Wednesday, May 02, 2007

RG: Finding Balance

How do you respond to two "equal" callings?

As both a Keeper at Home and a Writer I have honestly a nearly equal pull to both. Many "writing guides" I've looked at imply that if writing isn't your first passion either nothing will got done, or you're not serious enough. As a Believer I know that that can't be true, so I'm curious how believers (especially those at home with their children at home) define "priority" and affirm the importance of both callings.

Great question! As a mom of two (ages 4 and 7), I can identify with this struggle. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, I was in the process of trying to get published for the first time. It was grueling. I was getting a lot of rejection and I’d come to the point that I thought, “Well, God must just want me to be a mom.” And truly, I was okay with that. I wasn’t sure I could handle both anyway.

My son was five weeks old when I received the call that I’d sold my first novel. It was from a proposal, so I hadn’t written it yet. I was thrilled beyond words, because I felt as if the Lord was telling me, “Yes, you can do both. I’ve called you to do both.” There was a slight question in the back of my mind. I’d been trying for years to get published. Why didn’t God move then, before I had children and when I had a lot more time on my hands?

I’ve come to realize the timing was very intentional by God, because ever since that first phone call, and eleven novels later, it has been a constant battle for balance. Yet, it is in this balance that I find the most depth from which to write.

I find a lot of inspiration by watching pastors. They are constantly being pulled away from their families for things that seem very important and worthy of attention in the kingdom of God. Still, it is the pastor’s responsibility to shepherd his own family; if he can’t nurture his own flock, how can he nurture a bigger one with more problems?

The same is true for the call to write. Immersing yourself into it will cause brief moments of brilliance and success, but your family will suffer, and then you have nothing but a finished book and a lot of guilt.

To fulfill ourselves, we must be communing with God, trusting that we don’t have to do it all on our own. I spent many years writing like crazy, trying to keep up a momentum I was so afraid to lose. Hanging in the balance was my family. I am fortunate to have understood very quickly that if my family was going to suffer neglect at the hands of my “calling” then I wasn’t operating in the Spirit.

Let me assure you, though, that there is plenty of room in the heart to have a passion for writing while fulfilling the needs of your family. And in fact, your passion will be fed by the very love that is given back to you from the ones that you are taking care of.

To make it in this business, there is no question that you must have resolve, and you must be determined. But it is a lie to say that it must be all consuming. When it becomes all consuming, then you’ve lost the very reason you write. A novelist is an observer of life, and must be in it to reflect it.

Practically speaking, it is a challenge to balance writing and motherhood, but it isn’t impossible. I call what I do “work.” I hardly ever say, “I’m going to go write” because people draw all sorts of conclusions about your availability. So I will say, “I’m working from noon to four, but I’m free after that.” Over the years my friends, family and children have grown to understand that what I do is a job. Even if you are not yet published, begin referring to it as work. Just as any person who works has a responsibility to put in a number of hours, so do you. And it is most definitely a job that I have given to God.

At the end of the day, what often separates published writers from unpublished writers is self-discipline. I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who want to be writers but won’t actually sit down and write. I want to be physically fit, but that means I have to get off the couch and exercise! The same is true for writing. Begin to assess your schedule and see what can be removed so that you can have the writing time you need. Understand your craft and make certain that you are studying it as much as you can. Make progress in whatever project you have chosen to bring to the forefront.

“Priority” as a believer can be defined as working in the movement of the Spirit. When we are dwelling there, it amazes me what suddenly becomes a priority, often times things that weren’t even on our radar the day before. If He has called you to write, then you know that He expects you to obey, and that He is capable of bringing it all to fruition. If He has blessed you with children, then you understand the eternal gift you have been given and how quickly the years you have with them go by.

To be called “Mom” blesses me to the depths of my soul and to be called “Writer” gives me understanding of what my life experience and talent must be used for. Then to be called “Christian” gives me purpose in both.

Rene Gutteridge hangs out in cyberspace at .


At 3:45 AM, Blogger Christina Tarabochia said...

Completely and utterly awesome. Thank you so much for speaking about balance. I assume, writing for the Christian market, we are blessed to have editors who want an author to put his/her greatest efforts into the family instead of the book. The result: a better book.

The school year is drawing to a close. Next year will be my first with both kids in full-time schooling. My plan is to draw a more solid line between my "working hours" (when they're in school) and my family time.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger batgirl said...

"Let me assure you, though, that there is plenty of room in the heart to have a passion for writing while fulfilling the needs of your family. And in fact, your passion will be fed by the very love that is given back to you from the ones that you are taking care of."

Beautiful, Rene. This topic has always confused me a bit. I'm a home schooling mom of three and wife of a man who works hard so I can stay home to mother and write. You are right- I'm read lots of things that suggest writing a novel means you think of NOTHING ELSE until it's done. Obviously, we can't function that way, being mothers.
The self-discapline thing. I'm working on that. Praying about it too. Thanks for this post.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Ann Tatlock said...

Such a great message, Rene. The very month my first book hit the stores, my husband and I flew to China to adopt our infant daughter. I think God must have a sense of humor, timing both events to happen at once! It's been an interesting balancing act ever since, and I'm learning a lot about what's important. When the school bus pulls up, that's the end of my working day.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger John K said...

Fabulous message, Rene, filled with 'balance.'

Thank you for sharing.

John K.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

As a working mom, this resonates with me and was a great reminder. Keeping a balance is difficult, but where there's a will ... Thanks for this, Rene.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Dineen A. Miller said...

Ah, I needed this right now. I'm struggling with that balance, because my work can easily consume me if I let it. I have to stay on top of this constantly and set boundaries (like quitting time).

This encourages me to keep looking to God for the help I need to do that. Thank you.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Rene, I hope you know I think you're the cutest, most hip, fun girl out there! I loved this post. I especially appreciated what you said about an author being an observer of life. I find my prose lagging when I'm holed up all day. I need to be interacting with real live people! And of course that includes my sweet family.


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