Writing has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was in school. But I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. The first time that I realised I wanted to be one, was when my elder son was born 6 years ago – I was a new mom and this role was my inspiration for what would eventually become a very large piece of my life. I sensed that the writing life would be all-consuming and motherhood would be all consuming. I often wondered if I could do both – could I?
There have been so many times that I have thrown my hands up in the air in complete exasperation. I have set aside my stack of notebooks and colourful pens. I never thought motherhood and writing could peacefully co-exist. I told myself that eventually, motherhood would take the place of writing, and that it was inevitable.
I was wrong of course.
The book ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has touched many lives, including mine. When we talk about being “in the zone”, as I have often been when writing, we are experiencing ‘Flow’. Have you ever been so completely and utterly immersed in a task, oblivious to the outside world, focusing only on what is going on right here and now? If yes, you are in a state of ‘Flow’.
I had also read about and spoken to friends about having a sanctified work space at home. But, does this sacred space actually exist for everyone?
I started running the concept of trying to be in a state of ‘Flow’ and a dedicated work space, in a loop in my head. It was hard for me to remember a time that external influences were non-existent, allowing me to actually set a sacred work space aside for myself. I couldn’t. I have indeed experienced ‘Flow’ many a time when writing – resulting in high levels of productivity, but definitely for not as long as I would have liked.
In all honesty, I did try and create a sanctified work space in my own room. But it was just a matter of a time before it turned into a multi-purpose space – yes, it was a desk welded into the wall which I used to write, but it was also a bookshelf, storage for drawings by my boys, a resting place for various wires and chargers and so much more.
My children wake up at 6.45 am to start their morning routine and get ready for school. I thought of waking up at 4.30 am, untangling myself from my 3-year-old’s arms, and tip-toeing out of the room to write at the dining table. I tried it, only to have one of the boys wake up shortly after to use the restroom, losing all their sleep in the process.
I thought of all the other places that had been my ‘writing desk’ over the years – a corner of my terrace, a parked car, my regular table at Starbucks, a couch in the bar room, and even my kids Teepee tent. I write at the back of my mind.
I thought of all the times I sat down to write, only to be interrupted by shouts and crying that one child had ‘by mistake’ poked the other one with a super-hero toy,
I had set a goal of authoring two books by the time I turned 40. There have been times when I thought about going away to some beautiful writing retreats I had read about. I remembered the guilt I felt thinking about leaving the two boys for an extended period of time. Sure, I have taken trips with friends, but they have always been short ones.
I understand now that ‘Flow’ is something we can all experience, but not all the time. The sacred desk space maybe something we don’t all have access to either. Do I experience Flow all the time when I write, and do I write in a dedicated space all the time? No! I make notes on my phone when I am in the restroom, when I am playing UNO with my 6-year-old and I know I should only be focusing on him, and when I am sitting at Football class. I write in the splinters of time I can find amid by responsibilities as a mother, and other work.
But you know what the amazing thing is? Motherhood follows me everywhere and my writing would be nothing without it! It has and will always figure into my writing process. Being a mother, has not taken the place of me being a writer and an aspiring author. In fact, it would be impossible for me to give up the writing life.
As much as I love my kids fiercely, and cherish every single moment I spend with them, motherhood has never been fulfilling enough for me. While writing in solitude all the time maybe a bit of a stretch, it is something I do to feel the occasional magic, among many other things. It is a means of keeping my boundaries intact, and a step towards preserving a sense of self.
There have been a few days when I have been unable to write even a little, for various reasons, and those were the days I have felt terribly incomplete. I realised something then – that if I couldn’t do this work, my life would not be my life. I cut my hand on a girl’s trip I went on recently, and aside from “ouch” and “I hope that stops bleeding soon”, my next thought was “thank god I didn’t get cut in a spot that would hinder my typing”.
Every day, as I pursue my writing, I also try to successfully juggle my family’s needs, and other work that make me who I am. I see my children are watching. But my mantra has become to do my own work first. To me, this means to spend some time reading different articles, websites and books to develop my mind and language, and devote the best of my mind to writing. To me, this means to surround myself with friends who look at life the same way I do, and people who have helping others, stitched into the fabric of who they are.
While the ideal situation is to stay in a state of Flow for as long as possible, and have that sanctified writing space, we don’t need them all the time to write. I know I need to keep writing not only in the absence of obstacles that emerge in various forms, but even through them. Through interruptions. As I am writing this, my elder son came up to me and said “Something bit me. Can you please help me and apply some cream on it”? I put my laptop down and said “Sure, I’ll help you”. I stop writing this article.