How often do you pursue your own big ideas? Whether it’s perfectionism, fear or just the ongoing battle with fractured time, Moms tend to push their brilliant plans aside. They can perceive it’s for the ‘greater good’ to focus on family. Or, worse, they don’t trust their abilities to figure out the details. In our research countless Moms shared the desire to write, whether it’s a journal, blog or a book. Here’s how Arianna made the process manageable and enjoyable.
“I had been writing on the topic for a few years and so, I knew I had some source material. So, I created an outline for the book. And then hired someone to go through all my blog archives and pull the links into the outline, so it became annotated.” Brilliant! It helps to have a starting point. Working with an editor to frame up your thinking can surface new ideas. And save precious time.
Take the Graceful Timeline
Arianna admits, “I did not have a writing schedule. I would read about people who said, ‘first thing in the morning, write for two hours.’ And I scheduled myself that way for like a week. Then I was like, this is never going to work.”
There are so many interruptions, between parenting and now, the pandemic. That to create a predictable window of availability can feel like a nonstarter. But there are many paths to publish. She said, “The blessing and the curse of self-publishing, versus the traditional route, is that no one is giving you deadlines, except you.”
Work in Sprints
Arianna’s book, The Expecting Entrepreneur. is all about planning successful maternity leaves. And she applied similar organization when writing. She explained, “So, there were definite periods of time where I would work in sprints. I would be like; okay for the next two months, I am in revision mode.” Wise. She would work in short, intentional bursts to reach or finalize key milestones.
Although going solo can be tempting, top performers seek support. Often in the form of mentors, allies and coaches. So, consider finding experts. “I hired people who would do a round of editing and then pass it back to me. Then I would make revisions and they would get a second round. So, I did that kind of loop, in several weeklong sprints for the first few chapters,” Arianna explained.
She added, “And then it reached a point where I just spent a few hours here and there on a weekend morning, to crank out the last two chapters.”
Permit Yourself Space to Focus
Find your distraction-free zone when needed. And it might not be at home. Arianna explained, “I ended up at the stage where I was like, I want to finish this damn book! So, what I did was, take three different weekends at Airbnb’s an hour away.” A mini self-directed writing retreat. She added, “It was two nights a week and that’s how I got through the last two chapters. And then I had a master planning weekend, that got me to the finish line for the publication and marketing stuff.”
Care for Yourself
If writing isn’t part of your self-care routine, find what relaxes you. It can help release that waterfall of ideas. Arianna said, “I’ve never thought of writing with a self-care lens. But I’m noticing that the things that I set up to make writing possible in my life, like the Airbnb’s, catching up with a friend or going on a walk, come hand in hand with the self-care.”
She explained, “If I am in back-to-back meetings before my writing time, I’m actually just going to respond to old emails and scroll Instagram. So, to write, almost becomes an exercise in setting up the optimal conditions for myself. How can I arrive at this chunk of hours, that are my writing time, as the best version of myself?” Amen! “It usually means having a full meal before and not having to jump into a meeting right after. And those are things that feel like self-care, regardless of whether I’m writing or not.”
And get Into the Zone
Experiment with what helps you feel at your most creative. Arianna said, “I was reading about the best ways to set yourself up to write. And there are two pieces of advice that I liked. One was to free style write or journal. Not about the topic at all but just to set yourself up for a writing practice. To let the words come and see what happens. And then, reading something totally unrelated. Like a novel or a poem, for the first 5 or 10 minutes before starting to write.”
Let Go of the ‘Perfect Time’ Myth
There is no ideal time to do anything. She said, “When I set my mind to do something, I can make it happen, which is a nice feeling.” Arianna wrote her book during a challenging time in her life. She said, “The three years writing the book were like a shitshow in terms of my family life and health. So, it was interesting how at some points in the process it felt like work. But also, at some points, it was a break from my hard life. It was the most joyful and creative space I had.” Beautiful.
So, if you’ve wanted to write, give yourself the permission. And the time to do so. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even planned out in detail. There are many ways, even while parenting, working and navigating chaos, to do something you’re excited about.
Many thanks to the talented Arianna Taboada!
Grateful to the amazing parents who have participated in our research study. Have you chimed in yet? Share your pandemic experiences! How are the latest changes affecting your life? It’s quick and the results from this study are used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Arianna Taboada, MSW, MSPH (she/her/ella) is the founder of The Expecting Entrepreneur, a consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs design parental leave plans that meet their business model and personal needs.
Arianna speaks and writes about parental leave and respectful maternity care as an issue of social justice, human rights, and economic equity. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the International Journal of Health Equity, Advances in Social Work, and Ethnicity & Health. She is a co-author of Degrees of Difference: Reflections of Women of Color on Graduate School, published by The University of Illinois Press in 2020, and The Expecting Entrepreneur is her first solo-authored book.
Arianna lives, works, and plays with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit www.ariannataboada.com