Sandy’s back porch, all set up for writing.

As part of my current series on Moms Who Write, I am happy to welcome my long-time student Sandy Suminski as my guest blogger today. Sandy is not only a successful advertising professional, she also manages to fit creative writing into her life as a freelance copywriter and mom of a four-year-old. Her essay “City of Light” was published in the Bellevue Literary Review and subsequently included in the anthology The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review.

Thanks, Sandy, for sharing your way of making writing a priority:

What prompted you to pursue writing even though you are the mother of a little boy? Did you always write or did you become a writer while already being a mom?

I started writing eight years before I became a mom. Technically, I’ve written my whole
career–I’m an advertising copywriter. But I only started working on my own
writing when I was in my mid-thirties. I felt frustrated and emptied by my job
and longed for more meaningful work. I did a lot of soul searching, and one
answer kept coming up: just write. Just write? What does that mean? I knew it
didn’t mean advertising, so I signed up for a creative writing class at the
Newberry Library. Within a few weeks I was writing about my experiences with
bipolar illness. The words flowed, and I felt I was doing the right thing. So
I’ve kept doing it.

Since I’ve had my little boy, finding time to write has certainly become more
challenging, but I think it’s more important than ever. I believe children need
happy parents and examples of leading a passionate life. Achieving that balance
can be tricky, but I think it’s worth it.

Do you actually use the time your son is in preschool to write? Or do chores get in the way?

My little boy just turned four and is starting preschool in the fall. I’m planning on
using the time to write. He goes to a few drop-off classes now, and when we leave,
I bring my laptop, zip into the closest coffee shop and write until it’s time
to pick him up. Occasionally, if I feel I need it, I’ll just zone out or browse
in a shop, because I think downtime is important, too. I’ve worked hard to
streamline my routines, minimize chores and prioritize writing.  I also
get help when I need it and can afford it. Still, I’m kind of a slob and my
house isn’t perfect. I’m okay with that.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

It’s developed over the last few years. When my son was an infant, I’d keep a small
notebook and pen near my nursing chair and would write once he’d fallen asleep
on the nursing pillow. My husband has always been very supportive (he’s the one
who suggested the class at Newberry when were still dating) and I’ll often take
off for a few hours in the evening or over the weekend to go write in a coffee
shop. It’s only been within the last year that I’ve made finding a more
formalized routine a priority, and I feel like my writing has really taken off
as a result. With the help of some life coaching last fall, I established a
regular routine that involves getting up at 5 a.m. every weekday and writing
for an hour. Then I go back to sleep until my little boy wakes up. I’m not a
morning person and it’s something I would never have believed I could do. My
amazement that I am even capable of this gives me the extra charge to keep going.

I also have two regular larger chunks of time that I rely on: My husband takes our son
out for a few hours over the weekend, and he has arranged his work schedule so
that every other Monday he is the primary parent. I use those larger chunks of
time not just to write, but to strategize as to how I’ll use the 5 a.m. hours.
I also use that Monday to catch up on writing business, and to tend to my
freelance advertising business.

Creativity inspires creativity: Drawings by Sandy’s
son grace the wall by her desk; this one
shows both of them in their Halloween costumes:
she’s a cat and he’s a witch.

Do you have a particular place where you write?

I’ll write anywhere. When I used to travel on my own,  I loved writing on
planes and trains, in hotels, parks, out at cafés. Now my usual places are in
bed or in a coffee shop. I keep my laptop by my bed and when the alarm goes off
at five, I roll over, pull it out and get to work. At six, I close it, put it
back in its spot, roll over and go back to sleep. That’s when I have my most
interesting dreams! I do have a desk, and though I don’t often write there, I
find it important to have that home base. It’s a visual reminder of my
commitment to things outside of mothering. It’s in the dining room right next
to the kitchen, so I see it often in my daily flow. That way I can stop there
whenever I have a thought, jot it down and put it into a folder to use during
my next writing session. I’ve decorated the area with an ever-changing gallery
of my son’s drawings. He’s at a prolific age, and his creativity fuels mine.