HOW WRITING HELPED ME WITH MOTHERHOOD
Yesterday was my son’s birthday. He was four years old and it’s been the most chaotic, fun, tiring, and exciting four years of my life. During this time, I also had a second child. Like most mothers, I wondered how I was going to manage a career as well. As an author, copywriter, and journalist, it’s fair to say writing is a huge part of my life. I do it everyday and I feel strange if I don’t. While I do consider it work, I know I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do what I love. My career has been, and continues to be, incredibly important to me. I’ve invested in it for almost twenty years. It’s taught me some valuable lessons and lifelong skills, as well as paid me a salary and taken me all over the world.
Yet, there’s no doubt that motherhood changed everything and there were times when I wondered if I could do it all, especially on so little sleep. But with the help of a strong support team around me, I persevered using everything I had to adapt to my new role as a mother. Some of it was instinct, some of it was picked up from books, and many days I just winged it or called my mum. But at the time, I didn’t realise just how much of my writing work would impact my parenting. Here are just a few of the similarities I discovered.
Writing a book can be a long labour of love. It took me a year to write The Good Mother and then another six months for me to see have the incredible satisfaction of seeing it in the bookshops in the UK and UAE after my agent sold it as part of a three-book deal to UK-based publishing house, Head of Zeus. Anyone who has kids will know that your patience is tested on a daily basis, if not hourly. And while I’m not always the most patient of parents, writing has taught me that the bad days do pass and you will only ever remember the good ones.
As a writer, tapping into the emotions of my characters is critical. I live and breathe their thoughts, feelings, and actions for months at a time. My second book, The Home was incredibly demanding emotionally. Many writers have the ability to feel things deeply and convey that on paper. It can be draining but ultimately incredibly rewarding and the same goes for motherhood. After the births of each of my sons, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions bouncing around from love to fear to worry and back again. Becoming a mother is a wonderful thing and the depth of love for your child is simply indescribable. In this I would say that parenting has impacted my writing (rather than the other way around) in that I’m now aware of a whole new level of emotion and I have definitely harnessed that in my work.
While writing books is undoubtedly one of my most creative endeavors, book publishing is a business and I have had to learn to balance creativity with commercialism. From the cover design to the book title, my negotiation skills have been well-honed as my agent, the publishing house, and I all provide our input. Ultimately, I know they have a lot more experience than I do on such things and I always try to compromise where possible. It’s the same with parenting – you have to stick to your guns on certain occasions (no, you can’t have ice-cream for breakfast) but try to offer a compromise (if you get dressed and put your shoes on, we can have ice-cream after school.)
We live in a world of constant distraction and it’s a constant battle for me to resist the temptation to check my mobile or browse social media. I write my best work when I’m fully focused on it and committed. Similarly, I have learnt that children quickly pick up when you’re not completely present and while it’s not always possible a 100% of the time, writing has taught me that I have the best time with my kids when I’m completely focused on them.
For many writers, there can be a little bit of a love-hate relationship when it comes to actually sitting down and getting the job done. When I’ve been slogging away at the same paragraph for over an hour, I forget that writing is what I love. I forget to enjoy the process, and stress replaces passion. Enjoyment of the craft is a huge part of the final outcome, and it’s definitely my children who have taught me how to have as much fun as possible rather than the other way around.
It can be hard to balance passions and parenting so when the opportunity comes to mix the two, I always take advantage of it. Every night I read books to my children and I take great pride in when my sons attempt to write their own names (even if it is on the walls!) So when my children come to visit me as a featured author at the upcoming Emirates Literature Festival 2018, I hope they will feel a touch of pride too.
Karen Osman is an award-winning author and her debut novel, The Good Mother, was published in October 2017. It’s currently available to buy online or in paperback at Sainsbury’s in the UK and Magrudy’s in the UAE. Karen's second novel, The Home, is available for preorder and will be published in August 2018.
This article has been adapted and originally appeared in Mother and Child magazine.