Monday, May 25, 2015

creating in the midst: Danielle Jones

 Welcome to Creating in the Midst! This week I'm thrilled to introduce Danielle Jones to you. Danielle is a homeschooling mother of four, writer, and photographer. Her writing inspires us to dive into the creative life, and it's an honor to have her here in this space. Thank you for being here Danielle! And now on to the Q&A's...

~ What does an average day in your house look like? 
During the school year we had homeschool co-op classes twice a week. The days in-between we are mostly at home. On those days we do our studies in the morning. I have twin second graders, one preschooler, and an infant. We are able to get most of our “book work” done in the morning, have lunch, and then everyone goes outside for a while. Then we usually come inside for some read aloud time. We crash on the couch and read books that relate to our science or history studies as well as fun fictional books. We still read tons of picture books as well as chapter books. Then I send the kids to their rooms for at least an hour of quiet time. The baby naps. I try to get in an hour and a half of writing time before dinner preparations start. 

~ What projects are you currently working on? 
I write monthly for two websites, so I often have an article due. I’m also working on that mysterious thing called “platform building.” All of last year I worked on writing and editing a book proposal and last fall I signed with a literary agent! It has been exciting to work with her to get my proposal ready to be sent out to various publishers. 

~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life? 
I've wanted to write books for as long as I can remember. I wrote fiction all the time until going to college, which is when I began to love literary criticism and creative non-fiction. My degrees were in English and Graphic Design and my post-college job was heavy on the design side. Once I stopped working full-time after having twins, I decided to delve into writing more seriously again. I've focused on non-fiction for most of my adult writing, although I’d love to get back into fiction. I’m always “writing” in my mind. Madeleine L’Engle wrote about how writing is like cooking soup or stew. You have various pots on the burners and you drop a carrot in here, a potato in there, and let it simmer. Writing is a lot like that for me. I always have ideas going for a new article or chapter. 

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity? 
For me, it’s important to “protect” my writing time. If  I didn't plan to sit down several days a week to write, I’d probably get distracted and side tracked by house projects instead. I’m too tired at night to write and mornings are still too unpredictable with a baby. So afternoons work for me right now. Time slips away so quickly and I've realized writing is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more I use it. I don’t wait until inspiration strikes. I love that Picasso quote that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” So even on days I don’t feel inspired or like I have anything to say, I often discover that I do have something to share or develop. 

~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day? 
I prefer quiet. If I have a well-developed idea already in my mind I can write with noise. I don’t mind the kids watching a movie in the background. But constant interruptions distract my flow. So that’s why I choose to write during our down time in the afternoon. 

~Do you create alongside and with your children? 
When it comes to art, I try to. I’m trying to do a better job at that. I have wanted to paint and sketch more, so I’m trying to do that more with my kids. Next fall my goal is to do nature journaling alongside my kids. 

~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother? 
Having my kids home all day! Seriously, sometimes I envy moms who send their kids to school and then can focus most of the day on their profession. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love watching my kids learn and grow and being part of that. Also, I was homeschooled myself for all 12 years of my education prior to college and I loved it. I think that really feeds into why I’m doing it for my kids. I flourished as a homeschool student and so I really want to give my kids the educational opportunities and freedoms I had as a child. But it is challenging to make that concentrated time to write at times. I hope I’m teaching my kids to respect my time writing though, and that when they’re older they’ll look back on that and be glad I took time for myself to continue learning about and pursuing something I’m passionate about. 

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling? 
Homeschooling has forced me to narrow down my professional creative pursuits. When the kids were little before we started homeschooling I did graphic design and then this morphed into a photography business. I did this along side writing. But once I started homeschooling it became too hard for me to juggle photography, writing, and homeschooling. My mind felt fractured and pulled too many ways. Maybe this is because I’m a perfectionist. But it caused me to take a hard look at my limited time and pin down what I really wanted to do. And I wanted to write professionally more than photograph professionally. So although this was a bit painful, it also helped sharpen and narrow my focus in terms of how I spent my creative energy.  
~Is there anything else you'd like to share? 
Whatever creative interest you have--even when you might not be able to create at this time or season--be a consumer of what you’re interested in. If you want to write, read! If you want to paint, look at lots of paintings. If you want to be a better photographer, look at photographs and learn why you like what one person produces over another. You will learn and gain knowledge just be looking and being aware of what’s out there. Then when the time comes to really create you’ll be better prepared. Be a connoisseur of whatever creative endeavor you’re interested in! 

