17 August 2011

My Amazing, Supportive Children

This week, I decided I was really going to follow the advice Liz Szabla (editor at Feiwel and Friends) gave me at a recent SCBWI event.  When I told her about my fear of burning bridges by submitting my work before it was fully ready, she said "You could keep revising and critiquing the same manuscript for 20 years without ever finding the courage to send it out on submission.  You need to just start sending it out.  You're ready."  I came home from that conference all fired up and excited to really get started with my writing career... and then I talked myself out of it and thought I'd better do a few more rounds of revisions first.

But this week, I was determined to take the leap.  Until I woke up Monday morning, and started to second-guess myself again.

Luckily, I got the kick in the pants I probably needed.  I logged onto twitter for a few minutes before starting my "real" work for the day, and I noticed that one of the agents on the top of my "to query" list had just tweeted "I'm hoping for lots of prom and kissing in my slush pile today."  Prom??? Kissing??? Wait a minute!  That sounds like my manuscript!!  I pushed my household chores "to do" list to the bottom of my daily priorities and sat down to write my query letter for this agent.

I couldn't concentrate on it, though.  My kids were bored, whiny, tired and fighting with each other (end-of-summer-itis has hit our household hard!) - and they interrupted me every 5 minutes with another tattle-fest.  I sat in my writing corner, getting more and more frustrated with myself, my children and my attempts to write the letter.  "Don't my kids realize that I'm doing something important here?  I don't have time for their whining today!!"

Then, I realized... I don't have time for my kids?  Wow!  My priorities had gone seriously out-of-whack!!  I closed my computer, put away my writing pencils and notebooks, and walked downstairs to spend some time with my children.  We wound up all piled together on my king-sized bed while I explained to them that they really are more important to me than anything else.  "I want to be a writer.  I want to get my book published.  But there will be time for that later.  Let's spend the last 2 weeks before school starts doing some fun things together, and I can pick this up again then."

Immediately, all 4 kids told me not to stop writing.  "You need to send your book to that agent today, Mom!  It's exactly what she's looking for, and the world needs good books like yours."

I smiled and hugged them tighter.  I didn't want them to think I was simply trying to send them on a guilt trip.  "Don't worry.  I'm not giving up.  I'm going to keep working on my writing, but I'll do it when it doesn't take away from time with you."  To illustrate my point, I asked them "Years from now, when you're all grown up with children and grandchildren of your own, when I'm dead and gone and you're remembering your childhood, what will be more important to you?  That I worked on getting my book published or that I spent time with you and let you know that you're more important to me than anything else?"

It was an easy question.  There could only be one answer.  (You all know the saying that no one, on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time at work!)  Not surprisingly, when I put the question to them this way, my children didn't have to think at all before answering.  They all knew the answer to that question immediately.  But it certainly wasn't the answer I expected.  "It's more important to publish your book!" 

All 4 of them - even the youngest - assured me that my writing should take priority.  Speaking together, as a team, they patiently explained that I do so much for them every day... They know I love them, because I show it in all the little things I do for them... "Mom, you deserve a break to work on something that you really love.  You need to get your book published."  Then, they all gave me hugs, told me to go back to my writing corner and went to make lunch for us all.  They spent the rest of the day carefully working out their problems and trying to work together as a team so that I wouldn't have to stop writing. 

Wow!!  What inspiring children!!!