Early on in my professional years, I became incensed at the ubiquitous images in magazines of women working at computers with their child joyfully sitting on their lap. As a single mother at that time trying to launch a freelance writing career, I quickly discovered it was infeasible to get any work done while my little cherub danced his chubby fingers across my arrowroot biscuit-dotted keyboard.
Even though I can work from home thanks to being hired by a website content writing service, I know that being home and being present are not the same. Writing, for me, requires large blocks of quiet solitude behind a closed door.
During the holiday season, when my family demands are in full swing but extra money is needed for holiday indulgences, I struggle with the question of how much time, if any, should I carve out for my writing life. Should it be business as usual, or should I heed that internal unmerciful directive, “pencils down”?
I do love filling our family home with the aroma of freshly made Carmel almond shortbread cookies on the kitchen counter and dark chocolate fudge simmering on the stovetop. Nothing is more inviting to me than our living room at night during the holidays, lit only by tea light candles.
But even as I nestle in a corner of the sofa entranced by the way the shadows play across my growing son’s face, and enjoying how relaxed my hard-working husband is, my thoughts may wander to the plot points for my next novel, or the outline for a pending freelance article. Family is my first love but writing runs a close second. In order not to subtract precious hours from family time, later I’ll find myself slipping quietly out of bed at one, two, even three o’clock in the morning, booting up my laptop and eagerly clicking on that beautiful, giant blue “W” on my desktop, a symbol for me of creation and limitless possibility.
The lack of sleep doesn’t deter me, though maybe it should. Once I have the seedling of an idea in my head, my mind won’t stop composing until I’ve grasped the words from the air and secured them a place on my computer screen. I rationalize my nighttime obsession by imagining that the Little Drummer Boy would appreciate my quest for cadence and rhythm in my writing.
As I ponder the dilemma now, I realize that perhaps the solution lies within two of the most universal messages of the holidays, sharing and giving. My family must share me with my writing, and I must give them my undivided attention when I am with them. When I communicate to my family the need for writing in my life, even during the holidays, I know they will understand, as they nearly always do.
Half an eternity ago, someone dear once told me that love requires sacrifice. I think I can do a little of that for my family. And I can finally look forward to a good night’s sleep.
Kate S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.