Danielle - thank you for sharing your thoughts here. So much resonates deeply with me, as I'm sure with many of our readers. I especially love the bit about what Madeleine L'Engle wrote about writing being similar to cooking a stew, what a perfect bit to tuck away in the "about writing" folder! Thank you again for your wisdom, your words. xoxo

Links for Danielle:

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, May 18, 2015

creating in the midst: Kirsti Call

This week author Kirsti Call is joining us for Creating in the Midst to talk about her experience with homeschooling while pursuing her own writing. She is the mother of five, author of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall {which my children and I all adore and have read multiple times since ordering it just a few weeks ago!}, and a beautifully creative soul. Thank you for sharing this space today Kirsti! Now on to the Q&A....

~What does an average day in your house look like?
Our house is noisy and chaotic and filled with the energy of five kids ages 13, 11, 9, 7, and 4. The house brims with pressing ideas and interesting projects. We start out doing things together; poetry memorization during breakfast, reading the Wall Street Journal,  critical thinking, music flashcards, writing. I usually read to the kids as they clean their rooms and do the dishes. Then the kids split off to do other things like math, piano/guitar/drum practice, typing, coding. Then the three oldest spend time reading or working on various projects. My 11 year old, Naomi, started her own etsy shop, Little Andover Girl, and donates 20% of her earnings to The African Library Project.  She spends time making art and jewelry and sewing bags. My 9 year old, Sydney is our chicken whisperer. She studies and reads about chicken care, takes care of our 7 chickens and sells their eggs. Right now she’s researching how to care for the chicks that will hatch in 9 days!  My 13 year old son, James, especially loves spending time coding and programming lego robots. By 3:00 pm we go to choir, or theater or jazz band or some other class. We usually end the day with dinner, a dance party, and reading!

~What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on several quirky picture books and a middle grade novel about a girl with super powered singing skills. I’m always percolating on several other ideas at the same time.

~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life?
I’m almost always writing something in my mind or noticing things that  would make a great story. I love the meanings and musicality of words, so arranging them in the most powerful way that I can fills me with joy.

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?
I try to really live in the moment and make every moment a creative one. With five kids in my house, I have to use my creativity to motivate people to help around the house or practice instruments. Paying attention to the creativity of my children helps me keep my mind ready to embrace ideas and inspiration.

~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day?
I used to need absolute quiet to write. I’ve gotten more flexible as my life has gotten more chaotic. By the time everyone is in bed, I’m too tired to write. So I try to take a few minutes to write in the morning before everyone is up and during the day and I try to catch five minutes here and there as the kids are working independently.  

~Do you create alongside and with your children?
I do. We have a project room which we named “Calliflower studio” (after Peter Reynolds told me to name it).  The room is packed with fabric, beads, painting and sewing supplies, magazines, glue, etc. The walls are papered with our paintings.  There we write songs and stories together.  

I had fun overseeing the making of creative birthday gifts for my husband recently. The boys (13 and 4 yrs) made him a movie. The 7 and 9 year old girls wrote him a song and sang it while accompanying themselves on the guitar. My 11 year old daughter made him a chess cake complete with chocolate pieces.  

~Do you have a set time of day, or of the week, that you set aside for your creative pursuits?
I try to write every morning, but honestly, I don’t really have a set time. I write when I find my muse or a moment when no one needs me.  

Do you set weekly/daily/monthly goals?
I join writing challenges to keep me writing. I’m a member of the 12x12 challenge which helps me write and revise one picture book monthly. In November I participate in Picture Book Idea Month where you write down one idea for every day of the month. Last month I participated in Reading for Research Month where you read picture books and use them as mentor texts. And now I’m participating in Rhyming Picture Book Month--all of these challenge help me to hone my writing skills and produce more stories. I also contribute to Writer’s Rumpus, Children’s Book Academy and Kids Are Writers, so I have set deadlines to follow.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?  
The most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother is prioritizing my time! I sometimes wonder if my writing time takes away from time I should devote to the kids.   And I’m constantly thinking about how I can ensure that I use my time in a way that makes me happy and everyone else around me happy too.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother? I have the privilege of learning with my kids, understanding who they really are and helping them to follow their dreams. And there is nothing better for a kidlit writer than spending time with kids.  My kids inspire my stories and having them home and learning with me only make my stories more authentic.

