I used to be a college writing instructor, juggling teaching classes at night while trying to be a mom during the day. That routine made me exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed. In 2009, I left my teaching job in order to be a full-time mom. Part of me felt like I was “giving up” by quitting teaching because I was losing a part of my identity. So I decided that while I was raising my growing family, I’d fulfill a long-time dream. I decided to write a novel.
Mainly, I needed a project to keep the adult part of my brain happy. I’ve always been someone who loves learning and thinking about life’s “big ideas,” so I threw that part of my brain into the creation of my novel, Voodoo Butterfly.
A year before I had begun writing, the idea for Voodoo Butterfly came to me in a dream when I was actually visiting New Orleans with my family. I dreamt of this woman who had the power to change evil people good. The next flash of my dream showed Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans absolutely covered in monarch butterflies. I tried to fall back asleep, but couldn’t, so I wrote the dream in my journal. When I started writing the novel, I decided my main character should unexpectedly inherit a voodoo shop in New Orleans. The catch? She knows nothing about voodoo or her secret power when the book starts.
Getting this book published has not been an overnight success story. It took me five years from the start of writing to publication. Over the course of writing and publishing Voodoo Butterfly, I’ve learned some really important lessons about balancing my roles as a mom, wife, and writer. So now I’m passing on my secret Jedi knowledge to you.
Carve out time for yourself
My husband and my kids know that if I don’t get writing time, then I turn into Mean Mommy. While writing the first draft of Voodoo Butterfly, I committed to 15 minutes a day of writing. Normally it would turn into an hour, but if I could only do the 15 minutes, that’s all that I would do. This practice enabled me to finish a version of the book that was good enough to get a request from an NYC agent.
Savor the creative process as a whole
My novel was rejected dozens of times by agents and editors. Finally my book did really well in a Romance Writers of America chapter contest. One of the judges of my submission owned Soul Mate Publishing and she offered me a contract. Many writers give up, I think, because they don’t savor the act of actually writing. They hold onto the hope of landing that superstar publishing contract or becoming the next self-publishing phenom. Successful writers do it because they love it, so be sure you’re savoring the creative process as a whole.
My friends and family are incredibly supportive of my writing. They help out with my kids, they have been beta readers for my novel, and have spread the word about the book’s release. Surround yourself with people that uplift you. Also find writing groups and critique partners to help you grow as a writer. My critique group, The Lit Ladies, have provided me with the constructive criticism I need but also, more importantly, the hand-holding and cheerleading that is necessary to face the many rejections that are NORMAL in the publishing world.
Take care of yourself
Stay hydrated, exercise, get fresh air, eat well, get a good night’s sleep, be in your happy place. You can click the links below for more tips about how writers and moms can be healthy in mind, body, and spirit:
Love your family
Some of the great writers died alone. Yes, those like Hemingway and Poe were geniuses but look at the trade-off they accepted for committing so fully to their art. I’m not willing to lose all the people I love in order to write. I want to balance things out. As a mom, I deal with whining, crying (sometimes it’s me crying…LOL), sleepless nights, and all manner of bodily fluids. But I also get to immerse myself in love. Our family has gotten to explore the world, laugh and play, create beautiful art, watch baseball games, dance around the living room, and share an endless supply of hugs and kisses.
There is no singular way to raise a family alongside a writing career; my way is a work in progress. Even though I may not have much time or energy to craft the next great American novel, I know that I’ve dedicated this time in my life to my three best creations, my son and daughter and my marriage. Along the way, I’ll also dedicate a bit of time to myself as a writer. That’s my bigger picture.
Camille Faye | Author of Voodoo Butterfly
Experience love, purpose, and the paranormal in New Orleans.