Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why We Aren't Famous

We are having fun here at BRP revisiting some older, popular posts. This one was originally published in March of 2009, about the time we decided it would be fun to have a little humor now and then.

Years ago when I first started writing, my children were all young and the formidable task of "writing around them" was daunting.

I remember one time in particular when one of my two-year-old twins, Danielle, known lovingly as Chicky, had just settled down beside me to help or hinder my writing. That depended totally on one's viewpoint.

She contributed a few words of dialogue consisting mainly of a few well-placed “Mommys,” spiced with a few unintelligible words of praise or criticism. Also, dependent on POV.

When she left the room, I breathed a sigh of relief and raced to get a few thoughts on paper before she came back. But alas, she’d gone into the kitchen to get the box of cereal I left on the counter and was off sharing it with her brother.

Should I have been delighted she was sharing for a change? Or angry because she snitched the cereal and hid in the laundry room and was now pouring cereal into the washing machine? If I hadn’t beaten our dog with my child-psychology book years before that, I could have looked for the answer. (A note to all the dog-lovers who are about to call the Humane Society. Our dog was much larger and harder bound than the book, and he loved the extra attention.)

That’s the way my writing life went for years. The moment I thought I had the most subtle, cynically amusing thought, matching the excellence of an Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry mapped out in my head, I was interrupted.

I remember thinking that if it weren’t for my kids, I would’ve been famous years ago. I could’ve sat beside Johnny Carson when he was still doing the Tonight Show and chatted amicably about my latest thought-provoking novel or my charming little anecdotes on life, If it wasn’t for the endless “MOMMYS”.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…”
“Mom, what is…?”
“Mom, can I have a snack?”
“Mom, would you tie my shoe?”
“Mother, if you don’t keep those twins out of my room…”
“Mom, why is it raining outside?”
“Mom, where is my homework…my lunch…my shoes…my coat?”
“Mom, if you’re not doing anything important, will you…?”


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten rave reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.  Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.And sometimes she wishes she had a kid bugging her, but only sometimes. 

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  1. Thanks, Maryann!

    This is exactly where I am in my writing career. But I often wonder, if I didn't have my kids pulling me in the opposite direction, would I want to be in front of the computer as much as I do?

    How do you feel now that your kids are out of the house? Obviously you are published and successful. Were you able to start being successful while you were still bouncing them on your knee, or were their overwhelming needs really part of the roadblock?

    I'm just curious. Of course, if this is too personal, you don't have to answer. :) I do fantasize about some day being able to sit for a whole two or three hours at the computer without ever getting up. That'll be pretty close to heaven for me.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Love your story and oh how it brings back so many familiar memories! I call it "mommy stutter writing"! A childs job is to make sure you can never finish a thought or a word when you're trying to write! LOL!

  3. That's Rascal's job. She likes to prowl around swiping things, like knit hands and gloves while I'm writing.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Loved this! When I was writing my first novel, I was a single mom with 2 kids and an 8-5 job. The only time to write free of interruptions was between 3:30 & 6 am, before I had to get everyone ready for school and work. Somehow I actually wrote the book, but if you asked me today how I did it, I would have to say "I have no idea." Who can remember what they did (or thought, or wrote) at 3:30 in the morning?

  5. Yep, same here! I somehow managed to pound out VISIONS with a full time job, a second part time job, full time college courses, and oh yeah, a husband, four kids, and a surprise baby along the way. Took more than a year and a half to finish, but I did it. How could I not? To me, the mark of a true writer is NOT whether they are famous or have an agent or earn a mint in royalties. It's whether they Must Write No Matter What. Viva la challenge


  6. Thanks for all the wonderful comments. Seems like we all have similar experiences.

    Alps, to answer your questions, I did manage to have some success while the kids were young. I started my humorous column when the twins were three, and went on to do freelance newspaper and magazine work. Then I did some PR work and moved into editing, scriptwriting and doctoring, and finally the nonfiction books.

    Now that I have hours to spend at the computer, it is easier to make some kind of schedule for writing, promoting, etc, but I am still easily distracted. :-)

    And as a friend once told me, even though I didn't believe her, enjoy the kids while they are young and still with you.

  7. Maryann, I truly enjoy your posts every week! They are always entertaining and informative. This one was fantastic. I often write about my daughter sometimes, her younger days and our experiences as parents. I still remember her going to her third grade classroom and telling them when they asked what her mommy did for a living, "Oh, she just sits around on the computer a lot." And of course, that was in the early days, when sitting on the computer a lot meant I had some strange and expensive internet addiction.

