was in the third grade and wrote my first poem (A leaf falls from a tree/It lands on the ground without a sound...) This Plan was indicated to me throughout grade school when teachers and peers said, “You have a talent for writing,” or whenever I submitted work and had a feeling in my gut that this was good, and this was what I was made to do.
Becoming a “Writer” had been a plan and dream of mine until half way through college, where I consumed and did well in writing classes, but where I developed a strong sense of doubt as my idealism met the real world. Alongside my peers and professors, I was overcome with the sense that I had no idea what I was doing. My mean interior voice hit me where I live, altering my sense of purpose and replacing it with: “I’m not worthy. I have nothing important in me to say. Hardly anyone ever makes a living at this; everyone says so. I can’t do it. I will fail.”
What does it mean that I am now writing for no pay? That I call myself a “Writer” because I post on the blogosphere? For one thing, it means I am crazy. No worries, though. This is in fact a stroke of good fortune, as insanity apparently meets a prerequisite for creative talent.
It also means that I am approaching middle age, I am recognizing -with a start!- that I am not young anymore, that I don’t have all eternity to "break in", and if I don’t start living as a “Writer” now, I will never have embraced my truest self. If I died without stepping out in this way, I would have dug a hole and buried a God-given talent out of fear. I suspect I would have to answer to Him regarding that decision.
I have always known that writing isn’t glamourous. It is a sacrifice, a cordoning off of time from necessities of everyday life (checking voicemail, paying bills, cleaning the bathroom) and from enjoyable activities, too (taking longer showers, reading good literature, checking out Facebook). It is a self-consuming discipline. There is a pouring out and a vulnerability inherent in this craft, and an aching that ebbs without ever completely flowing away. It is a desperate feeling that is not fully satisfied. To write is to suffer.
To willingly enter such suffering, and not fearfully hold oneself back, is joy.