By Margo McKenzie
It doesn’t matter whether the writer in you surfaced before your role as mama, or whether you were a mama first and then the creative juices began to flow. Maybe they occurred simultaneously. However they surfaced, you now find yourself with dual roles you must perform. You have a little one who calls you Mama, and you have a little voice that calls you writer. At first sight, they may appear like they are conflicting calls, but Christina Katz, a freelance writer, wrote a book entitled Writer Mama to inform you it is possible to balance the mama with the writer in you.
If you think that Ms. Katz just writes a few articles a month, think again. A quick read of her biography in the back of the book shows that she has both feet firmly planted in her writing business. Her by-line has appeared in hundreds of articles, interviews, profile and columns.
She is a publisher and editor and has used the vehicle of her own web magazine, Women on the Rise, to mentor writers. She has also appeared on Good Morning America. She does all this while co-parenting with her husband.
The book does not address how she mothers her child while she writes. The book focuses on how to be a phenomenal writer while also being a parent.
Parenting is a full-time job and in some respects so is writing. The beauty of freelancing as a writer is that you can establish your own hours. So the question becomes, how can we make optimal use of the limited hours we have in order to pursue our passion for writing?
Katz provides a few strategies in her book, which is neatly divided into four sections: Preparation, Practice, Professionalism, and Poise. Each page includes a quarter-inch aqua border. The aqua is evenly utilized throughout the book to highlight headings and sidebars providing a calm, feminine aura for readers.
Much of the advice Katz provides is good for writers, whether they have a child or not; but she does specifically address mothers who are writers.
For one, interspersed throughout the book are quotes from other mothers who write.
Let’s examine each section to determine how they live up to the challenge of the title.
One of the main problems mothers confront is finding the time to complete projects, so this section of the book provides several strategies for gathering ideas while fulfilling the primary duty, which is raising a child. The key is to be sure the writer in you is mentally present at all times, whether strolling or shopping. The idea of paying attention to headlines that grab our attention is a great idea. We see headlines everywhere. As we pass newsstands, in bookstores, streaming across the television screen, on Facebook or subject lines in our emails. These headlines provide critical information about current topics the world is concerned about. They become subjects for follow-up articles for a writer. At the end of each chapter, Katz includes an exercise and the very first one provides additional strategies to generate ideas for writing.
Before proceeding with her suggestions, she encourages that we determine what type of Mama we actually are. The type will determine the system we should establish for recording our ideas. Katz has identified five mama types: Real Simple, Process-Oriented, On-the-Go, Visual, Bigger is Better. The first type will record ideas on a yellow pad while the last might use poster paper.
When it comes to finding time to actually write down ideas, Katz provides some relevant suggestions, such as implementing mandatory quiet time for the child--depending on age of course. During this time, the child plays quietly and does not disturb mommy. During that time, writers can either prepare for writing the next day or actually write. The key is to structure time to actually write.
As I read through this section of the book, I found that most of the advice would benefit any writer; she provides suggestions from different types of lists writers should keep to handling procrastination. Since time is critical, she addresses that by including a segment on establishing boundaries, the necessity for limiting our availability. She ends the chapter with a discussion about whether child care is a wise choice.
This section filled with great advice to writers. Katz provides insight about finding a “tribe,” a group of writers that will support our growth and development; writing query letters; negotiating; and setting monetary goals. The way the world of writing works appears to be the same for everyone, so this section is one that could be found in any professional writer’s handbook. As expected, the world doesn’t change to adapt to a writer’s particular needs as a mother. The takeaway is that the standard operating procedures are the same for all writers, so understand what the rules are and play them to perfection.
Operating two jobs will cause stressors to surface. This last section tells writers how to keep it altogether in order to avoid “Writer Mama Burnout.” For some assignments, Katz advises Mamas to completely withdraw and perform, what I consider to be, a Jill Scott activity: "Take a long walk around the park after dark, or maybe see a movie or see a play on Saturday . . .feel the breeze or listen to a symphony . . . or just remain silent."
No matter the age of the children, the writer mama never has to go into retirement. You may find yourself balancing writing with not just your children but with grandchildren as well. If you didn’t think peaceful coexistence was not possible for writer and mama, Katz wrote this book to prove otherwise.
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