Motherhood & Words

taking stock & looking forward

The end of 2016 was difficult for me (as I know it was for many people). I was distracted (and scared) by politics, I was caught up in the general busyness of the season, and I was not writing (or even reading much). As I thought about the closing year, the things that stood out for me were all negative: the election; my step-brother’s death; the staggering number of celebrity deaths. It seemed the list went on and on.

But then I thought about all the positives from 2016: lots of time with loved ones; my daughters, who are growing into such wonderful young women and who continue to amaze me with their generosity of spirit; my marriage, which is strong and loving; my improved health beginning last spring (something I do not take lightly); my dear friends and family; my ability to run again; a growing editing business; my teaching and students, who are doing amazing work; and last, but not least, my bass guitar. (I’m still taking lessons, just had my bass “set-up,” and am practicing for an hour most days. I’m a little addicted, actually. More on that in another post.)

Taking stock of all the positives from last year has helped me shift my attitude. That is not to say I’m not still terrified by the state of the union and world or that I plan to be complacent about any of it. I will petition and protest and speak out for human rights, for equality, for the environment, for education, for compassion and understanding. But I know that I also need to take care of myself by doing the things that make me feel more balanced: getting plenty of sleep; feeding my body with healthful foods and drinks; getting lots of exercise; and reading and writing, daily.

As I’ve learned many times (yet apparently need to learn again), I’m not myself if I’m not writing. I used to be very strict with myself about not logging onto any social media or news sites until after I’d done my writing, but I’ve gotten lazy about that. And it’s almost impossible for me to write after social media splinters my attention. So I’m going to reinstate my ban on social media (and news and petitions) until after I’ve done my own writing. I’ve also realized that I need more than an hour a day to really dive into my work. When I’m on deadline with an essay (which hasn’t happened in a while), I hunker down on the couch with my computer and books until I find my way through the mess of words. I miss doing that (and maybe I miss short creative nonfiction, too; again, another post).

I’m a freelancer, so I should be able to set aside out a whole day (or at least four hours) for my own writing, but somehow I don’t do that. It’s true that I’m busy and my work days are short, but my goal for this year is to carve out a large chunk of time for my own writing each week. Somehow I know this will help me stay grounded as I move into this uncertain new year.

What will help you stay balanced in this new year?

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Sara on January 3, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I have trouble carving out big chunks of time for my own writing too. (I’m great at meeting everyone else’s deadlines. It’s a combo of lack of pressure and putting what I get paid for first.) I stopped writing somewhere last year with a lack of focus.

    I’m feeling the urge to get started again. I’m also starting yoga again and I’m hoping that reconnecting with my body will help my writing. The writing that I have done recently is all head, all thinking. I need to connect more with the concrete, with my body, and with my heart.

    I’m working on redefining my schedule so that I *do* have time for the things that matter instead of letting them get pushed to the margins all the time.

    • Kate on January 3, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Sara, I totally get putting paid work first and I fell into that this fall. But you know you’ll get that work done because you have to, so why not take an hour to do your work first? (I’m going to practice what I preach tomorrow morning!)

      I think that mind/body connection is huge. I look forward to hearing how that reconnection helps your writing.

      Here’s to not letting the important stuff get pushed to the margins this year!


  2. Rachael on January 4, 2017 at 7:24 am

    I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years and each time I start a new job I think, “this is the job that will afford me more writing time.” It never happens! The time sucks are just incredible and we always have to watch out for them. I like your ban on social media before writing. I’ve become lazy about that, too. In the mornings I like to open Microsoft Word and nothing else. That’s usually a successful strategy for me.

    I’m glad to hear you’re running again!

    • Kate on January 4, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Yes, Rachael, I should shut everything else down so I can only open Word when I get to my computer. I’ll do that for an extra dose of discipline.

  3. Lisa on January 4, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Well, I met you in 2016 so I think it was a pretty awesome year (politics aside)!

    I think creative endeavors are like the ocean, they ebb and flow, its hard to force the tides to adhere to our own schedules.

    You are such an amazing writing mentor; I hope that you have some mentors to feed your writing life.

    • Kate on January 6, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Lisa, indeed! Meeting you was a highlight of the year. And I’m so looking forward to seeing you again next month! And yes, I think some mentoring might be in store for me, too. Thank you, my dear. xo

  4. Nina on January 6, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Just saying hi and I always like reading your updates. Balance– oy. Hard.

    • Kate on January 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      It IS hard, isn’t it, Nina! I hope to see you soon!

  5. Angie on January 8, 2017 at 8:32 am

    I’m a geek and am all up in my brand new planner. It has a space for setting goals, a monthly overview, and daily planner pages–which I really need. One day a time! On Sunday, I sit down and schedule writing time and exercise time. Like you, I’m not myself without those things! Also, water. I didn’t realize how dehydrated I am and how that’s probably contributing to my ongoing issues with headaches. But my planner has a place to tick off daily water intake. Told you I was a geek! Happy New Year, friend! xo

    • Kate on January 9, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      I love you, geek! And your planner sounds amazing. Bring on the H2O!

  6. Sarah on January 27, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Doing your course in early 2016 was one of the highlights of the year for me. I still think about how much I miss your course! You are such a valuable teacher and it helped me in ways far beyond writing! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead xx

    • Kate on February 6, 2017 at 11:32 am

      Sarah! Thank you so much! How are you doing? I’d love to hear what you’re writing these days!

  7. Debra Palmquist on February 3, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Oh Kate-
    These words I need to hear. I have been feeling so distracted myself. And gorging on news and what others are saying. But you are right, balance is needed and attending to our health and well being. Improved if we get to our own work. First things first. Thank you!

    • Kate on February 6, 2017 at 11:33 am

      I’m slowly feeling more settled with my work, but then I feel I’m not doing enough as an activist!