I became a single mother almost six years ago when my husband died from burn injuries he sustained in a single engine plane crash. When he died, I had four children. The oldest three are biological and the youngest at the time, was adopted from China. My husband and I had talked about adopting again and I decided just because he died didn’t mean all of our dreams had to die with him. So when I announced to my friends and family that I was going to adopt as a single parent to my surprise I received nothing but support. Still, I think they were all shocked when I announced I was adopting another child several months later. But that’s another story.
I love children and for a good portion of my life, I devoted myself to my kids and my husband. But after Darrell died, I began to reevaluate everything. Who was I? What was my purpose? In a previous guest post, I talked about deciding to follow my dream and write a book. I also said that once I completed my first novel, I was hooked. Writing was the profession for me.
Which sounds nice, doesn’t it? I’m an author.(My older boys would now pretend to peck at their imaginary laptops with their index fingers.) The reality is that I have four kids from age fourteen to four living in my house. We have dance lessons and voice lessons, piano and violin. Play practice, Wednesday night church. Soccer. T-ball. We’re a busy household and I’m running these kids around pretty much by myself. (My two older sons often help if I ask for it.) That doesn’t leave a lot of time to write.
I try to write three books a year, but that doesn’t happen by just fitting writing in where I can. I have to schedule my writing time. I have to make it a priority. Sometimes that means taking a laptop and head phones so I can writing in a waiting room or car while my kids are at activities. Or sometimes it means telling my kids that I can’t cater to their “need” to go to the mall because Mommy has to work. Often it means starting to actually write after my kids go to bed, writing from 9 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. (You’d be amazed at all the non-writing things authors do.)
Once I decided to declare myself an author, I had to become serious about making time for it to happen. Sometimes, especially when I’m close to a tight deadline, I have to say no to things that make my children unhappy. Or I have to work after dinner when I’d rather be watching TV with my kids. These are choices I have to make to meet my deadlines. Even if they are self-imposed. Being self-employed often means working harder than you would at a 9-5 job, and writing is no exception.
I know mothers who feel guilty taking time from their kids to write and I used to be one of them. But not anymore. My kids might not realize it, but sitting in front of my computer is working. I’m not playing solitaire or Bejeweled. I may be on social media, but that’s work, too. (Self-promotion, connecting with readers) Any small business owner will tell you that when you start your own business, you spend a lot of time working to get it going. The same goes for writing. If you want to be successful, you have to produce. And if you want to produce, you have to make the time to do it.
It finally hit home with my older kids this summer when the proof of my first published book came in the mail. My kids held my book in their hands and scanned the pages, their eyes lighting up with the realization—Mom wrote a book. They looked at me with a whole new respect. Not only was all that work paying off, literally, with the book in their hand, but they also saw that Mommy had a dream and she worked her ass off to get it. The door to possibilities for them flung wide open. If Mom could achieve her dreams, so could they.
What better example could I show them?
Chosen Theme Song I write with music. Some people need quiet. Others need visual stimulation, but for me it’s music. Music sets the tone, sets the scene. If it’s a quite scene I might listen to Death Cab for Cutie. A car chase or fight? Linkin Park. I plug in my head phones and lose myself in the scene with my own personal background sound track. Most of the time I bock out the lyrics, only hearing the instruments, but others I hear the words and find myself amazed that the song seemed to be specifically written for my book. Almost every book I’ve written has a theme song. (The only exception is my humorous southern mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. I never found just one song that fit quite right.) My soon to be released young adult science fiction/romance, Torn, plays heavily on the guilt of the main characters. Guilt rules many of their decisions and actions, often with detrimental consequences. Linkin Park’s What I’ve Done is perfect for Torn. I had a hard time with Chosen. If I had to name a theme for the book, I would say it’s redemption. Both Emma and Will are broken and flawed. Will thinks he’s beyond redeemable yet he finds himself yearning for something more with Emma, even if he thinks she deserves better. But Will’s image isn’t the real him, just a persona he’s created to keep out the world so he can wallow in his guilt. He’s not the only one pretending. All three characters are so much more than they let others believe, hiding from the real world for varying reasons. Yet, one fact remains. They are pretending. Still, when I heard the Foo Fighters song The Pretender, it didn’t occur to me how perfectly it fit. Remember, I hear the instrumental and the lyrics often hit me later. But when I listened to the words I got chills. It was like the song was written about Will.
About the Author
Denise Grover Swank lives inLee’s Summit,Missouri. She has six children, two dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.
You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or stalk her on Twitter—Twitter.com/denisemswank
Denise Grover Swank began writing her first novel in the fourth grade, stopping at page seventy on her wide ruled spiral notebook. She continued writing in high school and attempted several novels in her twenties before life got in the way. In the fall of 2009, she participated in National Novel Writing Month, which led her to completing her first novel, a book which shall be eternally chained to a pillar in her external hard drive. Denise released her first published book in July, 2011, a southern mystery titled Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Denise lives inLee’s Summit,Missouri. She has six children, two dogs, and an overactive imagination.
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