I spent years thinking that some day I wanted to write a book. Some day I would have time to go do research. Some day I would carefully plot a story. Before I had children, I was frequently bored. Once or twice I did pull out a laptop or a pad of paper and start scribbling sentences. I never made it very far before I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing, or before that mean little voice in my head would remind me that I was an engineer, not an English major. Surely I lacked some critical knowledge needed to write. Surely if I was meant to be a writer, then a novel would simply flow out of me in a shower of sparkles and wonder.
Ironically, I didn’t write my first book until after my second child was born. Not just after the second child, but after my maternity leave was over and I was back at work. I did have a shorter schedule—only three days a week down from full time—but any woman who’s tried to juggle a career and a family knows that working fewer hours does not make the day job easier. If anything, it ups the pressure because you have to prove to your 60-hour-a-week-married-to-the-job colleagues that your 24 work week is as valuable as theirs.
Oh yeah, and baby number two had some major birth defects requiring multiple surgeries.
Sometimes I wonder whether I ever would have had the courage to write without my son’s health struggles. Back in those early days I really did wonder whether he would make it, and for how long. There were so many unknowns and wait-and-sees about his development. We didn’t know if he would walk. If he would ever achieve bladder and bowel control. If he would struggle for energy and breath.
I finished my first NaNoWriMo, writing The End on the first draft of my first ever novel, from my son’s hospital room for surgery number four. He was eight months old at the time.
I’m still writing. Have finished a total of six manuscripts, and have published two so far. Some day I may even publish that first book (it probably needs a few more edits, though I swear it isn’t all bad). I’m not a NYT bestseller. I’m not a Kindle millionaire. I try hard to ignore reviews and to not obsessively check author rankings (hint, bigger is not always better, and I’d love to swap my rank and my sales figures). I may never achieve any of those things. But if I quit now, I definitely won’t.
My son continues to inspire me. He learned to roll over the day after we came home from surgery number two (while he still had the glue-type stitches in his belly). He pulled himself to standing for the first time in the hospital crib while waiting for that fourth surgery. He is now six, and spending this week at soccer camp. He’s got some of the quickest feet on the field, and routinely runs circles around kids who are quite a bit taller than he is (alas, he has inherited my family’s lack of height). He is in many ways a miracle baby. He still has health issues, though you couldn’t tell just by meeting him. He will have challenges in his life, and there is still a potential for big problems some day. His diagnosis casts a little shadow over us still. He gets a lot of hugs.
This week at the day job, a coworker passed away unexpectedly. I had just talked to him the afternoon before. He didn’t look like a man with less than twenty-four hours of life left. We weren’t close, and hadn’t even worked together very long, but he was very nice and very fair-minded and very good at his job. His sudden absence has left a hole in our work group. I can only imagine what his wife and children must be experiencing.
Life is unpredictable. You never know what is coming tomorrow, good or bad. When my son was a newborn with an uncertain future, I realized suddenly that all the reasons I’d never written a book don’t matter so much. Who cares if it sucks. Who cares if no one ever reads it. If I never write, then I will never find out. And if I wait for “later”, “later” may not come. I’m writing because this is what I’ve always wanted to do.
Seize the day. Write the book.