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How to Write a Book and Be a Mother without Sucking at Both
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
February 2020
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
February 2020

Today's guest post was written by Katherine Wintsch, the middle-grade author of Slay Like a Mother: How to Destroy What's Holding You Back So You Can Live the Life You Want (available March 3, 2020).

If being a mother is hard, then juggling mom duties while trying to write a book is borderline bonkers. I know because I recently (barely) survived the experience while writing my first book, Slay Like a Mother: How to Destroy What’s Holding You Back so You Can Live the Life You Want.  

Slay Like a Mother is a self-help book that’s inspiring women around the world to slay their “Dragon of Self-Doubt” and if you’re trying to balance being a mom and writing a book, it’s likely you’re filled with doubt most hours of the day. The good news is that I have some strategies that can help you slay the negative voice in your head that’s telling you that you’re not good enough, smart enough or patient enough to nail the task in front of you.

I’m intimately familiar with that nasty, negative voice because for 20 years of my life I lived with debilitating self-doubt. Despite both personal and professional success, from the time I was a teenager to well after I gave birth, I lived with a deep-seated sense of lack anchored in the belief that I wasn’t good enough. I always felt I needed to do and accomplish more in order to be loved.

Eventually, I went through years of therapy, read dozens of self-help books and binged on hundreds of Oprah episodes to help heal myself from the inside out. I did the hard work and the homework to learn to love myself – mistakes and all – and now I’ve written a book to help other women do the same.  

And yes, I wrote the book while raising two kids.

Thankfully, before I started writing Slay Like a Mother, I’d already slain my self-doubt (I can’t recommend that order enough), which means that despite the monumental pressure of staring at a blank page and hungry children, I was able to pull off being a mother and writing a book without anyone getting hurt. Myself included.   

Here are four tips and tricks I deployed throughout this process that ended up saving my sanity. I hope they do the same for you!

Learn to Say 'No'

I am willing to bet that you probably already need help in this area. The good news is that working on something as big as a book can give you just the excuse you need to start saying no more often. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s required if you want to make it through this gauntlet alive. While writing Slay Like a Mother for eight straight months, everywhere I turned was another thing I needed to learn to say no to — telling other mothers to text my husband instead of me to schedule a playdate with the kids, saying no to fun field trips because of a pressing deadlines and (toughest of all) turning down time with friends so I could sit at a boring desk and write. But, like all things, practice makes perfect, and several months into writing my book, I was an absolute pro at saying no! And thankfully, the habit still sticks today.  

Open Up About Your Rejection

Unless you are Superwoman, you’re not going to write a book and come out completely unscathed from pain on the other side. In my case, the book proposal I wrote for Slay Like a Mother was rejected for four years by 23 different publishers. Ouch!

I am not going to lie and say I pulled myself out of this pity party alone because I didn’t. I relied on the strength of my friends, family and team at work to understand the depths of my disappointment and how to cheer me up. Just look at this encouraging message my colleagues left in my NYC hotel room after a handful of publisher rejections showed up on the same day.

And your children are no exception. It’s important for your little ones to see that life comes with both highs and lows. Don’t hide the hard parts.

Avoid Setting Superhuman Expectations

The best gift you can give yourself during this tough time is to set expectations you can achieve (and not die trying). You may believe that super high expectations will set you up for success; however, they’re setting you up for failure if they’re so high that even Wonder Woman couldn’t accomplish them on a good day. Here’s an example that might help put things in perspective.

Having high expectations sounds like, "I’m going to write a book while juggling everything going on at home." On the other hand, expectations that are too high sound more like, "I’ll land an A-list agent, write the best book ever written, be present to help the kids with homework every night and never miss a permission slip in the bottom of a backpack."

See the difference? Being a mother and writing a book at the same time is crazy enough. Don’t pile on the need for perfection throughout the process.

Revel in Your Family’s Pride

Sure, your family might be annoyed at you for ditching some of your domestic duties to chase your dream — and they’ll be sure to let you know it. In fact, hearing flak from your family is a realistic expectation that you should go ahead and set right now.

However, every once in a while, your loved ones are going to let it slip — to you or someone else — that they’re really proud that you’re going after what you want with gusto. 

For example, when I was writing my book, my eight-year-old son told his teacher that he was going to be the first person to buy his mommy’s book. And my 10-year-old daughter brought me to tears during a visit to the local library when she marched over to the front desk and asked if they’d be carrying her mother’s book when it came out.

Do not always assume that you’re subtracting from your child’s life by chasing your dream. Maybe you’re adding to their life. I believe becoming an author, after being rejected for so many years, has shown my children the power of never giving up on their dreams.

Even if I wasn’t home every night at the perfect time to make them the perfect dinner. They’re still alive and incredibly proud of their mother and the book that came out of the process.

I call that a slay!

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Comments
  • Elizabeth Ann Mathews

    Katherine, Thank you for this helpful and moving post. I loved your stories about your children's pride in your writing quest. I've had some similar experiences which keep me going. Best wishes with your book! -- Beth Ann Mathews SWP 2023 Deep Water: A Memoir of Loss, Adventure, and Love Rekindled

  • Rose CG Writing

    This all rings so true!