I've just spent the summer re-learning how to write--or, rather, re-learning how to find time to write.
When I gave my editor the finished manuscript for my forthcoming short story collection, Swimming With Strangers (Chronicle Books, Nov. 1, 2008), I was a month from giving birth to my son. Although I can now sagely look back on that pre-child period and say that I had no real clue how motherhood changes one's life and one's writing, I at least had an inkling in that last month of pregnancy that my undisciplined, write-when-the-spirit-moves-you work schedule was about to become a thing of the past, and so I made a frantic dash to finish the book before delivering. As it turned out, that instinct was worth listening to; I've only recently begun to really write again, and my son turned 2 this summer.
The challenge of balancing motherhood and writing, for me, has been a problem of both physical time and mental space. When my son was an infant, I had very little of either. My hours were, predictably, filled with nursing, changing, rocking, adoring. My mind was, somewhat unpredictably, filled nearly entirely with thoughts of him, too. Becoming a mother seemed to alter my brain chemistry as well as my body chemistry (I now know, in fact, that it did). The craziest part of the experience for me, however, wasn't that I was wholly, head-over-heels distracted from my writing by my new baby--it was that I didn't care. Writing became peripheral in that time to the vivid joy of everyday life.
Of course, things have slowly shifted, and as my son has become more independent, my desire to return to writing has grown again. Happily, too, creativity seems to work like a dammed river, as now, after all those months of holding off on writing, I find myself flooded with ideas.
I'm still a mother, though--mother to a busy, talkative, sometimes rather demanding toddler--and so am working to find ways to better balance my writing life and my everyday life. I no longer write by whim, but rather by routine. And when I sit down to work, I am finding (as many parents before me have) that because I know my writing time is precious and limited, I have become a much more focused writer, a more efficient manager of my time. There is more joy, too, in writing than there once was. I used to dread a deadline, or procrastinate sitting down to work through a story that had become problematic. Where writing used to be work, though, it is now my work. I come away from my writing, after the hour or two or three I've spent lingering in the hallways of my own mind, renewed and ready to step fully again into my other life as "Mom."
I've decided, in fact, that contrary to what I thought in the first year of my son's life, motherhood and writing are not mutually exclusive callings; they are, actually, mutually enriching. At least once you strike the right balance.