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.
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.