I can’t do it all, and I’m finally okay with that.

Next week, both of my boys will be in pre-school/ daycare. I know that this may not seem like that big of a deal to many, but it’s huge for me. I teach online for a couple of colleges. I write. I occasionally tutor. My boys have been home with me since they day they were released from the hospital. There have been date nights sprinkled in, but they are few and far between.

I am not complaining. I am stating facts. It has been wonderful being home with my kids. I’ve not missed any milestones. I’ve had a chance to be there for them, and we are very close. I wouldn’t trade my time with them for the world.

Yet, I have to be realistic. I can no longer live off of less than 6 hours of sleep. I’m not as young as I used to be. My sleepless shake-back is no longer at college level. Why don’t I sleep much? Like many SAHMs, finishing up the daily cleanup tends not to happen until the kids have gone to bed. (There’s no greater satisfaction than knowing that you’ve picked up Legos for the final time during a 24-hour period.)  Once I’ve done than, I start working and breakfast is right around the corner.

I am fulfilled, but I am also tired. I’m extremely tired. Initially, I felt guilty, like I was abandoning my kids by putting them into preschool/ daycare. But, I realized that I can’t shortchange them or myself any longer. I’m entitled to be well-rested, and they’re entitled to a mom who isn’t too tired to enjoy their endless energy. To be perfectly honest, you want to know what helped me as well? I stopped looking at daycare as another expense. Instead, thanks to my husband’s prompting, I’m looking at it as an investment in myself and our family. (Yeah, there that guy goes with another gem, huh?)

I wear many hats, but starting next week, the next hat I wear is likely to be a hair bonnet while I catch up on some sleep.

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My writing. My baby. My fitted sheet?

I know lots of people who consider their writing to be their babies. I’ve had students say it. I have writing friends that say it. I understand that you give birth to an idea. You nurture it and watch it grow. Then, you send it out into the world, hoping that it can not only survive but thrive. It makes sense.

But, I’m not one of those people. I can’t be. If I did, my writing would probably never leave my computer screen. When you think about all he eyes that view your work even before it’s released to the public,it’s a scary thought. I am just now about to put my kids into daycare, and it’s causing all kinds of feelings on the inside. (Naturally, I’ll say more about that when it actually happens.)

I’m not saying that I don’t care deeply about my writing. I’m pretty sure that most writers do. (How else could you harness the energy to relentless write, revise, and repeat?) For me to fully invest in the writing process, I have to think of my writing as a fitted sheet. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.)

If I try to do it quickly, I cannot fold a fitted sheet to save my life. (Let’s be honest. I can barely do it slowly.) I have to really concentrate on it, and I always try multiple times in order to come up with something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have someone else see. Shame? Yes! That keeps me far away from the “I can write this in one draft” mindset.

No, Ashley. No you cannot.

The fitted sheet mentality ensures that I get critiques and review my writing with a critical lens rather than a rose-colored one. Besides, you can’t have everyone in you linen closet with things all in disarray.

 

 

Storytime showdown

Well, here I am trying to be a professional writer, and my 5yo tells me he’d rather have his dad tell him his bedtime stories. What kind of foolishness is this?! It’s bad enough both of them said dada first. Can I catch a break?

I’m joking, sort of. For real, I did feel some type of way that I wasn’t given the title of supreme storyteller of the Franklin household. Like, that’s supposed to be my thing. I do the writing/ story thing, and hubby does hubby-like things.

Of course I made it my mission to figure out why my kids like my husband’s stories better. The answer:They’re totally action-driven. Apparently, I take too long to get to the good stuff, and they want mostly good stuff.

So, last night, I tried out a story about a frog that gets carried away by a huge storm. It was short, sweet, and full of action. My 5yo said “I really loved this story.”

I’ve said before that I sometimes get inspiration from my kids. It looks like my husband is a good source as well.

Let’s hear it for #TeamFranklin. (smile)

 

Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!

We were watching an episode of Goldie and Bear on Netflix yesterday. Both my 5yo and 2yo love the show. This particular episode had Jack and Jill at a sleepover with Goldie and Bear. Before I’d even had a chance to fully recognize it, this is what my 5yo yelled:

“Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!”

The thing is, he didn’t stop there.

