Creative Chaos: Thriving as a Mother-Writer

Welcome the wonderful Rose Deniz for the second in our occasional series of guest posts on Creativity and Motherhood:

Sticky August in Turkey. A two-year old and four-year old at home. No air conditioning. Or television. The perfect time to write a novel, right?

For years I had dreamed of novel writing. Like dreaming of a shower, clean hair, un-dirty clothes - unfinished manuscripts were my specialty. A flash of an idea that dwindled out after a few months. Pages with characterization but no story. I published my first short story last year after ten years of writing stuff I either hid away or couldn’t publish. The turning point was July 31 of last year. I finished reading NO PLOT! NO PROBLEM! by the founder of NaNoWriMo and started my own manic version on August 1st. Antsy me, I couldn’t wait until the November writing free-for-all. I needed something to get me over the hurdle, fast, and NaNoWriMo did that for me. To the tune of two kids at home and little sleep.

Have you ever done something you thought impossible under the circumstances?

I made my 50,000 word goal sometime before the end of the month, but did I have a good novel on my hands? No. Did I have anything to salvage from it? A few names, the protagonist, and her love interest, but the novel I’m writing now barely resembles the backstory-driven outpouring I thought I could revise and shape into something decent.

So I did what any creativity-obsessed mother-of-small-children would do. I enlisted help. Not a babysitter, though she would come wielding patience and kind hands at a later breaking point, but a writing coach. Kathy looked at my manuscript (actually just the first few scenes was enough to know I didn’t have a bestseller on my hands), dug in with me to find the heart of the story, and helped me slow down. And start over.

Isn’t that what every mother wants? To have someone tell them to just hang on, hang in there, breathe deep, trust the process, trust yourself? Now a year after starting my novel, I’m writing steadily. 

I started slow. A scene a week was about all I could do with one kiddo in school half a day and the other running around and breaking things at home. I taught English two days a week last year, snuck in a few voice journal entries for my characters when I was between classes, and hired my miracle worker not long after I started coming home from school sick with every cold and flu that came in the door.

This past August, I did a toast. Or maybe just raised my coffee mug in appreciation, I don’t remember. I did a toast to my first novel. The one born in the heat of summer with chaos as my companion. Now my son is in school, and my daughter with her matching backpack and water bottle, tromps off after him for half a day to learn the Turkish alphabet and come home singing songs even I haven’t learned in Turkish. Which means I have this wonderful, bittersweet gift. For the first time in five years there’s quiet time to write without the stomping and happy squealing accompaniment of my kids. Without them, though, I wouldn’t have written that first novel at all.

Rose Deniz is an artist and writer nesting abroad in Turkey.  In her WIP young adult novel, her disguise-wearing, alias-using protagonist lives in a world where futures are predetermined. When she breaks free to make her own choices, she must find a way to live with the consequences.