I found out a couple weeks ago that a short story I entered into the Writers of the Future contest received an honorable mention. According to the judges, that means it held their interest enough to read the entire thing — which is a compliment, considering that the story was about 25 pages long (my short stories tend to be on the long side of short …).
At first I wondered if the honorable mention was basically a participation award, but I did some research and found that it’s only awarded to 5-15 percent of participants. So I feel pretty good about that, especially since this was my first time entering. (As an aside, a couple of members of my writers group have also made it to the honorable mention or finalist stages of this contest, which means we must be an elite group of ALMOST THERE writers. ;))
This particular story holds special significance to me because it was my first new work after the birth of my son; I started writing it a few months before his second birthday and finished it about six months later. It’s something I never could have written in the same way without becoming a mother.
For me, one of the scariest things about motherhood is and was its impact on my writing. A combination of mental adjustment, lack of support, and a son who was an epically bad sleeper all combined to throw me WAY off my writing game for almost two years. When I did start writing again, I started to feel whole once more.
Then, just as I began getting excited about this new equilibrium and possibility for making space for my writing, I found out I was pregnant again.
I have continued to write through this pregnancy, but most of my focus has not been on producing new work but on finding ways to continue writing after the second baby comes. This mostly consists of submitting my work and applying for grants to pay for more childcare so I can keep writing. (It’s hard to justify paying a babysitter for work that doesn’t generate immediate income, although I’m getting more okay with it as an investment in my mental health and career. The problem is that I always give paid work priority, and there always seems to be something more I COULD be doing on that front.)
But this time around, I really, really don’t want to wait almost two years to get back on my writing game.
Especially since this pregnancy has proved to be crazy fertile ground for new story ideas. I haven’t felt this creative in years. Once a week I wake up with an idea that I feel I MUST WORK ON RIGHT AWAY. This is a far cry from the inspirational silence I experienced during the first year or so of my son’s life, and I hope it doesn’t immediately dry up in the postpartum period.
I’m less than six weeks from my due date, with freelance obligations to complete and a slew of “new baby” planning to do, not to mention the submissions I still hope to make. I don’t think starting new writing projects is in the cards for me right now. Jotting down the ideas and opening scenes will have to do, in hopes that somehow I’ll find a way to return without too long an absence.
I have better support this time around — relationships with a couple trusted babysitters, a mom who is now retired, preschool (hopefully) on the horizon for my older son. And a brain that has been changed physically by motherhood with new avenues of creativity still untapped and waiting to be discovered.
Hopefully the wait won’t be too unbearably long.