When words are a hobby and a business. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

What started as a desire for encouragement and advice as I struggled to balance my passion for writing and my new normal as a mom became this Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing series I’ve so loved hosting on my blog. Twenty amazing women took time to fill this space with grace and the gift of their words. It’s been a privilege to learn from them.

I’m pretty sure this blog would not be up and running in its current state without Gretchen Louise, our last Motherhood and Writing guest. Her techno savvy and endless patience has kept me from throwing my computer out the window and giving up blogging altogether. She is an old soul when it comes to the blog world and a fount of knowledge!

If you’re new to the series, check out the archives for all 20 posts!

Perspectives GretchenWhy do you write/blog?

I can’t not write. I process everything through the written word. Maybe it was the influence of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder in my early years of voracious reading. Maybe it is the fact that I am a visual learner (with a good bit of kinesthetic) and must read and write anything I need to know and remember. But writing has been an intrinsic part of my personality for as long as I can remember.

When my husband and I were teenagers, he began writing me letters (the old-fashioned kind sent to my mailbox). Soon, I began to view my days through the lens of how I would describe the happenings to him in a letter. I looked at everything through the filter of the written word.

In my early days of motherhood, writing literally became my lifeline. It was how I processed everything. The schedule or lack thereof. The sleepless nights. The frustration of how little I really knew about this thing called being a mom. Sharing the funny stories about my day with my children helped me to realize all I had to be thankful for, even in my sleep-deprived state. Soon, that blank screen became symbolic of being still before the Lord, waiting for Him to speak to me. And He did. Whether it was in a Five-Minute Friday writing prompt that week or a simple childish illustration I began to share, He used what I typed to speak to me.

How long have you been blogging/writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember—outrageous stories in my early grade school years, countless letters to my cousins and numerous pen pals, and a newsletter for a girls’ club I started when I was young. In my teens, that newsletter took a more serious and professional turn, becoming a magazine I edited and published. I think that’s when I knew writing wasn’t just about letters or school, but a lifelong love.

That magazine got a website in 1998 (the same year we got the internet), created on a free host by one of our readers. I fell in love with all things web as I took over that website and started creating my own. But it wasn’t until 2001 that I started blogging on what would become a shared Blogspot blog, an extension of what is now known as Kindred Grace. That was back before there were comments, before I understood RSS feeds or how people found new posts. Indeed, it was before anyone knew what the word “blog” meant. Little did I know how it would change my world.

In those days, I treated my blog like I now treat Facebook or Twitter: it was a quick way to share a brief link or thought without much effort. But as I read longer form posts and explored other forms of private blogging (anyone remember LiveJournal and Diary-X?), my posts gradually moved from informal personal updates to essays shared with friends. The world of blogging was constantly changing, but I was thrilled to be along for the ride.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

When I was a teenager, I thought I had life pretty well figured out. And I wrote about it. Whether it was my firmly held beliefs about the way relationships should happen or my political stance that year, it found its way onto my blog. I shudder now to re-read some of those old posts. I’ve long since made them private so only I can see them, but I keep them as a reminder for myself. It gets lonely up there on a soapbox, and not even the choir really wants to hear a sermon from one of its own members. While there is always a time and place on the internet and in life for firmly held convictions, I learned the hard way that controversy divides and pride polarizes.

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mom. And being 12 years old when my younger siblings started coming along, I felt like I knew how to raise children. But no amount of babysitting or changing diapers for my siblings prepared me for the actual role and responsibility of motherhood. Coming to the end of myself and having nothing to hold onto except for my Savior brought me to a point of a lot more honesty and humility in my writing. It’s still not easy to admit I don’t have it all together, but being real has brought me a lot more true fellowship than having noisy opinions ever did.

Gretchen LouiseHow has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I miss naptime. I think with fondness of those long stretches of quiet in both the morning and the afternoon. I remember when I wrote most of my posts while juggling a nursing baby. Those days are long gone. My children are 7, 5, and 3, with another little one kicking in my belly as I type this. Sleeping in isn’t something that happens in our house. Quiet is not a word that defines our home except for some of the hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

I made a commitment when I was still single that I would always go to bed at the same time as my husband each night. And with a few exceptions of sickness or special projects, I’ve kept that resolution. But that means I don’t write late into the night. Nor is it the season of my life when I can get up any earlier. Each time I try it, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. And no early-morning writing accomplishment is worth being tired and grumpy the rest of the day. So I write through the noise, in the in between hours—not always perfectly, not always patiently, but He meets me there.

