Trish Heinrich

Mother, Author, Hero

Category: Parenting

Writer Mom Life Podcast Interview

Being a mom and an author is kind of like juggling bowling pins that are on fire while balancing on a ball in the middle of a lake of gasoline.   For a while, I thought I was relatively alone in this death-defying stunt.  But I have recently discovered that I couldn’t be more wrong.

The Writer Mom Podcast is, as the tagline goes, made by indie author moms, for indie author moms. I was fortunate enough to meet the wonderful host Daphne James Huff on the Indie Author Life facebook group; with is heavily populated with indie author parents.   She mentioned she was launching this podcast and I wanted to cry with relief.

“I’m not alone!” I wanted to shout.

Along with co-host JR Frontera, Daphne delivers some much-needed advice, laughter, and comradery twice a month. I never miss an episode, and that’s not just because she interviewed me.

Yep, yours truly recorded an interview. 

The weekend before the interview went live, Daphne and her husband took a trek out to Seattle. It just so happened that I was attending Geek Girl Con that weekend and so we found an hour to meet over coffee. It was so nice to just chat without children or author duties tugging at us. Daphne is a pretty awesome gal.

Daphne James Huff and Trish Heinrich

Daphne and I in Seattle

So, sit back, grab a cup of something (coffee, tea…wine, no judgment here!) and take a listen.

Don’t’ forget to subscribe if you fall in love with this podcast like I have.

Instructions on Flying: First let go

It was a sunny fall afternoon. I had just finished brunch with my best friend and was sitting in my car crying.  This was a breaking point, a reckoning of sorts.  I had been trying to balance being a new mother with being an actress, and it wasn’t working.

I had known from a young age that I wanted a creative life.  And if that meant sacrificing having kids to do it, then so be it. Then my husband came along. He told me that we were a team and together we could make it work. He was and still is, a true partner, doing everything he could to support me as I tried to claw my way back up the indie acting ladder.

But on this day it was clear to me that it just wasn’t enough. That realization broke my heart and terrified me.

I knew I would shrivel without a creative outlet, but I also knew that I couldn’t be an actress anymore.

What followed was a year or two of trying to fill that creative void with things mothers are supposed to do. I baked, I tended a garden, I made all kinds of things from food to playdough from scratch.  But every time I’d end up feeling more depleted than filled up and I’d throw in the towel.

Then on another fall afternoon, something clicked.

When my husband and I were working our way through three years of infertility, I had written a novel as a way to distract myself.  It wasn’t a good novel. But I had finished and edited it with all the love I had wanted to give to a child. When we had that child (an exuberant and joyful little girl), the novel got shelved.   Before I fell in love with acting, I had wanted to be a novelist. I wondered, on that fall day,  if going back to that first creative love might be possible.

By this time, I’d had another child, and things had gone off the charts busy.  When I approached my husband about doing NaNoWriMo in 2015, he said ‘Yes’ with very little hesitation. He pitched in with meal prep, watching the kids after work and on weekends so I could have enough writing time. He read my second draft, gave story advice, supported me through every moment of self-doubt and fear, and cheered every victory no matter how small. He was patient as I interrupted conversations and had later than usual dinners because an idea had hit and I had to write it down.

When I decided to Indie Publish, he once again threw his support behind me wholeheartedly.  Going so far as to give me seed money from some of the proceeds of the sale of our townhouse. It’s safe to say that without my husband I would not, today, be launching my very first full-length novel.

Our path is never straightforward

I loved acting, and I was quite good at it too. I met my husband and some of my best friends through acting school and the indie film industry.  But when I look back on that day, crying in my car, I see the painful end of one thing creating the seeds of something new. Realizing this has brought something into sharp focus for me.

Our path in life is full of forks, twists and turns that both exhilarate and terrify us. Sometimes we refuse to take a particular turn, sitting down in terror at the unknown before us. Then, one day, the weight of doing nothing becomes more unbearable than the fear and we get up and start walking. For a lot of us, that one moment is the start of some of the most fulfilling endeavors of our lives.

That’s how I feel about being an Author. I am so grateful that in the midst of my fear I chose to trust my instincts and take those first trembling steps down a new path.

Today those steps have turned into leaps and increasingly I find myself doing what the song says: Defying Gravity.  This is the life I dreamed of all those years ago as a child. I didn’t get here the way I thought I would. That’s ok. It’s no less fulfilling. And when I feel those stomach dropping moments of fear and exhilaration, it really does feel like flying.