“His head is brown, like mine. His arms are brown, like mine. Do you think his legs are shaped like mine too? I think we’re twins!”

Yes, Jack and Jill were brown. He was so excited, all I could do was smile. Moments later, I was a bit sad. If he was this excited, this also meant that he’d noticed a lot of the things he watched had characters that didn’t look like him. Mind you, children’s television has lots of animal and inanimate object characters. That sort of equals the playing field. However, if those same animal and inanimate objects typically have grey or blue eyes, it’s kind of implying the same thing.

Some people think that when we call for diversity, we want to do away with what has typically been the norm. That’s not the case. We want the norm to be more inclusive. We want to share the spotlight. We want our children to see they can be and do anything too.

This experience reminded me of why I am striving to become a published picture book author. I know that I won’t be able to control the artwork, as I’m not an illustrator. But, I will work tirelessly to write stories that may help to widen the types of representations that are available for young kids to see. It’s time for diversity to go beyond being an idea in our heads and something we can tangibly see. Isn’t there a common saying that goes something like  “You have to see it to believe it.” Well, I’m already at the believing part, and I am truly ready to see it.

Love yourself and your writing.

Who do you write for? Do you write for yourself, or do you write for your audience? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way, I’m sure you have expectations for your writing and the minds you hope to nourish and engage.

Now here’s a question: What are you doing to nourish yourself?

(Think about that as you continue to read.)

It is common practice to tell writers to write every day. I don’t agree with that. While I do believe that you should write often, I think that writing every day is overkill. Take some time to let ideas bloom. Take some time and have a new experience. After all, it’s always great to be able to pull ideas from your very own experiences.

Instead of watching my kids play yesterday, as tired as I was, I skipped with them. We had a foot race. We drew in the dirt. Think of how much better my descriptions would be describing those things now than before I actively did them. Even beyond helping me to writer better scenes or descriptions, I had fun! I was living in the moment.

At this stage in my writing journey, I’ve found that I’m always trying to live beyond the moment. Sound weird? Here’s what I mean: I am always fretting about my next move.

Maybe I should do another round of revisions. Will I need another critique of my WIP? Who should I get to critique it? Ooh, I wonder if that idea I had this morning would sell well with a wide audience. I wonder if my topics are too niche and I need to branch out.

This means that I am usually glued to my phone in some way, full of angst. I am malnourished. I have not been doing enough to nourish myself.

So, back to our question: What are you doing to nourish yourself?

Hopefully, you’ve struck a better work/life balance than I have. However, if you and I are in the same boat, let’s paddle out of this situation by seeing what we can do:

  • Unplug! If it’s weekly, biweekly, or monthly, have a tech-free day to help reconnect with our surroundings.
  • Pamper yourself! Go fishing. Have a spa day. Put on fuzzy slippers and binge watch your favorite show.
  • Write yourself a note. It doesn’t have to be long. Let yourself know that you are proud of yourself. Save it for a cruddy day.
  • Big or small, have an adventure. Go on a road trip. Try a new ice cream place. There’s nothing like the excitement of a new experience. Bottle it up until the next time you unplug.

Just as you promise to make time for your writing, promise to make time for yourself. I will do the same.

 

Snowballs, Icebergs, and Reality Checks of Writing

To those of you currently battling snow of epic proportions, I apologize if the title alone made you roll your eyes. However, I promise that no other title was better suited. Compared to others, my writing journey is still in the beginning stages. Yes, I have had some wins along the way, but in regards to time, I haven’t been at this for multiple years.

Snowballs

When you see announcements of others striking multiple book deals, it is easy to loudly applaud them while internally wishing you could pelt them with an arsenal of snowballs. After all, you want to take them down, not actually hurt them. It’s hard to not be jealous. You want your name announced. You want your book on shelves. You want a spot on the illustrious bookshelf of the chosen few.

But, here’s something to keep in mind: While you were busy wallowing in your melting snowball arsenal, you missed all of the grunt work that someone else was doing.

Icebergs

Ah, the iceberg of success. If you’ve ever tried to reach any type of goal, this image should be burned into your brain. As writers who have not yet tasted the sweet fruit of success (and the type and taste of said fruit will vary from writer to writer), we must keep in mind that we are likely unaware of the setbacks, missteps, and failures that another writer has had to endure. We are likely too much in awe of acquisitions announcement to even think about this sometimes.

