First of all, the extraordinary privileges of parenting seemed too important to pass up. God was lending to me three small, remarkable humans for a season, and I didn’t know which part of me I would have to carefully pack away first.
I tried for a compromise. For many years I taught English part-time to teenagers each morning and taught Life to my toddlers each afternoon. As my children grew, so did I. But my personal writing ambitions were always close to the surface, asking for more oxygen.
By the time I turned forty, I had written for everyone else but me: articles, curriculum, essays, even a tour of duty writing for a lousy reality television show. My honors students no doubt sensed my love of language, but like them, I didn’t want my writing to be duty-bound. I wanted to teach them that language had power beyond a five-paragraph essay or a standardized test. I launched a personal business by developing an annual young writers workshop, and I kept writing for hire whenever the opportunity rose. But deep inside I wondered: could I really write fiction—the wild-eyed, imaginative stuff—without losing my equilibrium?
Finally, through some unselfish mentors and a whole lot of push, I wrote that first novel. I obsessed my way through late nights and coffee shop marathons. I escaped to the mountains and sacrificed vacation time. It hurt my family at times. But when a publishing company agreed to give me creative autonomy and professional support, that book was finally born. I admit I cried when I opened the first box and smelled the papery-sweet stack of novels with my name on it.
I doubt I was ready to write that first book at age 30. The two novels in progress are tied to my experience today, and the books yet-to-be-written will be made of the future. I love the give-and-take of writing. It takes guts and craftsmanship, but it gives imagination and color to an otherwise grounded life. If writing statistics hold, I, along with with thousands of other writers, will never have J.K. Rowling’s bank account. And like most people, I have to balance my dreams with those of my husband and children. Even so, I’m content living a small life in a big way.