As most writers will tell you, I always knew, deep down, that I was supposed to be a writer – I just forgot sometimes. After studying the wrong thing in college (interior design, assuming a practical application of the arts would suit me), I never forgot again.
I continued to practice and enjoy aspects of design, but when it came to work, my heart was in writing. I “couldn’t help” writing a novel in my spare time. I edited it through nine drafts, and began to send it out to agents. When my husband Dennis and I had our daughter Fiona in 2008, and then our son Jack in 2011, I quit working outside of the home, with the hope of starting a writing career, somehow, in between nursing and cleaning and all-consuming parenthood.
While I loved my family more than anything, I felt creatively unfulfilled – which of course affected my well-being, and my family’s happiness, too. When it occurred to me that I might as well start blogging in 2012, I was overcome with relieved joy. I began to notice the interesting stories in all of the mundane tasks that made up most of my days, and found that writing for me was like digging out the joy underneath the ordinary.
The Joy Underneath began as a “mommy blog,” but as the kids get older, it seems disrespectful to write too much about their lives. Almost without realizing it over the years, I’ve shifted toward writing more on culture, politics, mental health, the arts, personal growth, writing struggles and inspirations – whatever is currently bugging me, or fascinating me. Whatever I write about, this small platform has been invaluable to me. There is something about putting your writing out into the world, and letting it go where it may. (Even if you have less than a thousand readers. I try not to care about the numbers too much.)
I still send out my first novel to agents, and am working on a second novel. Any other writing goes here. It’s hard to stay focused, encouraged, and disciplined, as a writer who makes no money, and as a stay-at-home mom who handles all the usual mom jobs that keep household and family chugging along. I know there are thousands of us unpublished writers, trying to defend the bits of time we devote to our work, trying to explain why it matters even if it doesn’t make money, and trying to justify what may seem like a selfish endeavor. When I begin to feel defensive, I remember that if my work influences one life for the better, including my own, it is worthy of my time. I don’t neglect my other obligations and loves in the name of writing, either. Sometimes, I wonder if I should give up on the idea of ever getting published. Maybe. My life is so rich in other ways. It seems silly to get hung up on this one kind of validation.
Validation would be wonderful, if it comes. Regardless, writing is with me for life: I am reassured by the truth that I can’t give it up. I’ve tried, in moments of frustration or despair. It’s impossible.
This inability to quit, this true love of reading and writing, is a beautiful affliction, a gift.