Starting Anew: Life in San Francisco

Three weeks after arriving here in the San Francisco Bay area, I am struggling to re-emerge and return to some semblance of a writing life.  Boxes unpacked and an odd approximation of a daily schedule materializing, I have high hopes for whatever opportunities this area may provide me in relation to my various loves (writing, childbirth education, supporting mothers, writing about the challenges of motherhood, friendships, family life in a new place).

But with two of our three kids back home with me full time, and the absence of the network of friends and childbirth ed/doula colleagues that fueled so much of my desire-driven work in the past, I find myself asking the self-pitying questions:  did I ever actually have a writing life?  How did I combine stay-at-home parenting with increasingly satisfying career pursuits?

Friends from conferences I attended of late, (and friends in general) write occasionally to ask how I’m coming on my (new) manuscript, how my agent queries are going and whether or not I’m working on anything new.  This is the kind of support, I’m coming to understand, that writers need to keep each other going.  It’s called:  accountability.

That’s what, among other things, I’ve used this blog for.

Last night I watched Julia and Julie, the book-based movie about Julie Powell, an  inner-New York-city woman who blogs her way through a year of cooking Julia Child’s recipes in the famed Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Protagonist Julie starts out using the blog as a witty documentation of her lofty goal but, ultimately, witnesses her own emotional and career-momentum-transformation through her on-line writing, and the public act of posting her way through this transformation.

Now lacking babysitters, preschool for our boys, familiar coffee shops in which to write (although the Starbucks I’m currently sitting in seems to be doing the job) and seratonin-sustaining get-togethers with girlfriends, I find myself wondering, can I really recreate what I had only recently established for myself at home?  Can I arrange an (affordable) schedule that will allow me to: 1) continue caring for my children in the way my priorities dictate and 2) glean enough “me time” during the week to further my career pursuits and therefore enable me to be the better mom I think I had only recently become?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lacking for things to do here.  In the past three weeks since landing here we have:

-visited the San Francisco Zoo

-visited the Pacific Ocean beach

-visited The infamous downtown SF Pier 39 (and ate Nutella-stuffed crepes…yum!) (and visited the public restrooms fifteen times because our three kids can’t seem to coordinate the timing of their excretory needs)

-visited the California Academy of the Sciences

-(twice) visited Coyote Point Park and museum (we love watching the river otters, and two of the three kids have become brave enough to pet the boa constrictor)

-visited the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum

-found a church to attend

– I have found and joined the California Writer’s Club-Sf/peninsula

-walked around famed downtown shopping areas of Palo Alto and Burlingame

-found, visited and purchased from the local IKEA (believe me, having lived in Montana for the past seven years, this is a notable event)

-signed the kids up for art and gymnastics classes

-had a tea party for our daughter and two new classmates

-had two playdates with the neighbor boys…


And yet, here I am, living in a city ripe with possibilities and suddenly, feeling awfully alone.

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8 Comments

Filed under Balancing career and motherhood, Childbirth Issues, family, friendship, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, travelling with kids, Writing and Publishing

8 responses to “Starting Anew: Life in San Francisco

  1. Cara

    Your post is interesting and brings up a valid concern. Do you have a writing career or a writing hobby. This is what you need to reconcile in your own mind. Not everyone who writes is destined nor talented enough to be a professional writer. The question you have to ask is how committed are you to giving up time with your family to chase this career. Like any other new career you may have to invest 50-70 hours per week working. That is not “sort of working while raising a family” that is actual work away from the family and home. And you will need to commit a lot of money to start this new career. Sacrifices will need to be made. You will need to travel to writers meetings, workshops, book parties, networking events and everything to do with your chosen career. You will need child care while you commit to the long late hours away from home and family just like any other new career. And unlike your previous jobs, you will not get paid rather you will spend. In the end, if you do have the talent, you may make it as a career writer. You must now plant your feet firmly on the path you desire.. hobby or career.

    • Cara,

      Yours is, perhaps, one of the greatest comments I have received on this blog. Thank you for your honest reply. Over the past three years, I have hung out in the purgatory zone of Trying to Coax Writing Hobby Into Career. Have I published? Yes. Have I been paid for my craft? Yes. Have I earned enough $$ to consider the income a substantial contribution to our family’s financial bottom line? No.