I’ve also spent the last four years building up a business of coding WordPress websites for other bloggers and authors. That’s provided a unique challenge as I learn the balancing act of assisting others while not neglecting my own writing. It would be easy to permanently push my own projects aside in lieu of those with instant payment. And often, there are weeks or even months where client projects do become my priority.

But I don’t want to forget my own passion while helping others. So I’m learning to manage my energy and write while I’m fresh. Sometimes that means not checking email until I’ve sat down to write. Others that means putting off a simple coding job for the afternoon so I can get my words organized while I’m a bit more rested.

Because those long hours of peace and quiet are gone, I’ve learned to multi-task. I brainstorm post ideas while I’m in the shower. I compose my opening paragraph while I do dishes. I mentally edit and rearrange the words until they are just right in my head. Then, whenever I do get a chance to sit down at the computer, the words are there, on the tip of my tongue, ready to fly out of my fingers onto the keyboard. Except for the times they are not. And then I assume that God had something different for me to say than what I had so carefully composed. So I sit in front of that blank screen and listen again for Him.

What is your blogging/writing battle cry?

My tagline is “connoisseur of words and code”, encompassing the two sections of my blog. One is my personal blog where I share the life lessons I’m learning about faith and trust, motherhood and marriage. This is where I share the things my children show me, the trust that farming teaches us. And being the bibliophile I am, my blog never goes long without a book review or two.

I write to the other moms like me who are in the midst of the up-all-night with crying babies and sick toddlers. I want us to remember to laugh at the crazy antics and funny sayings of our children. I want us to take time to write those letters to our children, to capture those moments that are so quickly forgotten. My prayer is that I’m reminding other moms (even as I remind myself!) to slow down, to cherish the moment. Because truly, the days are long, but the years are short.

The other area of my blog is composed of tips for authors and bloggers. I write about everything from managing your email inbox to blogging in community through mastermind groups. In my work with writers, I realize how often we feel alone with our words on this side of the computer screen. It’s easy to get discouraged. To get overwhelmed with all the technical details. To feel like no one is reading the words we write.

I want to encourage the weary, lonely blogger. Even if we can’t have a cup of coffee together at the local coffee shop (while I tweak some settings on her blog and give her a few pointers on her newsletter), I want to give her the next best thing. I want to provide the education to understand how her blog functions, the courage to put her words out there, the power that comes with developing her own community.

I want to encourage others. Over and over again. As long as it is called “today”. (Hebrews 3:13)

I want to become a connoisseur of life giving glory to the Creator of life. To take time to taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

How does faith, writing, and motherhood intersect in your daily life?

As a stay-at-home mom who works part-time from home, part-time in the family business, it’s a constant juggling act to balance my callings and my responsibilities. Words are the thread that link together all of my roles: the gift of writing is the skill I use in both work and homeschooling, the gift of creativity is one I draw on every day in my jobs and my homemaking. I know He made me for a purpose, and writing is an intrinsic part of that purpose. To borrow a phrase from Eric Liddell, when I write, I feel His pleasure.

gretchen louiseGretchen Louise is a farmer’s wife and mommy to three curly-haired children. When she’s not working in the family business, hanging out laundry, or washing dishes, she writes in CSS, HTML, PHP—and English. Gretchen loves to brainstorm about everything to do with websites and WordPress, and is passionate about helping others navigate the social media jungle.

You’ll also find her blogging at Adornabelle, sharing blogging tips with the Inland Northwest Christian Writers, and managing the community over at Kindred Grace.

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10 thoughts on “When words are a hobby and a business. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

      1. I laughed because even though I wrote mine before Trina’s was published, her answer to the first question was almost word for word the same as my first sentence. I think it must be something about being a writer…the only double negative we’re willing to use is “I can’t not write.” ;)

  1. Dear friend Gretchen, what an awesome post letting us behind the scenes of your world. Your sharing is a gift to all those others who want to have their niche, their identity, and their “product,” whether it’s writing, or crafting, or cooking. You have laid before them a beautiful pattern for how to accomplish those dreams. God has blessed you with the gifts of words and love.

    Sherrey

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