May 22, 2015

I can do anything

On the eve of my son’s first birthday I got some news. Bone melting news. My dream of publishing a young adult novel was suddenly a reality and OMG was I dreaming? It was like winning the lottery. Suddenly I had a publisher, an agent, and an honest to goodness book deal and what?  Simon & Schuster wanted to set up a phone call and they needed my bank info so they could wire me my advance, and oh by the way, they needed my author photo and bio?

I didn’t sleep for a solid 72 hours.

My deal was different than most because it was basically this: We think you’re a good writer, and we think people are going to like your book, but you’re going to have to rewrite it. How does one year sound?

And thus began my life as a nap time writer. And by that, I mean I kept my most important job as a full time mom to what may be the fastest toddler on the planet but also had to figure out a way to squeeze in some writing time. Okay, a lot of writing time.

This was really, truly (really) not easy. (Did I mention I’m mother to the fastest toddler on the planet?)

The first few weeks I decided to just stop sleeping. I’d stay up all night writing and take care of toddler by day. Perfect, right? What could go wrong?

(Cut to me sobbing into a carton of Cool Whip at 3 AM.)

So then I started the actual work of finding more time. It was a huge process and required a whole lot of patience on the part of my husband, but I did figure it out, and over a year later I am the proud author of a novel I cannot wait to shove in people’s faces. So where did all that extra time come from? Some was paid for, some was borrowed, but a lot of it came down to my big lesson of the year:


And by that, I mean, if I want to be a full time mom and a writer I can totally make that work. But  if I want to be a full time mom and a writer, and part time employee and dedicated yogi and a perfect housekeeper and a gardener and volunteer and keep up on all my favorite blogs, and get my hair done every six weeks….well, that’s not going to work.

So here’s what I did:

  • I hired a babysitter for 8 hours a week
  • I gave up my yoga membership and started doing shorter workout videos at home
  • I stopped spending nap time doing stupid stuff like surfing the Internet
  • I pretended to not notice all the weeds in my yard
  • I stopped blogging (sorry)
  • I took people up on their offers when they asked to watch Sam
  • I let my hair get long and scraggly
  • I told my dad I still really wanted to work as his writing assistant, but I could only do the actual writing assistant part and not the other things (events, fan mail, websites, etc.)
  • I shuffled our finances so I could hire a housecleaner to come twice a month
  • For several months I got up at 6 AM to write for two hours before the day started
  • I got good at quick dinners
  • I hung out with my friends less
  • I gratefully GRATEFULLY allowed my husband to take on more than his fair share
  • I sometimes wore my clothes twice because no one had time to do the laundry
  • I lost a lot of sleep

I know I am crazy privileged to have been able to do things like hire outside help, and I am also blessed with a lot of family/friend support. But my point is, even if you are a young mom, or you’re supporting your family, or you’re taking care of your aging parents or you have a super demanding job or WHATEVER, I really think you can find a way to do the one thing you truly want to do. (Really.)

So here’s my advice to you. If you find something that makes you want to sing from the rooftops and has you waking up from a dead sleep to scribble wildly on a pad of paper you keep next to your bed, then find a way to do it. Even if its for ten minutes a day.

Because seriously, people. That’s what we’re here for. Don’t give up!

(Imagine a swell of inspiring music.)

XO. And thank you so much for reading my blog, it means a lot to me!


8 thoughts on “Priorities

  1. Jamie Moesser

    Amen, Amen, Amen. Found my passion, now I’m making it happen. I’m so excited to read your book when it comes out!

  2. Brandon

    ugh, this is TOTALLY me!

    I feel like my career requires me to slave to it in my off hours, and much as I like learning about it there’s just really no time amidst all of the other important things in life.

    One thing I will say though a bit off topic… I’ve been feeling lately like the story we were told by our parents about “you can be anything you want to be” was really just a well intentioned lie. I mean sure, most of us can be moderately good at most things with sufficient effort. But most of us can’t be experts at most anything no matter how much we slave away at it. I don’t know the point of mentioning this, just the title of your post made me reflect on the false expectation we’ve been sold.

    1. jenna Post author

      Brandon, thanks for the comment! And I totally agree with the “You can be anything” story we’re being told not being quite accurate. When I was teenager I would have given ANYTHING to be a professional ballerina, and even though I worked like crazy I didn’t have the body for it (turnout, proportions, etc.) and therefore it was firmly out of my reach. Have you noticed that it’s the theme of so many children’s movies too? I’m not sure what the solution to all that is (of course I want to tell Sam he can achieve big things if he works hard), but it does feel false in some ways.

      1. Aimee Arnold

        Jenna, there is a movement in education towards promoting a growth mindset mentality to our children (and ourselves). You can read more eloquent renditions, but essentially it’s about praising work and perseverance over innate brilliance. I’ve seen a real difference in my kids, both at home and at school as a result if the shift in thinking. Sal Kahn has a great article about it. Check it out! :) Aimee

  3. Kristen

    This may have to become my new motto. Of course I’m the idiot who decided to relish having time off from work to play with my toddler daughter (only 2-5 mph slower than Sam because she’s about that much younger) by taking on a massive house project. I have also tried the “who needs sleep?” approach and I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one thinking I can do it all, juggling it all and trying not to die in the process (though I’ve chosen ice cream or Fritos over 3am Cool Whip). It’s good to know that there are other moms out there doing the same, surviving the same, and making it through. (And successfully not swinging chairs at those who say it’s so NICE to be able to work at home with the baby… while not sleeping, stressed to the hilt, staring at the mountain of laundry, feeling like a failure and being told to enjoy every moment of parenthood…)

    1. jenna Post author

      LOL! The image of chair swinging made me smile. Isn’t it crazy, everything we have to balance? The other day I had the thought that I will most likely forget how incredibly stressful the day-to-day can be, and I’ll just be left with the dreamy sepia highlights that most parents seem to end up with. But when you’re in the middle of it? Oh boy.


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