      I suppose that, because of my commitment to the rearing of my still very young children, I have approached this career in a very gradual way. But gradual does not create paychecks. And gradual does not necessarily win the favor of literary agents and publishers…no matter how fantastic a manuscript might be, per the feedback of family and friends.

      So yes, you’re right: like any career pursuit, one must make the final call: get off the pot and making something of it, or flounder in mediocracyville (my words, not your suggestion) of Only Partially Committed. Do people sometimes persist in the latter, waiting for that commitment to come from somewhere (someone) else? Hhhmmm…an interesting thought.

  2. Cara

    A follow up with some words of wisdom. I know from where I speak. I was in your position 15 years ago. I made the sacrifice and gave 110% to my chosen career of writing. In the end I made it and was published. Now after 5 novels I have made more money than I had ever dreamed or hoped. All of life’s material goods are within my reach yet this is a reward, not a motivation for what I do. I have to say the struggle was worth it. And finally I offer this; never, ever assume your manuscript is fantastic until it sells 100,000 units. Family & friends will not be completely honest with you… they love you and are more interested in not hurting your feelings and feel they must encourage you. Listen to your peers and agent. They will tell you the honest truth. My first few attempts were trash but then it magically came together.

  3. Cara,

    Again, valuable and appreciated words of wisdom.

    I totally get the “friends and family” thing–I value their opinions because as people, I respect the intelligence, support and readership my key family/friend readers represent, but I also know their feedback is potentially tainted by our relationship. That being said, I have found value in receiving comments by folks I know, by asking them to read a manuscript from their very unique and career-trained perspective: that of a teacher, a psychologist, a business professional, a medical professional… I have also invested money in hiring a professional editor.

    As a relative newbie to this industry (ok, a complete newbie) I have taken copious and thoughtful notes at the four writer’s conferences I have attended, plus the pages of various trade rags I pour through each month. I find myself especially drawn to lectures and articles on how a writer can work his/her way into the business aspect of the writer’s life. There seems to be a lot of potentially great advice out there about querying agents, seeking publication, and self versus trade publishing. As with most things in life, I am also realizing there is idealism in that advice. Feeling as though I’m following every hint, suggestion and rule I’ve heard or read, I still find that patience and perseverance seems to be highly in order. A request from an agent for an exclusive read may still end with absolutely no response back–not even a “thank you for the opportunity to read your work, but I think I’ll pass.” Perfectly crafted query letters, according to numerous Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writer’s magazine articles may end in the same or, worse, yet, no response at all (did they even receive my query???)

    At the end of the day, the publishing industry just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier–and therein lies the wonderful challenge.

    Also, I found that, despite the self publishing industry’s claim that it is the wave of the future and its previously born stigma is long gone, I didn’t find that to be the case at all after publishing A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood. Yes, a writer wishing to circumvent the trade route might find a good printer, or a great small/inde/boutique (etc., etc.) self publishing company who pulls together an awesome cover design and nice interior formatting but at the end of the day, most book reviewers (nearly all?) want to see books coming to them from big name houses. Many, in fact, clearly state they will not even look at an arc from a self-published author–so don’t even bother. Period. (I, of course, sent out numerous media kits anyway…for me, it was all part of the learning experience.)

    So, if the industry as a whole is still averse to alternative routes to publications, it leaves the gutsy authors willing to give it a try in a potentially disappointing position: invest lots of money in a manuscript you believe in, and then watch it wither on the vine once his of her immediate circle of family/friends have obligingly purchased their copy.

    Do I speak truth or fallacy? Anyone else want to chime in?

  4. If I had to use Cara’s words- hobby or career- then I’m at the hobby level. I liked your word- gradual- that’s how I feel I’m moving toward creating a career. I’m still moving, right?

    But Cara is right, we have to decide. I’m finding that parenting teens is a more challenging and exhausting time than having little kids ever was. Combine that with a day job M-F and, yep, I’m still at the hobby level.

    I try and focus on what I can actually do each week and strive to do it. Some weeks are better than others. I just try and keep moving- that’s what the tortoise did and things worked out for him in the end.

  5. Believe it or not unlike the Brits in The top Exotic Marigold Hotel, who want to leave England I’d personally like to retire to England. I love that country!

  6. Thank you, this can be the worst factor I’ve read

  7. I’m still learning from you, while I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely love reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the information coming. I loved it!

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