Is there something in your life that you’re struggling to let go of or begin?  Are you having a hard time seeing the possibilities that could come from letting go of something you’ve held dear? I know how that feels. If you want some support, please leave me a comment below or email me:  trish@trishheinrich.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

And, if you’d like to read the book that started it all, you can now purchase Serpent’s Sacrifice in Kindle ebook format from Amazon.

 

Five Simple Things: How to be an Author and a Parent

How in the world can an author get anything done with two small kids and no childcare?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  The one I’ve tuned into countless podcasts for the answer to, only to be disappointed when the author spends five minutes on how great their nanny, or day care is and that’s it.

What about those of us who just can’t afford child care, be it daycare or a nanny?

Well, through trial and error, I have figured out how to write a book and start an Indie Author business without going crazy. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system by any stretch. And maybe a few of you out there have some tools and tricks that I won’t mention here; if so PLEASE share.  But if you need some simple guidance to get you through the weeds until your kids are in full time school, then read on friend.

First of all, basic information:

My daughter is seven and in first grade, so for most of the time she’s taken care of. Except, of course, for snow days, and holiday breaks.  My son is four and is in his first year of preschool three mornings a week. Now, that preschool time is HEAVEN because I get two and a half uninterrupted hours of work during what is my prime creative time. I know that not everyone can afford most preschools. There are some programs through community centers that have very low or no cost preschool programs that you might want to check out if you’re interested.  On to the good stuff!

#1-My Secret Weapon: Quiet Time

I am an introvert. My children are extroverts. If you know what this means, you know that they have been steadily sucking the energy out of me since day one. (No, I’m not saying my kids are vampires…not exactly.)  When my son was an infant and my daughter had started to phase out her nap, I knew that I just couldn’t get through the day without that precious break. So, I instituted Quiet Time.

At first, my daughter would stay in her bed and play quietly for about two hours. You read that right: two hours. When she got too bored with staying in bed, I let her out of bed, as long as she stayed in her room. Now, this took time to perfect. She hated being alone, I mean with a fiery passion. But now, at age seven, she asks for this time when she’s not in school. As she’s gotten older, I’ve changed the activities she can do. Now, she gets a little Kindle or Mine Craft time, she can do art projects with markers, things like that.  My son is also on Quiet Time since phasing his nap out this year. For him, the concept of quiet play time is hard, but he’s getting better.

This time in the middle of day, which used to be recharge time, has become Author time for me.  I give myself a forty-five minute lunch, during which I eat and do something that fills my inner well. Then, it’s work. Some days I get an hour and half, other days between running upstairs to help my son with the potty or ask him to be quiet, it’s more like forty-five minutes. I’ve found that working against a hard time constraint helps me focus better. I’ve written four thousand word chapter in an hour because I just had to.

Quiet Time has been stretched out to about two and a half hours these days, and the kids are far from bored. In addition to a little Kindle time, they have some art supplies, my son has his huge Hot Wheels track and cars, puzzles, books, dolls. They have a very rich imagination, so usually they end up playing there. Sometimes I go to check on my son and he’s asleep on the floor or in his bed, which isn’t bad either.  Basically, they both like Quiet Time, and I feel like I’m not only getting some work time but teaching them a valuable life skill: How to build down time into your life. Which is something we all need.

#2-Use Screen Time Strategically.

This might be a bit controversial. Screen time is a huge hot button issue with many parents, I get it. But I find that without child care, this is a necessity for me if I’m going to be an indie author.  During holiday breaks when I’m home alone with both kids  I need a few extra hours to build an author business.

Now, before you think I just plop my kids down in front of the TV for unlimited shows, let me say this: We limit their screen time. They get less screen time than the average American child their age, but also more than I’d like if I’m being honest.  They will get about an hour either in the morning or afternoon depending on how the day plays out. This is in addition to the Kindle (or in my daughter’s case Mine Craft) time they get for Quiet Time.  The parent controls on the Kindle Fire allows me to set a time limit, so they don’t play for the full Quiet Time.

My son’s time limit is anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. My daughter’s time, because she‘s older, is around an hour to an hour and a half. Now, combined with their TV time that may sound like a lot. Like I said, in an ideal world, they wouldn’t have that much.

Maybe your kids are the kind that will sit and play wonderfully on their own for hours on end, never needing your attention or input. That’s not my kids. They will play with each other for long stretches, but it’s loud and rambunctious. That’s  not something I want to squelch, it’s who they are.  Though there are boundaries to how they can play in the house, I also give them freedom. Having said that, listening to your kids play loudly and eventually devolve into a fight, isn’t really conducive to getting work done. So if you’ve been feeling hot pokers of guilt in your heart every time you put on Sesame Street just so you can edit one chapter, STOP! There’s nothing wrong with it, seriously!  It’s a tool at your disposal, it’s there to be used. So use it.

