Monday, December 7, 2009

Guest Blogger Tiffany Amber Stockton: Can You Achieve a Dream Too Early?

How many of you dreamed when you were younger of writing a novel and seeing it published? How often did you sit in front of a notebook with pen in hand, or in front of a computer screen with fingers poised over the keys, believing that one day you’d see your stories in print? And how many of you ended up putting aside your dream until your children were grown?

I can raise my hand to the first two questions, but not the third. Why? Because I had the extreme blessing of being published before I was married and before any children entered the picture. Of course, now, I wonder if I was crazy to pursue this dream so early. I wonder if I’m going to be able to handle the dual demands of an infant and toddler (and perhaps more than one baby) along with my writing and home business.

I married 2-1/2 years ago and earlier this year gave birth to my now 8-month-old daughter. Little did I know just how challenging it would be to write with a newborn and now an infant in the house. And not only just write, but write on a deadline and meet the demands of a full schedule of revisions, galleys, marketing and blog touring. In fact, I had a book due (Patterns and Progress—releasing this month!) one month after my baby was born. And while I did everything I could to get it finished before she was born, that didn’t happen. Thankfully, I have a gracious editor who is also a somewhat new mommy and understood. :)

That’s not all, though. Writing requires your full attention, and with a newborn, my attention was quite often zeroed in on the baby. Even as my daughter started growing and becoming a little more independent or started to develop a routine and schedule, I still found myself thinking about her, watching her, or doing things while she slept to prepare for when she awoke.

It’s a true blessing to be able to stay home with my daughter and write. So many milestones occur in the first year, and I love that I’ll be here to see them. But, it didn’t take long for me to realize I couldn’t sit back and do nothing but watch my daughter grow. Life didn’t stop, and I had to keep going.

My husband often watches our daughter to give me some uninterrupted time in front of my computer. When that happens, she’s out of sight and doing great. I might miss the very first time she does something, but I won’t miss it every time, and when I do see it, it will be new to me.

It’s been a struggle, especially when all I want to do sometimes is sit and watch her or play with her or even hold her. But a few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped (and are likely not new discoveries for a lot of you reading this):
  • You CAN write with a baby in your lap, either nursing or sleeping or even attempting to type, despite the fact that their arms aren’t long enough to reach the keyboard.
  • It IS possible to write a chapter when you’re sleep-deprived. Sometimes, it ends up being your best work.
  • A dog can be a fantastic babysitter and entertainer when you need a break.
    Sometimes, a cardboard box and a few pieces of paper are all that’s needed to entertain a baby for more than an hour.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit that you can’t handle it all. That’s why you have friends and family. Utilize them when they offer.
  • Babies are resilient. Don’t feel guilty when you have to leave them with a sitter or family so you can have a few hours of peace and quiet. The moment you return, you’re a favorite on their list.
  • Capitalize on every spare moment you have. Sometimes, it could just be five to ten minutes at a time, but make the most of those minutes to write a few lines of dialogue or a paragraph in a scene.
  • A screen saver with lots of vibrant colors that changes shape can keep a baby quiet for thirty minutes or more.
  • Sitting on a porch with a baby in the swing, listening to the outside sounds, can sometimes give you a long stretch of writing time.
  • Trust your husband with your baby, and resist the urge to rush out at every whimper or cry. They need that bonding time too.

It’s been a little over eight months, and we’re still going strong. I know with each passing day, it will get easier, and there will be times when it will be harder. But, I know it IS possible to balance writing full time and being a full-time mother. So many other women do it, and I’m extremely grateful to have their help as well as encouragement.

Of course, when baby #2 enters the picture, I might be singing a different tune. So, check back with me when that time comes. :)

Now, it’s your turn. For those of you who are balancing or had to balance writing and mommyhood, share some of your trade secrets or lessons learned. We can all learn from each other, and I’d love to hear from some of you seasoned moms.

JoAnne and Becky, thanks for having me here today. It’s been a true honor and pleasure.


Barbara Curtis said...

Hey, Tiff! It was great seeing you on the blog today--and seeing what you're up to! And how you're juggling writing and your baby!

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Hey Barbara, great to see you here too. Hoping there will be some other comments. Would love to hear from other moms about their tips and tricks of the trade.

Sandi Rog said...

Tiffany, thank you for sharing your experiences. I could so relate to this! While living in Holland, my "office" was in the living room, and I had three kids at the time (I now have four). Everything happened in the living room--everything! Boy, it's amazing I could write. Now I have a laptop, and it's a wonderful change. :-) But while at the table, my toddler usually sits on my lap. She can reach the keyboard, but there's some free space that she puts her hands on. She knows she's not allowed to touch the keys. She also has a toy laptop, and that's come in handy. She'll sit next to me with her laptop and "type" away. :-) So, when your little one hits two, you might want to get her one of those toy laptops. LOL Happy writing!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hi Tiffany,

My son is almost eight now. I didn't even attempt to write until he was about 4 months. Of course, I didn't have a deadline then. My thing is to always stay flexible. When he was a baby, and we finally established a schedule, he'd nap once a day for two to three hours. While he slept, I wrote. Then I put him to bed at 8:00 and I'd write until midnight or after if I was on a roll and not too sleep deprived. But if I was tired, I'd ocassionally take a nap when he did during the day. Barney is a great babysitter during the day. And the baby swing in front of the television. So, I'd get in a few minutes here and there during the day.

Once, he started pre-school, he only went three days a week, and I worked all day. But having too much time can work against me. I'd e-mail and read blogs and before I knew it, half the school day was gone. Now, I have all day, every day. I limit myself to an hour of e-mailing and blog reading, then I get to work.

During the summer, I stay up until midnight or after again. I also get some time in when he has a friend over or goes to a friend's house. He's an only child, so even though he's older, I still spend some time entertaining, playing games, and swimming. I'm not as productive in the summer, but I don't want to miss out on everything, so it works for us. Even though I have deadlines now. Just be willing to change your schedule as things change as your child grows and you'll always be able to get some writing time in.

The Write Life said...

I can relate to this post all too well. We have custody of our 18 month-old and 21 month-old granddaughters. We've had the 21 month-old since she was born, and we had the 18 month-old for her first two months, and then again for the last 11 months. She was with her mom from two month to seven months.

The girls make life crazy and exciting and fun, but it does make for hectic scheduling for deadlines. We don't have extended family nearby so I can't leave the babies with anyone else, but I do have two teen daughters who homeschool and are wonderful helpers with their nieces. I take advantage of that when I need writing time.

Our six year old is also helpful in entertaining them when necessary. I do most of my writing in the evening when the younger three are in bed.

The first year was very hard. Both babies still wake up regularly at night, but not nearly as often as they used to. We're getting past the sleep deprivation.

I think the key is to fit the writing in when you can, use help when it's available, and definitely let daddy do his part. The babies love to go hang out with my husband, who also works at home. They'll sit on his lap in his office or he'll take breaks to help with lunch or naptime or bedtime preparation. In the evenings he takes them in the family room so I can have some quiet.

If I need to write during the day, he'll take a few hours off to be with the girls. It works.


Sarah R said...

I could so relate to what you wrote. Whenever I am on the computer I usually hold my two month old daughter in my left arm and type away with my right hand- it's a lot slower when I have to hold her in my right arm. I've learned to seize writing moments when you have them and to not expect long blocks of time- they will probably end up being ten or fifteen minute blocks. The swing has been a great blessing to get things done. While she is looking at the baby in the mirror as she rocks, I can get work done!
Love your tips and congratulations on your daughter!