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Children and Writing

Spring is here! I made the most of the gorgeous sunshine yesterday and began spring cleaning the garden, tidying up the branches and twigs from my husband’s recent pruning of the old plum trees. Included in my tidy up was the porch area where we store firewood. I found one of my children’s old wooden toys lying in the bark. My heart dipped. It feels like yesterday when they played with their toys. They were always so passionate in the games they played, and their imagination knew no bounds. I have no doubt that this is where my daughter Eliza www.elizaserenarobinson.com first became a novelist. She had characterisation and plot lines perfected. During those few seconds of holding that wooden toy, their whole childhood came flooding back to me. Clichés are clichés for a reason! Children DO grow up too quickly.

 

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How has having children shaped me as a writer? It’s simple, really. I was about ten years old when I made the conscious decision that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I was certain that this profession would allow me to write and be a mother. The truth was that I wanted to stay home with my children, and to enjoy every moment of their lives.

 

As for most writers, I’m sure, the path here was not so straightforward. My career path has been rich and varied, including working in Montessori and Steiner schools, exercising race horses!, working as a media officer for animal welfare charities, reporting on newspapers, and even packing puzzles in a jigsaw factory (YUK). As for the latter, desperate times call for desperate measures. Arriving back in a country with ten dollars to your name tends to wipe out idealistic fantasies. However, I did write an editorial once on this theme, so my days weren’t totally wasted. https://www.veronikarobinson.com/magazine_editor/editorials/2009/TM33.shtml

 

The birth of my first child saw me writing about her gentle birth for a natural parenting magazine in Canada (the late Nurturing magazine), and setting up the National Waterbirth Trust (NZ) and writing newsletters. I wrote affirmations for a CD called Peaceful Pregnancy. They might have been considered insignificant forms of writing, but they were writing. That is the key to being a writer: you just write!

 

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By the time I had two children under the age of three, I somehow navigated my way through sleep deprivation (I was also tandem nursing) and moving from New Zealand to Australia to England within the space of six months, and wrote several children’s stories and a non-fiction book. That non-fiction book has been with me for fifteen years, and is finally being published this Summer. The delay? I was waiting for the right artist! Cycle to the Moon: celebrating the menstrual trinity is illustrated by Susan Merrick.

Children teach us about patience (or about how little patience we have). I did The Artist’s Way about thirteen years ago, and most of my Morning Pages were filled with moaning: my children won’t let me write!

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I can’t recommend The Artist’s Way highly enough. By the time I’d finished that 12-week course in rediscovering your inner artist, I was preparing to launch a parenting publication (which I went on to publish and edit for twelve years ~ www.themothermagazine.co.uk) Editing and writing about children and parenting has played a fundamental part in my life. During this time I also wrote nine non-fiction books, and two novels.

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When my daughters were hitting their teenage years, they decided to do The Artist’s Way. I was thrilled, until I realised my then home-educated teen daughters were quite adamant that they couldn’t be disturbed for very long tranches of time each morning. “I can’t help with that; I’m doing my Morning Pages!”

Well, over the years with changes of computers and laptops, my children’s stories all but disappeared, apart from one which is currently being illustrated.

Last year I was standing outside, enjoying the sunshine, taking the washing off the line and reflecting on how quickly children outgrow their clothes. Within seconds, a story came to me. Blue Jeans, my first illustrated children’s book, was published on my first daughter’s 18th birthday. The last line of the story is “Oh my, children grow so quickly.”

 

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My children have shaped me as a mother and as a woman, and that is the template for me as a writer. All those years of pressure-pot parenting mean that I can actually drag my butt out of bed at 4am to write. I was asked a couple of days ago if I’m going to suffer from empty-nest syndrome when my children leave home over the next two years.

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I sold The Mother magazine in January so I could focus on writing romance novels. I was exhausted from trying to run two careers and manage family life. In the past twelve months I’ve written six novels.

I had thought, after selling the magazine, that I would spend long periods of time each day writing, but as it turns out, my needs are still the same: I need perfect quiet around me as I write. The only way I can achieve this is to be awake hours before my family. The upside of cutting short sleep time is that my writing day is generally finished by breakfast time, leaving me free to catch up with friends, go to the gym with my husband, take longs walks in the beautiful countryside, cook meals for my family, and read. The most important nutrient for a writer is to live life.

 

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It is inevitable that the energy around the home will change when my daughters are in university; it has to. But for me, as a mother and a woman, this is my time: my time to write without thinking about other people. Of course, mothering never stops. Our role changes, somewhat, but emotionally, we’ll always be mothers. I have no doubt that my beautiful daughters will continue to shape me as a writer for years to come.

 

Head in the Clouds

“Stop daydreaming, Veronika!”
“Stop staring out the window!”
“Get your head out of the clouds, Veronika.”

These were the words I heard from my school teachers as I was growing up. The overriding message was: don’t daydream. Although I hated school, I wasn’t stupid. My report cards told a mixed story: English, Drama, Music, Swedish, Catering, A.
Maths, Science, E. I simply wasn’t interested in Maths and Science, but it would be wrong to suggest I wasn’t bright. Perhaps when my biology teacher caught me drawing love hearts, instead of cutting up a frog heart, she should have seen the signs: Veronika wants to be a romance novelist!