How do you feel about the word balance? Is there such a thing?  Balance is tough.  I’m always trying to balance my professional needs and wants with the needs and wants of my family.  Sometimes I spend more time homeschooling and less time writing. Sometimes I miraculously accomplish both at once (usually when kids are feeling particularly motivated or interested in their projects).

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?  Last year I devoted my 5 hours a week with no kids at home to writing. Clearly, I don’t have that quiet time anymore--but I do have an environment rich with inspiration and creative energy. I’m now able to create more with less time and more chaos!  My creative process has become more organic. I may have to stop writing in the middle of a sentence and I may not finish an entire blog post in one sitting any more. But I’m also more flexible and able to go into writing mode as soon as I sense I have a window of opportunity!

~What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about their creative pursuits, and just starting out on their homeschooling journey?
I’m just finishing my first year of homeschooling and I've struggled to discover a way to pursue my writing and give my kids the attention that they need and deserve. Now after 8 months, I've decided that the best way to create is to create with your kids. We sit at the table and write together and somehow, writing and homeschooling have never been sweeter.

Kirsti - thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I love how you talked about using your creativity to live in the moment, and how homeschooling has helped to make you a more flexible writer. I can relate to that for sure! It's also wonderful to hear that you create alongside your children, and how it can actually enhance your writing life. Thank you again for being here in this space, it's a joy to get to know you through your words!

Links for Kirsti:
The Raindrop That Couldn't Fall

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The next Hemingway

At a long work table in Starbucks, an older gentleman sat at one end while my son and I were at the other. He sat across from a young man working on a laptop, headphones at the ready. The older of the two watched us sit down, he smiled as my son tucked into his cake pop and chocolate milk. I stood up when my name was called, my iced tea was ready at the counter. 

When I came back I heard his shaky voice, "Oh, it's nothing, just notes." There was a pause. He moved his coffee cup around in circles, and tapped a free hand on a napkin. I'd noticed the napkin as I walked by. Dark, inky words penned in haste. As the young man grabbed his headphones the shaky voice turned more confident. 

"Actually, you're looking at the next Ernest Hemingway!" 

"Really? What is it you're writing?" the headphones were carefully placed on the table. 

"Just the great American novel," his voice boomed, the sweater that hung loosely from his frame danced in the fluorescent light filled room as he raised his arms like a goal post, "in FOUR parts." He sat back in his chair, arms crossed in front of him, his fingers grabbing for the folds of his cream colored sweater, the waffle texture wearing thin exposed hints of a grey tee shirt. 

"That's great," said the man with the headphones, his eyes darting from his table mate to his computer. 

My son asked me a question, taking me away from eavesdropping. When I turned my attention back to the other end of the table their conversation had moved on, to a lost phone. "It was an ordinary, black phone. One helluva phone. I remember making a phone call down by the railroad crossing, but after that, I have no idea. I've got to find it before we move, you know, we're moving down to the senior center and there's so many boxes. It was really one helluva phone." 

I stole a glance. His gaze was straight ahead, past the young man who ached for his headphones, down the hallway to the back entry way. He slouched back in his seat the same way my son did. I could imagine his feet both planted firmly on the ground below. Comfortable. Unconcerned with appearance. 

We gathered the remains of our snack and drinks, and as I walked towards the end of the table the young man slid the headphones over his ears, eyes on his laptop. I turned the corner and heard the next Earnest Hemingway mutter to everyone and no one in particular, "I've got a million of these napkins, they just keep piling up..." 

Monday, May 11, 2015

creating in the midst: Shannon Loucks

Welcome to Creating in the Midst, where we dive into the lives of homeschooling parents who are in the midst of their creative pursuits.

This week Shannon Loucks is joining me in this space. Shannon's writing is like a breath of fresh air. Shannon shares her journey of motherhood and parenting in an honest and inspiring way that gives her readers a fresh perspective, always. I'm honored to have her share her wisdom, her thoughts, and her advice for creatives in the midst of homeschooling - and parenting in general.

