I started writing again when my daughter was four. I always wrote as a child. I’d studied Creative Writing as part of my degree and took a slew of writing courses when I was childless. When my daughter was about to start her final year of preschool I found a course called “First Page to First Draft in a Year.” It ran once a week at my state writers’ centre, which was over an hour away.
Taking the course would be a big commitment both time-wise and money-wise for me. More than that it was a bold move because it meant I was admitting to myself and the world who I wanted to be.
I boldly signed up for the whole year so I wouldn’t quit half way. As soon as I sent my money off I knew with certainty I’d have a book at the end of the year. It might not be a great book but it would be a book. I’m not a competitive person at all where others are concerned but for myself I’m very goal oriented.
I went to the first day of that course and I was terrified. I remember the sweaty palms, the nervous introductions and the anxiety that zipped about the room. Still, I went back the next week. I began writing my novel in earnest.
That lead to the question: “What are you doing mummy?”
And the answer was: “I’m writing a book.”
I had other things to do. I had volunteer commitments, part-time work and a husband who was away fifty percent of the time and who worked weird impossible hours.
My writing time happened when my daughter watched her favourite TV shows. That allowed me around one uninterrupted hour a day on a good day. (I know lots of people write when their children sleep, but my little treasure was awake till eleven each night and slept with me when my husband travelled.)
Every week though I managed to do my homework for class and move through the story. It felt achingly slow but as I wrote I felt parts of myself come alive. I was energised by the new friendships I made in that group and stimulated by the different conversation.
I kept writing and I did indeed have a first draft at the end of that year and my daughter was very proud of me.
I was worried that my writing took time away from her when I was selected to attend a week long writers seminar, when I went on weekends away with my writing group or joined the RWA and jetted off to conferences or when I said “hold on a minute, let me just finish this paragraph.”
I never really stopped to consider what I might have been giving her by pursuing this dream.
I gave her a love of words and books. We don’t open candy during advent, we open a Christmas book a day and her favourite outing is to the huge bookshop in our city.
I taught her to have a go. It’s okay to enter competitions and maybe just maybe you’ll place or win.
I gave her resilience because there’s nothing like seeing mummy get a few rejection letters and keep on going to teach resilience.
I gave her friends who like to write. Now she and my writing buddy’s daughter are great friends and they like to attend writing workshops together and they also enjoy horse-riding together.
I showed her ingenuity by becoming an indie author and taking my journey into my own hands.
Finally I encouraged her imagination by using my own. She has started writing her own novel. She’s twelve and has 75,000 words of a novel under her belt.
Sometimes as mothers I think we’re so hard on ourselves. We feel guilty for stolen moments, fulfilling our secret desires and following our dreams. We probably we have it backwards because aren’t those the things we want for our own daughters?
MONIQUE MCDONELL is an Australian author who lives in Sydney’s Northern Beaches with her husband and daughter. Her third novel, Alphabet Dating, was released this month.
When Serena Sanders reluctantly agrees to participate in the Alphabet Dating Plan she knows it will be tough but there’s so much she hadn’t factored in. Who knew men were so complicated? Not Serena.
As she begins dating her way through the alphabet she starts to learn more about herself and her friends than she ever expected as secrets and hidden agendas are revealed. Alphabet Dating is a love story – a tale of lost love, unrequited love, platonic love and ultimately it’s about learning to love again.