“Why do you/do you ever?” Some FAQs about the mama with the coffee
July 27, 2015
So we’ve come to this. I get asked from time to time “do you ever get writer’s block?” And “how do you come up with fresh content week after week?” and then lately “How can you write about that while you’re pregnant?”
Well, I’ve officially hit a wall where the only thing I can think about is whether or not this particular round of Braxton Hicks contractions is going to amount to anything and how many popsicles are left in the freezer. The answers so far have been “no” and “not nearly enough.” So, please allow my writer’s block to be your one-way ticket into a deeper, more meaningful internet friendship between us.
I know I should totally do a vlog or at least a podcast because it’s the year 2015 and people prefer multimedia content, but I would actually rather do very many other things that appear on camera right now, and I think if you heard my high pitched California-accented voice you might lose all respect for me as a person and as a writer. (Mostly kidding. But are you ever taken aback when you hear somebody talk after reading their “voice” for so long? I promise you, I have a vastly mismatched e-voice and actual voice. I’m just looking out for you. Think Alicia Silverstone circa 1998, and you’ll be getting warmer.)
Anyway, feel free to click away if you’re already bored or frankly couldn’t care less about how I manage to fit in laundry and blogging along with all my trips to Saver’s. I acknowledge that this is a new low, but it turns out I’m too big to care about almost anything at this point.
How do you find the time for this?
Some of the most frequently asked questions I get are about time management as it relates to writing, and I have to laugh because here’s the honest truth: I’m the least organized and least disciplined writer who ever was. Which is why blogging and occasionally news writing is sooooo my jam, at least for now.
I’ve written chapters for other people’s books and I’m currently slogging my way through assembling a handy eb00k for your reading pleasure based on my “Catholics do what?” series from last fall, but I’m very far from where I need to be in terms of producing an actual book of my own any time soon. Because I write in 1200 word increments.
Maybe it’s the years-long habit of daily blogging, but I just seem to run out of steam after that, and my subject seems to have naturally concluded by that point. And most of what you do read here? 90% of it gets written in my introverted brain in the shower, in the car, or tossing and turning at night, and thus requires anywhere from 30-60 minutes to actually put to digital paper. So the lions share of the writing process – the mental part – actually takes place pretty automatically during the natural lulls in my day. And when the stars align and the kids are asleep or occupied with the sprinkler or my wonderful mother’s helper? I fall upon the keyboard like a starving man and out come the words.
Whenever anyone asks for writing advice, my number one response is to write every.single.day. Or at least 5x/week. I know that lots of successful bloggers like to “batch” different components of production together, picking one day for writing, another for graphic designing, another for social media cultivating, but that’s just never worked for me. I guess that makes me more of an old school “writer” who just happens to communicate through the medium of the blog? All that to say I’m not a great example of “how to be a good blogger.” But I can list off at least 10 of my top reads who are exactly that.
My other piece of advice to would-be writers and aspiring bloggers? Read. Read constantly. Read instead of watching tv, read while you’re exercising, read while you’re waiting in the dr.’s office or in the bathtub or sitting in carpool pickup line. Read other people’s blogs but more importantly than that, read read books. You can’t write if you don’t read. At least, I couldn’t. And it helps keep me constantly in writing mode to be continually immersed in the written word. I keep books by my bed, my Kindle in my purse or computer bag, and magazines and newspapers in the kitchen so that I never have an excuse. And actually? It’s a total luxury too, a quick 5-10 minute escape or adventure in an otherwise unoccupied chunk of time. (I noticed that when I deleted the Facebook app and my blog reader from my phone, my monthly reading totals shot way up, so consider the potential for those little “stolen” pockets of time.)
You write a lot about how hard motherhood is. Why do you keep having kids if it’s so much work? And why don’t you just ditch the Church’s weird teachings on contraception and use some freaking birth control?
I get variations on this one pretty frequently, depending upon how much time I’ve been spending writing on said topics in a given week. My answer is twofold. One, I primarily see this blog as a means of evangelization, and by that I mean I hope to reach a broad-ish audience with a hopeful but realistic message: yes, this life is hard, but this life is good. It’s so good.
In my own experience of motherhood, I’ve seen and heard firsthand the effects of loneliness and isolation and cultural rejection that are so prevalent amongst young moms who make choices – the highest good, right? – that don’t line up with the mainstream. And it can feel like everyone – even members of your own Church – is questioning your sanity and making snide remarks behind your back.
So when I write the pieces about trips to Costco being hard and NFP being a cross and marriage being a battle worth fighting? Those are the people I’m thinking about, wishing I could sit down over a glass of wine and have those conversations in person, and knowing full well that while I write seemingly incessantly about sex and marriage and NFP, for many, many Catholics there is almost nowhere they’re hearing about it. Especially from a supportive perspective.
So if the content here sometimes seems redundant or I seem a little fixated on pelvic issues? It’s because this is what God is asking of me right now. Maybe someday I’ll get to shift into lighter fare, and that would certainly be a welcome change some weeks, but for now I’m content to be doing exactly this: sharing the gospel of Life, both the highs and the lows.
Your house is really clean in all your pictures. Please explain.
I feel really strongly about this one. Want to know my secret?
We don’t really have that much stuff. Like, I would estimate we have 75% fewer toys and at least 50% fewer articles of clothing than the average family of 5 (almost 6! Please soon be 6…)
It’s not some Franciscan asceticism either, (though I can certainly see the appeal) it’s really just a nod to reality, reality being that we’ve moved 5 times in almost 6 years of marriage, including once internationally, and that I’m really easily overwhelmed by clutter. So the solution has kind of come about naturally, and it’s simply living with less. We have enough towels to never run out (childhood scar of big family living), but for almost every other category under the domestic sun, we have exactly “enough” of what daily life requires. That goes for dishes, pots and pans, kid’s clothing, kid’s cups, pieces of jewelry, etc. I think if I stopped doing laundry entirely we could go 10-15 days without running out of options (well, the adults could) but then things would start to get pretty familiar looking. (Huge exception here being boy’s underwear. Shudder.)
I have a big family and siblings who are close by and having babies, so we don’t tend to store baby gear but rather pass it around into the communal “openness to life” pot, swapping bumbos and swings and clothes and car seats as needed. I realize not everyone has this particular luxury, but I’m certain a similar effect could be achieved with a close-knit group of mom friends.
The end result is that my house is almost always clean. (And by clean I mean visually uncluttered and put together. Stay far away from the kitchen floor and the kid’s bathroom and the illusion stands.) And that makes me a better mom and a happier wife and a much more productive employee. I can “clean” the entire house from top to bottom in less than an hour, and that is an amazing feeling. (If you’re interested in learning more this post might be a helpful jumping off point, but definitely get your hands on the book, too.)
I’m closing in on obnoxiously long here, so I’ll throw out a couple interesting statistics for your reading pleasure:
3: number of La Croix’s consumed on an average basis during this last month of pregnancy (and they’re cheapest at Whole Foods – shocking!)
8: number of centimeters I’ve made it before demanding the epidural in very unladylike terms. Those stubborn sunny side up babies of mine…
7.5: hours of sleep I need to feel even vaguely human
2: shots of espresso or cups of coffee I can handle in one day (you’re surprised, right?)
11: number of months it takes me postpartum to get back to even a semblance of my former glory. And by glory I mean size 10 Old Navy skinnies.
(You’re welcome or I’m sorry, not sure which. Here’s hoping the next post you read from me is a birth story. HUGE STRAINED SMILE.)