Reality Checks

As much as you want a rea l check, don’t discount the importance of a good ole reality check. For me, I had to ask myself if I was doing all that I could to improve my craft. Was I seeking enough critiques from quality critique partners? If I wasn’t happy with the critiques I was receiving, was I actively seeking to get better feedback elsewhere? Was I using my time wisely? Was I paying attention to what was selling? Was I using mentor texts?

See, there are plenty of things to do to make sure that you’re crafting the best manuscripts that you can. Besides, I don’t want to just be on a bookshelf. I want to leave a mark on the entire library. Back to work!

 

“Every idea ain’t a good idea!”

I’m not sure which older person in my life said this to me, but I certainly remember hearing it more than once. I also know that it rings very true.

While we are busy Story Storming our hearts out over the last week, let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s highly unlikely that you’re in love with every idea that you’ve jotted down. I’m certainly not. But, here’s the thing:

  • I don’t expect to love every idea.
  • I don’t expect to use every idea.
  • I don’t even expect every idea to be good.
  • I do expect to hold on to my list for quite some time.

What’s the point of holding onto ideas you’re not swooning over? Some ideas may merge, mutate, or morph into something really great. Some ideas may springboard you into writing a great project that you had never really considered.

Don’t overthinking thinking at the last minute.

When Distraction becomes Fruitful

I have focused goals for this year. It took me less than a week to get distracted. To be fair, I was only distracted for a few days. I saw a call for children’s TV pitches, and one of sought after themes just so happened to align with an idea I’d been fooling around with.

Do I know anything about pitching a children’s TV series? Nope! Did I let that stop me from seriously considering this? Nope! I won’t keep you in suspense. I decided against actively pursuing the opportunity.

The surprise? I got my idea out of my head and it actually started to take shape (and make sense)! I’ve always considered fresh looking at something with fresh eyes as meaning taking a break from it and returning or having someone else take a look at it. Today, my fresh eyes came in the form of envisioning my idea in a different medium. I actually visualized it. (I oddly stared at my TV while it was turned off, but what works; right?)

I can proudly say that I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing on this #MuseMonday.

My experience so far w/ Rate Your Story

So, remember when I got that Rate Your Story scholarship to use for this year? Honey, I’ve already been putting it to use. I’ve submitted 3 picture book manuscripts so far, and I’ve already received feedback on two of them.

I’m not going to lie to you in this blog, ever. I pouted when I saw my feedback. I thought these early drafts were pretty good. They’d been through a couple of critique partners who said they were pretty good. Let me just say that good critique partners are great, but a critique from a professional (particularly someone more seasoned that you are) is invaluable.

Truthfully, the feedback I got was more than just feedback. It was an honest critique. It eloquently told me what needed to be improved, offered concrete suggestions, and pretty much told me to try again. There wasn’t a bunch of added fluff to cushion my fragile writer’s ego. Nope! I understand the compliment sandwich, but critique partners can sometimes get too focused on the compliment part.

I’ve printed out my manuscripts, along with the feedback I received. I’m going to return to them in a couple of weeks with fresh eyes and new inspiration. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

Storystorm: PiBoIdMo 2.0

storystorm_participant Today is the first day of StoryStorm. You may be more familiar with its previous name: PiBoIdMo. Tara Lazar is once again bringing the goods, and this time, with the move of the initiative from its November time slot, we can all start off our year in the best possible way: with hopeful creativity and a supportive community.

Sure, StoryStorm is for writers, but non-writers can benefit from the principles. Write down a bunch of things that interest you. Write down one thing a day. Here’s another twist: take the time to write down something that makes you happy every day for a month. Keep these items in a jar and refer back to them on a day when you’re down or when you’re in a funk.

Really, whatever you decide to do or not do this year, make it count. Don’t shortchange yourself. There’s only one you, and 2016 (if nothing else) taught us that how long we have on Earth is unknown. Do what makes you happy. Let the smile on your face be so genuine that it infects others. Be the light in the world you want to see. If we all did that, imagine how bright things would be.