It’s hard to hear in the throws of parenting young children, when you feel you are loosing all connection to your creative self, that it gets easier. Promises of ease and more time when they are older can feel hallow. My hope in sharing here, is that people will see the creativity that is naturally a part of protecting the speed of childhood by diving into the deep end with your children. To trust that you are building a bank of resources that will be right there to draw from when adjusting, before you can believe it, to life with teenagers, or the moments when your nest is empty.

Becoming a mother and staying home with my boys full time actually led my creative fire to burn on a deeper more intimate level. Looking at motherhood as fuel for my creative process has opened me to new ideas I otherwise would not have had the courage or drive to explore.

I started writing about my journey with the boys early on. Mostly as a reminder to myself of the sort of mom I wanted to be and what my intention was on the days when things were all upside down and frustrating. I wanted to hold myself accountable. And to have the words ready for someone else looking for support that was centered around peace and connection. I have always been a storyteller so it made sense to use stories about the boys to illustrated how I am challenged as a parent to dig deeper into my intention and let go of patterned, automatic responses.

In the early years I don’t think the boys knew I was writing about them. I have always been cautious not to use their names, as I know some folks in our community read what I have to say. Now that they are reaching toward the teen years, I do run things past them to make sure they are comfortable with the stories being out in the world. Because it is more about me and my mistakes and lessons then it ever is about them, I almost always get permission.

Creativity shows up naturally when living alongside young children. We paint, we sing, we dance, we tell stories to one another and we dress up as our most favorite characters to engage in hours upon hours of imaginary play. For years this was the magic that fed my own creative self.

Other times, creativity found it’s way to me. My youngest has a most busy mind and experienced deep loss early on in his life. Falling asleep was a challenge for him as his mind would spin around what was missing and sadness would start to move in. As a result of his desire to merge this all into a place that made sense I told him a brand new story every single night. And because I knew there would be nights that I would not be able to recall those tales or keep going, I recorded each of them. In a relatively short time I had spun hours of tales about a tree elf his adventures and talking pets that plotted to help one another out of tough situations. I hadn't planned for last thing at night to be my most creative out pouring. But there it was all wrapped up in connection with my child for me to explore as far as I wanted to.

It is so worth mentioning that my children themselves have given me hours of inspiration that will keep me company long after they have moved on. Their imaginations have always far out weighed mine. The little ways they said words, the mistaken understandings they had about how things work in the world are story starters time and time again. This is when a little notebook, or computer file are great for capturing information for later retrieval. Oh and voice memo, photos and videos. Protecting childhoods is basically opening a bank account in which you can deposit millions worth of inspiration for use in retirement.

Things that freed me from the idea of balance needing to happen every single day and shifted me to see it through the over a lifetime sense, were letting the dishes pile up and lowering my own expectations while believing with every sense of who I am that there is time. The dishes could always wait for a toddler ready to dance to that song for the tenth time and for the words that threatened to escape if they weren't nailed down to a piece of paper. Lowering the expectations I had for myself allowed me a freedom to just be present with my children, to see the magic of the world with them, depositing endlessly into that creative bank account I mentioned above. Trusting, that there was time is a hard lesson for a gal who’s dad died earlier then your average well lived life. But it’s true. There is enough time.

Meeting my children’s needs with immediacy and consistency built a foundation of trust on which they could grow and mature. They knew their needs would be met and this helped them, with time and age, to build the skills to meet their own needs. Their tanks were often filled to overflowing which meant waiting while I just finish this up was something they could do. It also helped them to understand, again with time and patience, that each member of the family has their own needs. Which made it possible now and again for me to request time to complete a piece of art, or writing that called at my heart strings. In fact, lately those projects have pulled my now older boys in to creating alongside me, and that’s a magic I will likely write about more than once.

To sum it all up I dare say no one looks back upon these years of raising children and wishes they’d spent less time playing with these precious human beings. Finding my creative self engaged in a connected, peaceful relationship with these two amazing human beings is my life’s work.

Shannon - I can't thank you enough for sharing your words here today. As always, I am left feeling like a balm  has just been administered to all of my worries about finding time. You are so right, there is always time. Thank you, my friend! 

