Saturday, May 8, 2010

Good Advice from Anita Stansfield

By Christine Thackeray

Two weeks ago I went to the Storymakers Conference and although I was taught many great things, it was the words of Anita Stansfield that have stuck with me over and over during that time. I was so impressed by her honesty on what it takes to be a writer/full-time mom and the keys to making it work for the whole family that were, for me, priceless. Here's a brief overview of MY PERCEPTION of what she said. I'm sure that if Anita read this she would go... "I didn't say that." Yeah, I've added my two cents, so here goes.

She began by saying that the first thing you need to do is decide your priorities. In order to be a writer she realized she had to sacrifice a lot. She asked us to write down what is most important in our lives, not in large sweeping categories, but specific subcategories. For me, the first four are: Relationship with God, my husband, my children, church callings and writing. Soccer mom, PTO participant, cub committee volunteer (unless it's a calling), scrapbooking, interior designer, gardener, etc. all take a back seat right now.

Next she said that you have to have a writing goal and that you must write everyday. While SOME authors have a daily minimum, when you're caring for a family, you may not have the ability to be that rigid. Look at your other obligations realistically and set your goal so it challenges you but doesn't bankrupt yourself or the family. Some weeks will be strong writing weeks but if you've got kids with needs you may have to put the writing aside except for a half hour or so.

THIS ONE I LOVED!!!!! Anita said that it was important her husband and children respected what she did. (Now this is me) Some mothers are huge scrapbookers, some love to sew, some care so much about the house that the kids have to take off their shoes before they can step in the door and aren't allowed in the front room but on special ocassions. Other's spend hours prepping meals and cooking. Whatever gifts you mother has, kids and spouses need to respect their contribution. For writer's it means allowing her to have the time to complete a project. When the final edits come, everyone has to work together so that she can finish. This is something you have to teach your family- that writing is part of who you are and as long as you keep it in balance with other responsibilities, your family needs to respect this part of you.

In order for the above respect to work, as a mother you must show equal respect to your spouse and children. We do this by fulfilling their needs. Anita said she keeps a list of her children's names. When they come home from school, she asks each child, "What do you need?" When they say "Nothing" and sulk away, she realizes they made just need her time but usually they know if they don't ask, it won't happen. When she is ready to take a break, she goes down the list and follows through so her children know they can count on her. After discussions with her husband, he agreed he doesn't need a perfect house but he does need a clean path to the bathroom and dinner on the table when he comes home. (We are married to very similar men, I think.) It's unrealistic to think with the time she takes writing that she would be able to keep the house perfect all the time but she can fill need and get everything done she wants and NEEDS to.

Anita was very honest that you give up a lot to be a consistent writer. She said it had been years since she sat down and watched TV. She said that she could never be one of those moms who do everything because she was writing. There have been many times where she had to say no, but she said her children have ALWAYS known she loves them and that they are more important than her writing, but her writing is important enough to sacrifice for and she has.

I want to publicly thank Anita Stansfield for her great advice. It really is a sacrifice but writing is part of me that I can't deny and it's cool that my sweet family has given me that opportunity to pursue it. Now I need to start that list thing.



It is a sacrifice to dedicate oneself to writing. I'm fortunate to have my children grown and out of the house, but I still have my career as a psychologist, my husband, and my relationship with the Lord (importance not in that order). I just trust the Lord to provide the time I need for all of it and it seems to work out. He gave me the ability to write and He will allow me to succeed if I keep Him first. Good post! Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca Talley said...

Excellent advice. For me, I've given up playing the piano, knitting, decorating the house, sewing (except when I have a wedding) and TV. I have to clean my house or I can't think and I have to keep up on laundry, read with my kids and spend time with them when they get home from school, cook, and pay bills. I also attend their activities so when there's a lot of activities I don't do much writing. I also believe that the Lord will help me find time when I do what I'm supposed to do first.

I really wanted to attend this session and appreciate your notes.