Thursday, April 1, 2010

Compartmentalization and Integration (Writing, Blogging, and Mothering)

When I wrote my article about productivity, I got a lot of comments from other writers about how they measure their productivity, and I was very interested to see the many ways that writing figures into people's lives. Most of the folks I know who are writers are not what you'd call full-time writers, but fit their writing in somehow. Because of the demands of my own life, I fit writing in amidst the demands of running the household and caring for my kids, who are currently in Pre-K and in 1st grade. It's a big juggling act. But I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about how my different activities - writing, blogging, and mothering - actually interact and support one another rather than simply having to be compartmentalized into different boxes.

Mothering teaches me new things. I am always fascinated by watching my kids grow, learn and change, and I'm always happy when I find this gives me inspiration to blog. Blogging has gotten easier as I've gotten the hang of it, but I'm always looking for new topics, and my children often provide me with great ones. They also are inspired by my blogging (they tell me often that they want blogs of their own). My kids also provide me with interesting writing ideas - as sort of an ongoing research project, for the most part, but also because sometimes they suggest things to me that speak to me enough for me to include them. My son, for example, was the one to suggest that my first aliens be gecko-like. He takes great pride in that. My daughter has got me thinking about whether I should attempt a children's book - and believe me, that's quite a feat. The kids also support me in my writing, and console me when I get rejections.

Blogging helps my writing. It allows me to think through things "out loud," and question my own assumptions, as well as getting outside commenters' thoughts on my ideas. Just today I was thinking over a blog post on world details and the metaphors that characters use for their lives, and I had a terrific idea about the way that people might understand "the Pit of Darkness," which is the rough equivalent of hell for the undercaste of my Varin world. I think some of them think of it as an afterlife, while others think of it as the ongoing condition of their lives. This reflects a fundamental split in attitudes about the religion they follow, which makes perfect sense in the history of the world as I've designed it (the afterlife folks are more influenced by the "mainstream" religion of the Stargazers, while the condition folks are more true to the ancient tradition of the undercaste religion itself - not that they know this necessarily).

Writing helps my blogging. I need lots of topics to keep blogging like this, and when I can blog about story design, research, characterization, writing process, etc. - basically, anything that I'm doing right now in my writing - it helps me.

I'm a very busy person, and I know I'm not the only one. But I suppose the point of this post is that compartmentalization can only take you so far. I see teachers in my local school who cringe at the idea of adding anything to the curriculum because they already have too much to do. These concerns are real, and I definitely feel overloaded a lot. Sometimes compartmentalization is the answer - I quite jealously guard the time I spend on writing and blogging, just because it's impractical for me to be sitting in front of the computer during family time. But often, integration is the answer. I can talk through my writing ideas with my kids, and I find they have excellent views that can illuminate my thoughts. I can think writing while I clean house. I can take inspiration from my children's behavior, their learning process, or from what they're doing at school. I can blog about my writing and my family, and enrich my thoughts about each.

It's something to think about.