Thursday, June 30, 2011

Utterly Distractable

Even as I write this--a small piece of writing unrelated to my novels--my daughter stands beside me explaining patiently that, "I stepped on Ellias' starfish and he hit me. Is that the baby crying? Can I go get him?" before she breaks into song about something "rubbery-with-bumps." (By the way, that's my baby in the laundry basket.)

So, "writing season" a la Allende, NO WAY! I'm fortunate to find a writing minute in which to gather my disparate thoughts and try to build something.

Being a full-time stay-at-home mother and a novelist, while seemingly compatible from the outside--after all, you do both things at home, and as we all know, writing can be squeezed into you spare time, has no overhead, and can be done while half-asleep and nursing--from the inside it demands some creative scheduling. I feel blessed to straddle both world, as well as confused by the mental gymnastics that are required in order to do both things well.

In truth, as far as my process goes, I rarely am able to write for any uninterrupted period of time, even when I have a babysitter in the house (which I do right now). I've been gladly and happily nursing one of my three babies for the past five years pretty much non-stop, so that even during the writing of my first novel when my house was quiet and I didn't have to pay my babysitter three times what I make in order to watch a whole gaggle of children, I stopped to nurse my son. Even now, sometimes, I stop writing to go watch my children playing. They always play so perfectly when I'm not around!

I would not recommend the distracted method of writing. On the other hand, as I've said to other writers aspiring to publish and produce, don't wait until you have time to write. If you want to write, do it now, however you can do it, in whatever way. I believe in this advice for all activities, and I cringe to hear friends say things like, "I'll do that when I've paid off the mortgage," or "I'll start that when I have enough money."

Yes, I am a carpe diem writer. Being distracted, being pulled by my children's needs probably makes me a lesser writer. In fact, I'm sure I could come up with a hundred more active verbs than "was" if I didn't have little hands pawing at me. But I want them and love them and wouldn't have it any other. If I had a zillion dollars, I wouldn't hire a nanny and spend all day writing the great American novel. There's a great saying in the world of religion and spirituality (of which I am also a part as an ordained minister), that the best sermons are not preached but lived. The same could (maybe) be said of novel writing. Our best stories aren't written but lived day to day. Our lives are much better books than our books. Or so it is for me, anyhow, and so I want it to be.

And so I encourage the distracted among us to write anyway, and any way you can, for its own sake, and to see what might happen. Some writers write to live. Some writers live to write. And some of us write while we live and live while we write and that may mean a little pureed sweet potato gets a free trip to Random House on the cover of a manuscript and that's okay. I'm a work in progress myself.

Samantha Wilde is the mother of three, 4, 3 and nine months, the author of This Little Mommy Stayed Home, a graduate of Smith College, Yale Divinity School, and The New Seminary, a certified Kripalu yoga teacher, an ordained Interfaith Minister, and the Director of Mission at Spring Street Preschool in Amherst, MA. You can visit her website at


  1. "And some of us write while we live and live while we write" - I love this line, Samantha. Terrific post.

  2. I love this post. I try to remind myself of these things often and not chastise myself for not writing MORE.

  3. Thanks girlfriends. I try not to chastise myself either, Ariella, and get out of the mindset that some work is more valuable than other work--which is the awful way of thinking about life that usually ends of devaluing "women's" work--babies, children, house work, planning of family events, etc.

  4. You amaze me, too! I think there's something to be said for learning to write whenever and wherever you can. I can do that now, but I wish somebody wouldn't have put the younger version of me through a writing boot camp that trained me to immediately focus when I needed to. Learning how to do that was my biggest writing hurdle for sure.

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