The Year(s) of Crappy First Drafts

Fake lipstick of death.

I admit it. I haven’t written anything for the past four months. Four. Freaking. Months. I haven’t even read a book. (Gasp!) I have a myriad of reasons why – adding a foster child to the family being at the top of that list.

Some days I worry I have lost my desire to write, and other days I realize that is the sleep/privacy/date night/babysitter-deprived monster talking and I need to suck down a tall glass of Melatonin-laced warm milk go to sleep for a long, long time.

This afternoon – I caught my husband reading a book. Um… He doesn’t read books. He reads websites and Life Hacker articles. But here he was, downright captivated by whatever novel illuminated the iPad screen. I immediately loathed that book and the author that captured his interest so deeply that he didn’t flinch when our oldest bounced a ball straight into the flat screen TV. That’s a big deal, if you didn’t know.

The man was enjoying himself. How dare he?

I wanted to be the one to read and let him scrape soggy cereal off the floor. But if I attempt to read anything other than Dr. Seuss, one outrageously cute toddler smacks me in the eyeballs with sweaty fingers. At all times, my attention must be laser-focused on her or she has a meltdown. It’s ugly. By the time said grubby fingers are in bed, my brain is the consistency of pureed pumpkin, which is neither good for reading nor for writing.

Back to my man problems. I flopped down on the couch and rolled my head to the side. You know, so I could full-on glare at him. No use. He was oblivious to my jealousy. A few minutes later, while protecting myself from the child scraping fake lipstick across my eyebrow, Mark looked up and said, “Done.”

I snorted. “Good book?”

He just nodded and said, “Yes, really good. When will you finish writing the rest?”

Wait. What? I sat up, deflecting the lipstick spear from going up my nose.

“I finally got to those chapters you send months ago. I don’t think I can help you edit. I just got so into it I didn’t see many mistakes to fix. It’s really good!”

It’s amazing how lightning fast one’s attitude can change. If I had any more chapters to give him, I would have loaded them onto the iPad, cozied up a quiet space upstairs and warmed the man up some hot cocoa just so he would take his time. But I had no chapters because I have been absent from writing for four freaking… well, you remember.

What is my point? I don’t know. I’m tired.

Maybe it’s that you should always keep writing so you don’t miss opportunities to get a free critique? No. Maybe it’s that you don’t worry about taking a break from the craft if you have more important items on your to do list. Or that you should wear proper eye protection when attempting to relax around a toddler. I don’t know… I just don’t.

All sarcasm aside, this phase of life may not be conducive to thought-provoking creativity or consumption of worthy literature, but it is still a phase in which I love to participate. Sure, I know a few mothers who do it all – write brilliantly and parent even better. I’m not that person. I’ve never been an effective multi-tasker.

I want to make motherhood my first priority, but I don’t want to stop writing. So, I’ve decided I will consider these years my crappy first draft years. I’ll write when I can, no matter how scatter-brained and useless it may be. Then, I’ll revise when the kids are in school full-time and my brain firms up again. (Or chuck the drafts in the bin and wonder if I consumed too much Melatonin over the years.)

Sorry, folks, that’s as close as you’re going to get to an epiphany from me today. I hope you’re making the best out of your current phase of life. If you have time, leave a comment on how you cope with life getting in the way of creativity. And for heaven’s sake, please use small words and short sentences lest I get confused in my sleepless delirium.

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  1. #1 I obviously need to invade your house more often so that we can let our kids entertain each other.
    #2 in answer to your question, I often end up putting my writing ahead if my housework. Kids first, Writing second, house keeping third. If this produces any type of writing, I’m happy. But more than half the time I end up staring at a computer screen or notebook and accomplishing nothing, then feel guilty/annoyed/frustrated that I wasted all that time when I could have been doing something super fun like folding laundry.
    That’s all I got. Not very helpful. Hang in there.

    1. Ahem. Annette – you are THAT woman I’m talking about that writes brilliantly and parents even better. You may spend half your time staring at the computer screen writing nothing, but you spend the other half writing – so there ya go. Housework, schmousework…

  2. Well, I’ll be happy to read any “ol’ crappy” thing you want to send on over. I think the important thing is to write something to keep the writing mind active. I can only imagine everything you are accomplishing for/with your family right now. (Plus all the other outside responsibilities.) Don’t beat yourself up! You are super creative and your stories will see the light of day eventually.
    My biggest time waster is the internet-facebook-email. I need to set up a computer that locks all these things out during my writing time, so I can’t get in to look at any of it until the next chapter is finished. You think Mark could write me a program for that?

    1. Ha! I’m sure Mark could write a program for that, but I’m he’d probably just give you the same advice he gave me: Disconnect your internet. Ta da! I’m guilty of saying I need the internet for “research” but it always ends up a distraction.

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