Links for Shannon:
Breaking Daylight

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, May 8, 2015

April's book pile

April came and went, with not so many showers, but plenty of books. It was a month for fiction alone, and I haven't minded getting swept away in the least. 

1. The Bookseller: A Novel by Cynthia Swanson
This was clever, though a bit predictable from the middle part on. I enjoyed the story, though the narrator was not the most likable for me - which isn't always a bad thing! Another story full of what if's and what could have been. Ultimately the narrator finds herself in two different lives, one during the day and the other when she dreams. As a reader you find yourself wondering which reality is, well, reality... and there in lies the clever aspects of the book. You'll have to read to find out!

2. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
I was introduced to Winterson during college when I read Written on the Body, and have enjoyed her prose ever since. I started Lighthousekeeping months ago, and then something happened and it got put aside... so I finally picked it back up and fell in love all over again. Winterson's writing is smooth and fluid, and even when you're not quite sure what she's trying for, you can feel it fully. This is another book that I will reread and underline, for there are so many passages that need to be read over and over.

“It was a long story, and like most of the stories in the world, never finished. There was an ending - there always is - but the story went on past the ending - it always does.” ~Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping

3. Outline by Rachel Cusk
This was one of those books that I found in the new fiction section at the library. I knew nothing about it, but the blurb on the jacket sounded interesting. Cusk weaves a story about the narrator through her interactions with those around her. Hardly a straight forward story, but full of subtle mystery and intrigue... I thoroughly enjoyed Outline.

4.The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This is a story about a fictional couple...  loosely based on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, except it's an American exchange student who falls in love with the heir to the British throne.  If you have an obsession with the monarchy, love all things British, you'll probably enjoy this story! There were some moments when I felt I was reading about Will and Kate because of the accuracy and details, and the speculation that went into parts of the novel made me cringe a little {Bex and her love life get a little complicated...}... but it's all in good fun and it was a great novel to read while waiting for news of the newest little princess ;) The authors could not have timed the release of this book any better!

5.A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
I've long been a fan of Kearsley, and have read all of her other work.... and love it all. That being said, this and her other most recently novel have fallen a bit short for me. I was dedicated to reading it, as I knew I'd eventually get into the story, but it took a good third of the novel  before it turned into a page turner. I still enjoyed reading about the Jacobites, and being transported into another time in history. Kearsley's attention to detail is both wonderful, and at times tiresome. But... the magic in her books lies in the love story, and this one didn't disappoint. It never fails that at least once during the book I will be sitting in a puddle of mushy tears because the girl and the guy finally realize they love each other and all is right in the world. What I love about all of her books is that while it's categorized as historical romance, there's more adventure than there is romance. The amount of research that goes into each one of her books is astounding, and when you are reading any of her books you can't help but feel you are in them. If you're new to Kearsley I suggest starting with The Winter Sea.

6.Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
A story that revolved around the parent drama in a kindergarten class... the winner here is the dialog. Witty and clever, that's what kept he book moving for me. One story line in particular didn't work all that well for me, but with several to follow that isn't surprising. A bit predictable, but still fun to watch the social dynamics of any group {and of course, the drama... there's always drama when you put people together who wouldn't normally be friends if it weren't for the shared interest of children!}. Ultimately a story of friendship, marriage, and the lies we keep... and the ones we tell. A good beach read. I'm new to Moriarty, and have already started another by her, so I do enjoy her story telling!

7.Station Eleven: A  novel by Emily St. John Mandel
Oh my word... this book. It'd been recommended to me by several people, and so I finally requested it from the library. This was an excellent book. Truly. Beautifully written. Ingenious even. Station Eleven is a story about a post plague world... ultimately filled with hope and beauty and truly about the human spirit, but also showing how fragile society really is. I guess I'd call it haunting, as it haunted my dreams for about three night straight. I couldn't sleep while, and after, reading it. Maybe it was too spot on, too real. It felt like a possibility, and it terrified me. BUT if you don't get terrified while reading about life like post apocalyptic scenarios, you should read this book!

And there we have it... what have you all been reading? Any must reads? Any books that surprised you? I'd love to hear!

Monday, May 4, 2015

creating in the midst: Amanda Milner

Welcome to Creating in the Midst!

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.