Don’t Forget to Live

Literary Mama

After Page One: Experience

I was proud of myself.

All four kids were appropriately dressed, and we had made it to the high school recognition night on time. We’d even picked up my mother-in-law on the way. It was a huge success for me, considering all I had tried to juggle that week.

So I was smiling inside and out as I made my way to the table full of cookies, veggies and cheese with crackers.

Until I looked at my feet to determine why my gait felt funny.

I was wearing two different boots – both black, but one with a slightly higher heel than the other. I made the best of it, pointing out my error my family and to the women serving the food. We all had a good laugh. But I knew it wasn’t a good sign.

Summer was approaching and I wanted to enjoy the time with my kids. Stress was threatening to make that impossible. Something had to give. So I examined my priorities.

There were people who needed me: the kids, my husband, my mother-in-law and my father. My sister was terminally ill and lived six hours away. I wanted to be available if she needed me, too. I wasn’t willing to push family to the sidelines.

That left two possibilities: my health or my writing. I had already vowed to improve my health, so, with my agent’s blessing, I chose to let go of writing.

I had wonderful summer with the kids. I was there when my sister died. I visited my father weekly and helped with my mother-in-law’s care. My husband and I shared many-a-coffee and glass of wine on the porch, watching the deer.

Just before school started, I sat at my desk to get organized. I got thinking about the advice we writers so often hear, that daily writing is essential to the craft. Had I lost anything, I wondered? I gave into the urge to type.

I wrote a blog post. It was picked by a magazine. I wrote a short story. It was accepted for an anthology. I wrote another blog post and started looking for its second home.

I’m sure daily writing works for some, but I’ve never had the time. I am fortunate if I can write for a few hours twice a week. Yet it hasn’t hurt me. I’ve completed four novels and I have an agent who believes they will sell. I took two months off and immediately placed two pieces in publications. I plotted out my next novel during swimming lessons, long walks and long drives.

We all need to practice our craft to improve, but what we often forget is that the physical act of writing is only part of the process. Thinking, experiencing, and thinking some more is just as essential. And what better way to experience life than to simply live it, spending time with the people we love?

So here is my advice to aspiring writers:  Write, but don’t forget to live.