I have much respect for my writer friends who manage to write during June, July, and August, when their homes turn into a wonderful blur of energetic children, lovely new grandbabies, and family vacations. Several of these writer friends hold full time jobs while keeping their spouses and significant others looking happy enough to me. I’ve asked my friends how they do it, and their reply usually sounds something like this, “I write during the kids’ naptimes, in the workplace lunchroom, at the coffee shop between errands, between meetings, and during the commute to and from work.” Well done. My single mother author friends have my utmost respect and admiration–they are the heroes of this story.
I came to writing novels in my late forties when my kids were in high school. My days were free from seven in the morning when my then-husband dropped the kids off on his way to work, until my trio returned home at seven in the evening for dinner—pure writing bliss. We were living in Brussels, Belgium, where I couldn’t work on the economy, so I enjoyed my creative life for thirteen years. I never took that life for granted, however, I was fortunate and I knew it. In 2005, I finished my novel, A Decent Woman, and that’s when the stuff hit the fan—my husband left me and our home. Peaceful days of pure writing bliss were replaced with years of struggle as I tried to remain afloat financially and emotionally.
Fast forward. Today I’m a happy, single, full time writer with adult children no longer under my roof. I am once again at peace and my writing days are blissful, but the summer months often interfere with my writing life. That doesn’t sound right, does it? I live alone, what could possibly prevent me from writing during the summer? There are many distractions this time of year—my flower garden for one, which constantly calls to me for attention and of course, the lure of the open road entices me on beautiful days. My home, while charming, is still a work-in-progress, and as with any 109-year old house, there are window sills to strip and paint, and the staircase needs repainting. Two of the three bedrooms remain unpainted, and I’d love to tile the kitchen and bathroom floors. My home wasn’t a fixer-upper when I bought it four years ago, but it definitely needed painting throughout, and paint dries faster in warmer temperatures. And I’m doing the work myself. These days I care for a young Chihuahua and a calm Maine Coon cat. There is no chaos in my home unless the upstairs claw foot tub doesn’t drain and I hear pinging droplets of water on the utility room floor below the bathroom. When that happens, it’s a not a great day. So far, so good.
During spring, fall, and winter, I read quite a bit and I write every day. I’m not a prolific writer, though. Actually, I’m quite a slow writer, but I do produce a good bit of work during the week (seven-day work week for me) that I’m usually very proud of. I churn out articles, blog posts, author interviews, and I am currently researching and writing my work in progress, The Island of Goats. But in summer, while I love this time of year, the distractions get in the way of my writing; more than I would like. I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve this situation, despite my friends telling me that I make great use of my time. I’m hard on myself. You see. I’m a Virgo.
So, how do my writer friends pen tomes amidst the demands of their families and their demanding writing muse? They possess incredible concentration, great organizational skills, a fierce determination, and they slap on heavy-duty headphones and lock the writing room door. Babysitters, summer camps for kids, stay-at-home spouses, friends, and grandparents relieve my writer friends, who inspire and motivate me to ‘get over it’ in regard to my summer woes, and sit down to write. Who cares if I have a huge block of time to write? I admit I still care; I want to write like I do the rest of the year–with little or no interruptions. Then, a blog post from a writer friend changed my perspective, and I gained a greater understanding of the blessing that is my writing life.
Last week, my friend who is a single mother and a successful author of bestselling women’s contemporary fiction books, wrote a blog post announcing she’d accepted a full-time day job in order to care for her children and pay her bills. I immediately got where she was coming from—writing books doesn’t completely cover the bills for the majority of authors I know, (understatement!) but I was still pretty surprised at her news. My friend’s words oozed with sadness and disappointment, and I applauded her courage and determination to continue writing and publishing books in the future. Despite knowing she will persevere—her muse and desire are strong, and she wants it bad enough to fight for it–my heart hurt for her.
I’ve been where she is today—I wrote A Decent Woman in 2005 and wasn’t able to pick the manuscript back up again until 2010, at which time, I’d divorced, gone back to school and graduated, and worked full time for three years while my children finished university. When they found good jobs, I moved to West Virginia to write full time. Many times, life will and does get in the way of our creative dreams and in the way of already realized dreams. Often we must make sacrifices for the greater good, and in the case of my friend–her children. This is a mere hiccup, a detour in her creative life because I know she will keep writing. We must remain flexible, but determined to get back on the creative road as soon as possible.
How will I organize my writing life this summer? While I won’t drive myself bonkers, trying to get it all done, I will reorganize my priorities. The two bedrooms will get painted in the fall when the growth in the garden has slowed down. Nature provides many lessons for me; it energizes and soothes my spirit, so I will continue working in the garden during writing breaks until the weather is too cold.
How will I get this new book written? One page at a time. By remaining present, focused, and by stroking and appeasing my muse, I will make steady headway with my work in progress, The Island of Goats. I will work hard in the hope of publishing a good second book, one that I pray will resonate with readers. Marketing a book never ends, so plan on seeing me on social media sites with A Decent Woman for as long as necessary.
How will I deal with life’s interruptions? By giving in to valuable interruptions that mean something to me and my creative life. I already see writing interruptions this summer, but they are joyous ones. In July, A Decent Woman is the Book of the Month selection of Las Comadres & Friends, National Latino Book Club with a teleconference in July–date coming soon! In late August, I’m visiting family and friends in Puerto Rico with my sister, which is also a research trip for my second historical novel, set on the islet, Isla de Cabras. I will be visiting independent bookstores on the island with my debut novel, meeting my readers, and making connections. I intend to drink lots of tropical drinks, walk the beach, take photographs, dance and swim while enjoying my Puerto Rican side of the family–they are the ones who inspire my stories of life in Puerto Rico. I will pray in churches and cathedrals, and give thanks for the blessing that is my writing life.
What does the fall look like for me? In October, I’m visiting friends in NYC and participating in a book signing at La Casa Azul Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, where A Decent Woman is now sold, and the following day, I will attend Las Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in NYC, which is always a great experience. At the end of October, I’ll be participating in the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston, WV, which is very exciting.
Each new day brings new experiences and yes, challenges. I will continue searching for the right balance in my life where I get my work done and have a life. Am I currently able to pay all my bills on a monthly basis on my writer salary? Not yet, but I’m certainly working on it.
I will keep at this wonderful writing life that I love, and I will embrace the gift of sharing my stories with readers. No cry babies allowed here.
Much love to you, T. I’m rooting for you, my friend.
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.
A DECENT WOMAN available on Amazon