This weeks interviewee is Amanda Milner. A homeschooling mother of two, Amanda is a writer, fitness enthusiast, and moderator of our local homeschooling group. Welcome, Amanda!
~ What does an average day in your house look like?
I get up first in the morning, make breakfast, and then get my workout in. The kids and I usually do some lessons, whether it is an online program, worksheets, reading together, art, or writing. After our lesson time is done, I try to get some writing accomplished. However, writing may be interrupted by walking the dog, preparing meals, doing regular house chores, yard work, etc. Sometimes I work for five minutes, other times I actually have a couple of hours. I'm not sure we have a typical day ever!
~ What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I am finishing up an expansion to a role playing game aimed at children and families. I am also working on an independent RPG project that my husband and I are hoping to publish by the end of the year.
~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life?
Sometimes it is relaxing, and other times it is stressful. My freelance work always seems to crop up when homeschooling activities are abundant, thus making my time even more limited. The way my freelance contract works, I may have nothing for a long time, then I will have an entire book due in three weeks. I am fortunate that I can arrange my schedule to allow for these sorts of frantic writing sessions, but it means having to really block out time to focus. My own projects often get pushed to the side, unfortunately. So, sometimes I really look forward to sitting down and creating. But the time consuming editing and proofreading and revisions can make me want to rip my hair out.
~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?
I allow myself to be done for the day when I want to be. If it isn't crucial (ie due tomorrow) and I'm feeling more stressed than relaxed, I take the afternoon off. I've also started teaching homeschool creative writing and advanced composition classes. Sometimes, seeing writing from a kid's point of view really makes it all seem more simple and fun than I'm making it. Kids still have joy in words, and I think writing for “work” removes that joy from time to time. Being able to share the art of writing with kids puts it all in perspective, especially when each class usually has at least one poop joke in it.
~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day?
Well, I used to need absolute quiet. When I was in college, I worked in silence basically. Homeschooling two kids doesn't allow for silence so I've learned to work with the tv, singing, yelling, music, banging, toys, cooking, the dog, and all the other noisy elements in the background. If I really need to concentrate, I will go into a room and close the door, but I feel like I'm ignoring the kids, even if it simply means I'm not in the room with them. So, I have taught myself to tune out the distractions.
~Do you create alongside and with your children?
Sort of the follow up to the previous question: I now prefer to work in the “learning room” (our classroom) where I can hang with the kids while I work. Honestly, sometimes, I need to bounce an idea off of someone. The kids will give me an honest answer for sure. They sometimes sit down to write with me, but they are not really interested in writing. I find the fact that they are ambivalent to writing sort of funny.
~Do you have a set time of day, or of the week, that you set aside for your creative pursuits?
Not even a little. If I have deadlines, I will set aside specific times. However, I mostly just fit it in when I have a chance. Writing while homeschooling means that I grab the opportunity for creativity when I see it.
~Do you set weekly/daily/monthly goals?
Sometimes. I just finished another project, and I usually allow myself some time off where I don't even think about writing for a few days. I do think I work better when I have a goal, so I try to set them weekly or bi-monthly.
~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?
I think finding time. I get interrupted a lot by the kids, and it tends to pull me out of my writing mode. Homeschooling is not just sitting at home all day. There are so many activities and classes, events and fun trips that finding time for writing means making sure all of life is in balance: kids, lessons, house, yard, my own sanity...each thing requires some of my time and writing makes it more difficult.
~What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?
I get to earn some money, share my ideas, and still be with my children all day. Plus, the game writing I do means my family can actually play the games I write, so they get to share in the experience. I can be myself on paper. I can go back in time to when I was single and only had myself on which to focus. Writing means I am entirely focused on my own thoughts, so that is sort of a mini vacation from the hectic world of homeschooling.
~How do you feel about the word balance? Is there such a thing?
I told you, it feels more like a tug of war than balance. Balance seems too calm for the process I go through with writing and homeschooling. Everything is demanding my attention sometimes, and I feel like my brain is being pulled in fifteen directions. I have learned how to ignore distractions a lot better, but they are still there. Wearing blinders while being the rope in a tug of war match...I feel a lot like that some days as I sit and write. I think juggling is a better metaphor for my life than balance.
~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?
Oh definitely. As I said, I used to sit in silence, carefully thinking of words and pondering meanings, taking my time as I wrote. Now, I have all of the noise and chaos of a house filled with kids and pets going on in the background, and I can work through it. I write furiously, and edit later. I ponder meanings as I go to sleep and make revisions in the morning. I am writing, even if only in my mind, most of the day rather than sitting down in one session and typing away.
~What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about their creative pursuits, and just starting out on their homeschooling journey?
You will feel overwhelmed, but like anything else, you will find the schedule that works best for you. Let your kids see you work and have them share in that passion. If they see you doing what you want to do, they will understand that there is room in life for everything: obligations, family, responsibility, fun, and creativity.
~Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I am always surprised by how many writers there are out there in so many different lifestyles. There is no one right or wrong way to create. The act of creating art isn't some sort of mysterious process or magical formula. If you want to create, you will find the time and space for it in your life.
~Amanda, thank you for your honest and thoughtful insights! It was a pleasure to have you here in this space today! Thank you again!
Links for Amanda:
Third Eye Games
If you are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits, or know someone who is, and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.