    Ah, kids. :) I do hope the my dedication as a mother and as a writer at least inspires her to strive for what she wants in life. :)


  8. Wow, after reading some of your experiences as writing moms, I'm never going to whine about not having time to write again. My husband thanks you.

    And I thank you too - for the inspiration and example.

  9. Jenny, thanks for the compliment about my posts. I'm glad that you find them entertaining and worthwhile.

    Had to laugh at what your daughter told her teacher. My kids used to tell their teachers I was a typist. Shows you how long I've been in this business. :-)

  10. Ah, the joys of writing with kids in the house. I used to stay up til 2 or 3 in the morning to write. Love the dog story. That was funny.

  11. Me and Alps. No more whining. Sigh. Hubby won't know how to act now.



  12. Maryann how true your post rings! My question is -when did Mommy become the font of all wisdom? When my giant teenagers are home it is a constant barrage of questions (though they can clearly see I am at the computer working)
    -Mommy how do you spell Lunatic?
    - Mommy what's the capitol of Belarus?
    -Mommy what time does the shop close?
    - Mommy how much milk should I use?

    ARGHHHH!!! But when I actually have some knowledge I'd like to impart their ears suddenly go deaf.

  13. Maryann,I love it! Oh lord, can I relate.

    I have only one child and he wasn't yet a teen when I started writing fiction. I also had 2 foster kids--all within a couple of years of each other. My 10 year old foster daughter wanted to sit and discuss what I was writing and why. She was just chocked full of 'ideas.' By the time she'd leave the room, convinced she had made what I was writing so much better for her input, I couldn't remember what it was I thinking of to begin with.

    She's 15 now and no longer lives with me. But there is always computer IM's now. Yup, she still comes on and wants to know what I'm writing and share her ideas.

    My son just wants to use the computer, unless I'm working on the paranormal and then his critiques--read over my shoulder, consist of, why would she say that mom? and I think the Manticore is much more interesting, and are you done yet?

    Still I manage to get my blog up 3 times a week, and do some writing, and promotion done for a few clients.

    They grow so fast though, I know I don't wish them away. I have to get more creative with time.

  14. Alps, I am so glad this post resonated with you. I think back of so many of my writer friends who did the writing in between the bouncing. LOL

    I did manage to grow my freelance journalism career as my children grew. I had to make sure I didn't take on too much at a time, and when the children got older, they understood that sometimes the older ones watched the younger so I could meet a deadline.

    Once they were all in school, I did map out hours for the freelance work that actually earned some money and working on fiction, which has always been my first love.

    I'm sure you will find more time as your children get older. And it is important to enjoy them while you have them. There are days now when I do wish I had them underfoot, but just for a day. LOL

  15. Donna, I lobe the "mommy stutter writing". What an apt descripton.

    Kim, I admire your dedication to get up and write at 3AM. I couldn't even get up and think before 6.

    Lisa, I think you may be the champ at juggling writing with so many other things. I don't know how you do it.

  16. I would have praised the sharing. ;)

    I have two year old twins right now - I can really relate to this post. I'm more productive these days but it definitely takes a lot of false starts. I'm sort of looking forward to the day I can concentrate uninterrupted for longer than five minutes. :)

  17. Claire, it will get better. My twins are now in their 30's.

    And I just noticed the typo in one of my other comments. That's what I get for trying to type fast on an itty bitty keyboard. Never do well on a regular one. I don't know why I think I can type on a small one. LOL But I "love" not "lobe" the stutter mom comment.

  18. It sounds like your life has been rich in unforgettable experiences. Your complaining doesn't sound all that serious. ;-)

  19. Maryann,

    Your post is a breath of fresh air for me. I relate to it so much and your humor about the challenges of writing with kids around uplifts my spirit.

    And, ladies, the comments are wonderful. Like Jenny's daughter said about her, my nine-year-old tells me at least three times a week, "Mom, you are always on the computer." Yet, reading an actual book or writing in my journal with pen and paper doesn't seem to bother my family (including my husband)as much as me sitting in front of the computer. I try to explain that I am performing the exact same activities (reading and writing) but alas, there is something about the computer that drives them mad.

    Lauri's comment about the constant questions from her teenagers while she is on the computer is the most frustrating aspect of writing when the kids are home for me. And the one who is a pro at it is my five-year old! I guess I better prepare for another ten plus years of it! LOL!


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