When I became a foster parent to a sibling group of three, it was soon obvious that many of the activities I had formerly enjoyed were going to have to go on the back burner, at least for now. I didn't mind -- I had always wanted to be a mom, and I looked forward to investing my time and energies into the lives of these children. But as time went on, the challenges I was facing became overwhelming ... and I longed for the simpler days of rejoining infinitives and weeding out extraneous modifiers. There was no way I could do this, of course. Sleep depravation and intensive ... togetherness ... had worked their magic; my highest aspiration each day was to get out of my pajamas and into the shower before it was time for bed again.
And yet, somehow I found time to journal. The time my husband coaxed Christopher out from under a table with a bowl of Cheetos. The time our foster son dealt a round-house blow into the midsection of our elderly priest ... right in the middle of Mass. One time, just for the fun of it, I took down a whole morning in ten-minute increments here: http://mommymonsters.blogspot.com/2007/02/day-in-life-of-foster-mom.html
Those moments at the keyboard, as it turned out, provided rich writing material for my subsequent books -- books written several years after these early motherhood experiences, such as my current book entitled Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert (http://www.christianword.com).
So now, when one of my writers at Canticle cries on my shoulder (either in person or online) about how she hasn't been able to string together two coherent sentences since the baby arrived, I offer the following pointers:
* Force yourself to pencil a few lines (or type them into a computer) every night. Create a habit you look forward to ... keep a pretty journal beside your bed, and write as you drink a soothing cup of herbal tea.
* Don't worry about creating something that future generations will consider profound or even coherent. Just jot down a few impressions, using all your senses. What did you see, hear, feel...?
* Skip the weather and the argument with your girlfriend over cloth vs. disposable. Concentrate on stories, discoveries, and miracles. What did your child teach you about yourself today?
* Parenthood is often a time when our spiritual side can blossom in new or unexpected ways. Try journaling in the form of a letter to God, or to your favorite saint. Use your journal time to record both your prayers ... and any answers you receive as well.
* As the children grow older and your writing projects become more ambitious, go back and read your journals. Mine them for memories and insights that have slipped your consciousness. As you read, other memories might surface ... be sure to record those as well. "Mommy Brain" can kick in at unexpected times; don't assume that something is so funny, startling, or momentous to forget. Put it down!
* When you are done recording your children's memories for them, begin working on family at the other end of the age spectrum. Record the stories of your parents and grandparents ... go through old photo albums and get them to talk about their own childhoods so those precious family memories are not lost.