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I’m now forty six years old, and have finally given myself permission to daydream. In fact, I have learnt that it is absolutely essential to who I am as a person, and latterly, I have come to understand that it is vital to the life I want to live.

Daydreaming puts us in bliss time. It is when our head and heart are in the clouds that we touch our true essence. So many of us fight against the clock. We’re busy, busy, busy, rushing from here to there. Even though I finished my job recently of editing a magazine for 12 years so I could focus on my own writing, I found myself feeling stressed that there weren’t enough hours in the day. I kept wondering how I managed before when I had bi-monthly deadlines. Time is a man-made construction, and the more I can step into ‘dream time’, the easier life feels, and, ironically, the more productive I am.

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I’ve also had years of guilt around reading fiction ~ as if I was wittering away precious work time. To hell with that! The truth is I love reading. It is part of my life’s bliss. I have friends, like myself, who wouldn’t dream of sitting down in the daytime to read. What are we telling ourselves when we deny this pleasure? That we’re not worthy of enjoying ourselves? That it is frivolous to daydream? At first, I tried to justify reading novels in the daytime under that wonderful umbrella of research (well, why not, it always worked when I read non-fiction during the day), but now I don’t make excuses.

In my career as a novelist, I have no choice but to put my head in the clouds and daydream. (Not that it’s hard work dreaming up hot fictional men!) My job involves letting my mind wander and float. How could I possibly dream up my characters if I didn’t let my thoughts drift off into their own little world? Sometimes the dreaming comes easily, such as when I’m in the shower or walking in nature. I now make it a practice to allow these daydreams to take over from my night dreams as I come back to this world each morning. Science has come to prove that daydreaming is GOOD for us.

There have been many things I could have done better in my parenting journey, but I will always be grateful that I never once told my daughters to stop daydreaming. From these inner worlds they have tapped into a deep place to find words and music. At 18 (next week) and 16, they both feel their life’s calling from deep within. It is a place which they have nurtured because they had the freedom to daydream.

My elder daughter has just been offered a place in the School of Music at Bangor University, and has already composed a musical.

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My younger daughter is a published novelist. She is currently writing her seventh novel. She would like to enter the world of book editing. They don’t have parents who have beaten them with a stick to succeed. Quite the opposite. What they HAVE had are parents who model ‘following your heart’. Their early childhood was based on child-led education, and was as free range as it is possible for education to be. They recently (last September) started school, and I’m so grateful for all the years they had to daydream.

No matter how old you are, and no matter what your job is, do let your head play in the clouds. It’s good for you!

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Growing up

The girls are back at school after a week of holidays. Today has been a day to just find my own space again, and orientate myself back into the school-week rhythm. In a few short weeks, my oldest daughter officially becomes an adult. My baby! Ah, how those years just disappear before your eyes.

My first children’s book (publishing this month), Blue Jeans, is very much about this theme: growing up. We truly have no idea how quickly the years will pass when we’re in the thick of nappies and teething. But pass, they do. My daughter is in the process of university auditions so she can reach her dream of being a musical-theatre composer. I still remember when she was two, and stood in front of a piano for the first time. Her face lit up as she stood there, barefooted, tapping the keys. It seems like yesterday.aucklandgarden

The Written Word

The other night, the new Moon in Aquarius fell in my third house of communication. As an astrologer, I knew it was, indeed, a time to make wishes for my full-time writing career.

I’m taking deep breaths, and finding a new rhythm to my life. For the first time in 12 years, since selling The Mother magazine, I no longer ‘have’ to work on weekends. This is a novelty to me. My daughters thought it rather wonderful when we had a long, lazy brunch last Sunday. What a surprise they’ll have when they wake up later and discover it wasn’t a one off.

I arrived home from town yesterday with two new Rom-Coms and a couple of magazines under my arm, and felt such joy at the leisure time which awaited me. I think I’ll soon get the hang of this. Work and discipline come easily to me; play, not so much. It is, however, one of my goals for this year (and beyond): to play!

My current writing projects include continuing to work on my romance novels; awaiting the publication of a few non-fiction books this year: Cycle to the Moon ~ a journal for celebrating your Moontime; Apron Strings: Reflections on being a Stay-at-Home Mother, and my next recipe book.

My children’s books coming out this year include: Blue Jeans, illustrated by Susan Merrick, and Picnic in the Bathtub illustrated by Sara Simon.

Although I’m committed to being a full-time writer now, I am still offering astrology and mentoring sessions. These can be purchased through my website:

http://veronikarobinson.com/astrologer/index.shtml

http://veronikarobinson.com/mentor/index.shtml

I will leave you with a lovely note I received this morning about my novel Bluey’s Café. Such a gorgeous way to start a Sunday morning.

I finished Bluey’s cafe and what a lovely story Veronika! I loved how you used the diary entries, and your descriptive storytelling really took me to Australia and Bluey’s life. ~ Susan.

All of my books are available from my website http://veronikarobinson.com/author/index.shtml, www.starflowerpress.com, Amazon, and all good bookshops.