Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Blog by Sandy Suminski: Making Writing a Priority

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.


  1. Nice interview. Writing around our children's schedules can be challenging but it's doable. :)

  2. I think writing anywhere is definitely a key to keep writing a priority. I have become MUCH more creative in the past few years about time I can carve out to write.

    Great post!

  3. Ich muss bei diesem Thema immer an Thomas Mann denken. Eine der Aufgaben seiner Ehefrau bestand darin, die Kinder ruhig und auch fern von ihm zu halten. Sie durften nur zu bestimmten Zeiten in sein Schreibzimmer. Punkt. Es entstand bekanntermassen ein grosses und umfangreiches Werk. Ich selbst kann nicht gut im Fluss bleiben, wenn ich dauernd gestoert werde und nicht wirklich zurueckgezogen "meinem Werk" fuer viele Stunden am Stueck nachgehen kann.

  4. I feel like I have less time to write and my daughter just graduated from high school. I should be ashamed for not finding more time to write!

    Good motivational interview!

  5. Great inspirational interview! As I read, I found myself saying things like:"So true!" and "Hooray! I'm not the only one!" and also, "Wow, I don't have any kids, what's my excuse for not making a real commitment to writing for large chunks of time every day!?"

    Thanks, Annette and Sandy!

  6. Thanks for this great interview. Very inspiring!

  7. I'm inspired!!! Sounds like you are getting to your writing on a regular basis. 5 AM - wow!!!

  8. Sandy & Annette ~

    You've both inspired me to set up a much more regimented writing schedule. With no children and a husband who is known to write from pre-dawn to dusk, I have no excuses. Thanks for the needed push!

  9. Kelly - well, you've done it!

    Julie - agreed, being able to write anywhere is a great skill.

    Barbara - eben. Das ist genau das Problem: Unsereiner braeuchte eine Ehefrau, die einem den Alltag vom Leibe haelt.

    Diane - happy to motivate.

    Mikaela - glad you found it inspiring.

    Richard - thanks!

    Stephanie - Sandy is inspiring, isn't she?

    Jennifer - get to it! :-)

  10. Wow, that 5 am writing routine truly is inspirational. Great interview, ladies!

  11. Very inspiring, Annette. I struggle with this daily. Especailly now that the kids are home for summer. I learned early on to keep a small journal and pen with me at all times and take those chances when I could. Even if I had to finish a sentence over, "Hurry up, mom!" LOL!

    Thank you for the interview, Sandy. Thank you for hosting her, Annette.

  12. Great interview! I too, am inspired by your tenacity Sandy. I look forward to reading more of your words.