#3-Your Partner Can Parent Too.

Growing up the only time I really saw my Dad take over from my Mom was when she was horribly sick, like barely able to get off the couch sick. Any other time, my Mom was the primary care giver even when my Dad was home. Not that he was absent or anything, but it was understood that my Dad worked all day, had a hard commute and when he got home he was to be left alone while my Mom finished dinner and we set the table. After dinner, then we could engage with Dad.

It’s been a challenge for me to shift that thinking, no matter how feminist I am. When you’re raised with a particular example of relationships, your subconscious defaults there.  To this day, it’s sometimes hard for me to ask my husband to take lead with the kids so I can get some creative time. This has NOTHING to do with him. He has always been fully supportive of me being an author, in that respect I am incredibly lucky.

One thing that helps, though, is if I ask him a day or two ahead of time. That way he’s not caught flat footed and I don’t feel like I’m springing something on him. The way we’ve worked it out goes something like this: I fix the kids dinner, and sit with them or do dishes. Hubby comes home in the middle of their dinner time, after changing his clothes, he takes over. I put on head phones and write for about an hour. Then he takes the kids upstairs and gets them ready for bed. I come upstairs in time to kiss them good-night, sometimes to read to one of them.  Then, he and I enjoy dinner just the two of us either talking or watching a show.  This sounds really simple, but I’d bet it’s not something you’ve considered.

For me I would feel bad that my husband was “doing my job”, as well as guilty because we weren’t having a family dinner. Turns out the kids don’t mind. On these nights they get some of their favorite foods like mac and cheese or chicken nuggets and fries. And, it makes family dinners all the more special for all of us.  On average I ask him to take over with the kids about twice a week, more if I’m sick or it’s been a particularly hard day as a Mom (because let’s face it, stay at home parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there without trying to be author on top of it).

#4-Specific Scheduling.

This one took a while to figure out. I love using an old fashioned paper planner, but I wasn’t using it optimally. I heard an author on a podcast say once that she will assign certain days of the week as either Writing days or Business days or Marketing days. If she only has a few hours that day,  she spends them doing whatever she’s assigned to that day. That has really helped because I can get overwhelmed with all the things that need doing as an indie author.

So, on the days my son has preschool, those are writing days. Any time I have for work on those days, I work on my novel.  The two other days of the week are for business development, education, website, blogging, or marketing. Since I started doing this I’ve been WAY more productive.

I usually take Sunday and look over my week, making sure that what I’ve assigned for each day works. Sometimes I drill down into specifics for each day if necessary. If it’s a holiday break, then sometimes I have to shift things around, but I still try to adhere to this as much as possible.  I also do some basic menu planning for the week so I know when I need to stop working in the afternoon in order to start cooking. I’ve found that this helps a lot because by about four o’clock, I can sometimes have some pretty bad decision fatigue. Which brings me to-

#5-Take A Personal Day

I know what you’re thinking:  “But I have a novel to finish, butts to wipe, lunches to make, puke to clean up, Lego’s to trip over, doll heads to glue back on….”    Yeah, I know. I do too. But we are USELESS if we are tapped out. And let’s face it, being a Stay at Home Parent  alone can zap our energy reserves.  I had to learn this over and over again the hard way because I hate taking time off.  Sometimes, however, my body will just shut down and I have no choice. Those are the bad kinds of breaks, the ones that take us out for a week or more.

So, I had to ask myself: Do I want pneumonia or a day of being a little lazy?  I’ve decided one day every few weeks is a much better option. I usually plan a day around my menstrual cycle because that wipes me out. Then I will reserve another day during the month that is for myself. Instead of creative time or marketing during the times I talked about, I read or watch TV. Sometimes I’ll catch up on podcasts but usually not because that ends up feeling a little like work.   Taking a personal day is still a challenge for me.  Sometimes my husband has to remind me that it’s necessary.  Sometimes I find myself tense and thinking about my To Do list when I’m supposed to be resting. That’s when I take a deep breath,  tell myself that what I’m doing is OK.

In the end, Heroic Moms and Dads, trying to be creative with kids is hard and can make you feel like you’re all alone. But you’re not, I’m right there with you.  If you need a pep talk, if you have questions or need to vent, then I’m your gal pal! Leave something in the comments, join the conversation on Facebook or feel free to email me.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© 2017 Trish Heinrich

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