As it stands at this current moment, I work a day job, raise a four year old boy, write fiction, and work as a reader for a literary magazine. That doesn’t take into account the time I spend as a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an in-law, or a cleaning and organizing machine. My husband performs a similar juggling act on a daily basis, and we both have some health limitations that get in the way of things changing. The money situation is a little tough. We pinch pennies. We scuttle by from check to check. We save a pittance every month.
There are people in my life who worry about me. Or more accurately, they worry about my son, Logan. They feel like I need a bigger income source to support him and, because they have a ton of faith in me, they honestly believe I could do more with my life. They say things like “You could be an executive/personal assistant and make more than you make now.” And they would be right.
It’s tempting. It really is. But there’s a problem. I love my job. Like, really love it. Like, for the first time in a very long time, I don’t dread coming to work in the morning. I like the people I work with. I like the company I work for. I enjoy the work I do. I also happen to love the fact that I can do my job in the time between 9:30 and 5:30 with only occasional bursts of overtime. I’ve done the personal/executive assistant thing. I’ve done the ‘tied to your blackberry’ thing. It ate up my life and my sanity.
It would mean no more writing. Less time for my family. As it is, I barely scrape together time for either now. Those two things, especially for a person with a lifelong struggle with depression, are unacceptable losses. So, I stay at my (still nicely paying) job, and don’t push myself much further than that. Because I think it’s more important for Logan to have a sane mother than a crazy, stressed to the breaking point, shrew. I need those outlets to continue to be me.
There will probably be few big family vacations. Logan will not go to a private school. But he eats three square healthy meals a day and so do we. All of our extra money is spent on cool little adventures getting him trinkets and things I know he’ll love. He won’t live an extravagant life, but he has a loving family and he has grown up confident of that fact, knowing that he can count on Mommy and Daddy, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles and cousins – that they will be there for him no matter what.
More importantly, he is a happy boy. Because his Mommy and Daddy are happy people, despite the struggle it took to get us there.
So, I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in raising my son…
There is alot about writing to be learned in everyday life. My life teaches me quite a lot, but it is divided into several pieces and I’m never quite sure how those pieces are supposed to come together. As an introduction, I’m going to rattle off a little summary of these pieces to you. I believe they will help you get to know me better.
1) Mother – I have a wonderful two-year-old son named Logan. Everything that involves him is sunshine and rainbows except when it’s not and then it’s stress and ‘oh my God, don’t do that!” He brings out many qualities in me, but one of them is not the ability to be an adult. While I can tell him not to climb something because he will hurt himself, I can’t seem to keep myself from laughing at his antics. Can you blame me for laughing when he calls “Look mommy!” and I find him with his fingers stuck up his nose? (Yes, you can. And you probably should.)
2) Wife – I’m married to an incredible fellow writer, Ismael. From him I’ve learned that love can transcend all sorts of difficulties, things can be seen from multiple sides, and patience and understanding can go along way. I’ve also learned that I’m very funny, especially when I’m angry and that no matter what kind of fancy cup I buy to store the toothbrushes, they will always, ALWAYS be on the bathroom counter when I wake up in the morning. (You didn’t expect it all to be nice, did you? We’ve been married for ELEVEN YEARS!) I also learned what true love is, so there’s that.
3) Friend/daughter/sister, etc. – From those around me I have learned that there are those that will do anything to help you and those that you will do anything for. And there are the opposite. There are arguments that end in “Chat with you next week!” and those that end in slammed phones and facebook defriending. There are things a person can say that will stick with you forever, and there are times when you have no idea how much you’ve effected somebody else’s life with your own words or actions. Also, there is clutziness, sarcasm, stupidity, shared interests, snorty laughs, spit takes, intellectual conversations, horrendous nicknames, stories that nobody will ever let you forget, and lots of love.
4) Writer – A hat I wear with trepidation. Is that what I am? A writer? I’ve never been published. And yet, I eat, sleep and breathe fiction. If you see me walking through the streets and my lips are moving, I’m working my way through some dialog I will write later. And if you stare at me, I will look at you like you’re the crazy one, just like a real New Yorker. I carry around a journal in my purse and my pen drive in case I happen upon a computer. My outlines are saved on my phone in case I need to look something up quickly. Yeah, I’m definitely a writer.
5) Editor – My husband and I serve this function for each other. We may never technically write a collaborative project, but every project we work on is somewhat collaborative.
6) Fangirl – This is an important part of my life! This is where my interests lie, because for me, writing isn’t a hobby, it’s life’s blood. So when I watch TV and squeal because I love an actor, or tweet endlessly about my favorite couple in a novel, quote things nobody should remember or laugh at jokes others would never get…fandom made me do it. People I have met through fandom have made me cringe and others have become some of my closer friends without ever standing in the same room as me. Fangirling with others involves important writerly discussions about character development, plot, themes and settings.
7) Worker – I have learned many useless things from jobs, like how to make a tub of ice cream and how to fix a VHS tape (likely the most useless thing I know). I’ve also learned many useful things like how to work tenaciously until a job is done and how to stay strong under pressure (sometimes I’m admittedly a little wobbly on that one, but I’m getting better).
These are pieces of me. Of course, I’m simplifying things. There is plenty of other stuff. I love Broadway musicals, I sing in the shower, I’ve lived through traumatic experiences, I’ve been in a couple of student films (if we’re lucky, nobody will ever find them). I am a whole, complex person with many different facets.
If I can be so many different things that impact the core of who I am, than the characters we write need things like this to become three dimensional. They can’t exist in a plot-induced vacuum where all they do on a daily basis are the things the plot requires. They should have outside interests, other people they interact with, a past that takes place before the story starts, and all of these things should inform who they are and what they do.
Allow these things to make a character react more believably in a situation. Let the impeccably calm romantic ingénue get angry for a questionable reason. Let the soldier fall apart when he’s supposed to be a hero and hold it together when there’s nobody to save. And give them a reason why. Some snippet from their past. Some association made. Some facet of their personality that makes them a whole person. Just be consistent, so the behavior doesn’t feel as though it is blindsiding the reader.
It will make your plotlines less obvious and your characters more interesting. Sometimes less likable, but definitely more interesting. And that’s a good part of what makes a story readable.
Wondering, “What does she know?” Check out my bio page. You may still feel that way, but at least you’ll know who you’re saying it about.