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Erin Stewart shares that pursuing her dream meant balancing motherhood and writing and finding time whenever she could.
Seven years ago, I decided to write a book. I had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to turn my lifelong dream into something real.
Cue seven years of ups and downs and sideways, and now, I can finally say that yes, my book will be a book! An actual, buy-it-in-the-bookstore book that tells the story of a 16-year-old burn survivor going back to high school after a house fire left her severely disfigured. It’s a young adult fiction about friendship and trauma and resilience and the power of love to rebuild our lives.
“Scars Like Wings” comes out in one year in the fall of 2019 with Delacorte/Random House, and honestly, sometimes I still have to pinch myself that this dream is coming true. I have also noticed an interesting common thread in the reactions from friends (especially mom friends) when I tell them the good news. They usually ask some form of this question: “How did you find the time? I have so many things I’d like to do but there’s never enough time.”
Listen: No one has enough time. We are all working or raising kids or doing a million things that fill up our hours and days and lives. No one has extra time sitting around. I know I didn’t.
But I wrote the book anyway.
I did it because I decided seven years ago that I wanted this book to be more than a vague ambition. I decided it was time to prioritize my dream.
In a way, it was time to prioritize myself. This is so hard for moms. We are always last on the list, and sometimes I think we get so used to it that it feels strange to bump ourselves up the chain. But if you don’t stick your goal (and by association, yourself) at the top of the family priority list every once in a while, then you’re right: there will never be enough time.
If you decide it is time for your dream, then the second step is protecting these hours. I guarded my designated writing time like a mother bear. At first, I struggled with this. There was no guarantee my words would ever be anything more than a Word doc on my computer. It was a hobby. A pie-in-the-sky notion. Giving up time that could have been spent with my children or on paying jobs was not easy. I often doubted my choice. Still, I protected this self-allotted writing time fiercely. And slowly, those hours turned into pages, then pages became terrible rough drafts, and finally, drafts became a polished manuscript.
Then, I kept going. “Scars Like Wings” is not the book I set out to write seven years ago. I spent almost five years on that first book, which never got picked up by a publisher. So, I started another one and kept moving forward. I needed to write that first book, though, to learn how to write a novel. It wasn’t a straight path, but it was a necessary one, and I’m grateful I stayed on it despite its twists and turns. I’m fortunate that my hard work is paying off with publication, but even if it hadn’t, my years spent writing and practicing a skill I love would not have been a waste. It was my dream and it made me happy. What other reason did I need?
And finally, I found the time because I asked for help. I told my husband and children that this was something I wanted to pursue. I enlisted their support and asked for understanding if I had to miss a soccer game or do take-out dinners straight for a week. My family members know this dream matters to me, and since I matter to them, we’ve decided writing this book is worth some sacrifices.
I also looked for help outside my family. My friends help me watch my 2-year-old so I can write. My mom took my kids so I could revise or attend writing groups. Again, this was not easy. The guilt was and is often still real. I am pawning my kids off on other people to chase a dream. What kind of a mother am I?
Well, after seven years and much soul-searching, here’s the answer: I am a good mother. I am also a good writer. I can be both. I have many facets that make up who I am, and it’s OK for me to focus on different ones at different times.
My children are loved. They get plenty of my time. I have not failed them as a mother by carving out time for my dreams, too. Writing is a part of who I am. Ignoring a piece of myself doesn’t make me a better mother; it only makes me a martyr.
So to anyone out there reading this and thinking about a piece of yourself or a dream you may have lost somewhere along the way, find it. Find the time. You deserve the chance to work like crazy to achieve your potential. Your children deserve the chance to watch you do it. And the world deserves the chance to see just how much you have to offer.