Hannah Holt, today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, is one of the few I’d met in person long before the challenge started. We met at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference the September before her twins were born. I remember how impressed I was then with her dedication to her writing (not to mention her obvious talent). Now, after reading this post, I am truly in awe. Although she’s since moved to Portland, she’ll always be one of my first writer buddies and supporters. Please welcome Hannah!

A year and a half ago, I sat in bed editing a manuscript when a doctor walked into the room.

“You won’t be able to finish here,” he said. “We’re taking you to the operating room.”

Hi, my name is Hannah, and I’m a write-a-holic. I lived in denial of my addiction for several years. Writing was a hobby, something fun. I could stop whenever I wanted. However, on January 20th, 2011, I realized I might be in over my head.

On that night I was in labor with twin girls, and I had brought a manuscript to my delivery room. I swear, I only wanted to finish one or two more edits. My husband, a wonderful enabler, even wrote a few suggestions in the side margins. In between contractions and the occasional vitals check, I scanned my document for typos and searched for holes in my story.

I didn’t realize something might be wrong until the room change. As it happened, my hospital required all twin deliveries take place in the operating room. So, they wheeled me down the handrail lined hallway and wouldn’t let me bring my manuscript. Nooooooo!

Like many young mothers, I struggle with balance. Obviously, I’m not great at it. However, here are a few things I do to maximize creativity while staying present during important moments, like birth.

  1. Write badly. Want to waste two hours? Sit down and decide to write the next “Great American Picture Book.” Hello, internal censor. Goodbye, productivity! I can’t afford to waste time like that. Writing is like an old fashioned water pump. The first water out might be rusty and bitter, but keep at it and sweetness will flow.
  2. Write for the smallest possible audience: yourself! A while ago I started receiving rejection letters like this, “beautiful writing, but too niche. Please send something else.” So I tried writing “to market.” Oh, the painful drivel I produced! And I spent precious time on that drivel. Save yourself the wasted effort. Don’t write to market.
  3. Take the kids along for the ride. My children are an important part of my work. Sure, I need work alone time. However, as much as possible I include them. My website, Lightbulb Books (www.lightbulbbooks.com/blog) is a craft and kitchen resource site, but it’s also a snap shot of daily life with my kids.
  4. Turn off your writer’s brain. Writers like to write off the clock and off the ends of the earth. We might be at the local park but have one foot in Mordor. Sometimes I need to turn off the smart phone, the computer, and the idea factory and just be present. Once in a while, clock back into life.
  5. Join Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 group. After the twins arrived, my writing career went on indefinite hiatus. This group has been a great support on my journey back to regular writing. It’s a fountain of information and a wealth of friendship.

By the way, the manuscript I was working on during labor never sold. Still, I don’t regret my passion. My children sense my excitement, and it makes books desirable. My house will never be completely organized, and I’ll never be a helicopter parent. However, as a mother, I think I’m doing alright.

Hannah Holt is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. She’s a Barbara Karlin Grant merit recipient and Phillip E. Rollhaus Essay Competition winner. Her website is Lightbulb Books (www.lightbulbbooks.com/blog).

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Family, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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56 Comments

  1. Hi Hannah *waves*,
    I have often popped onto your blog and enjoyed the fun things you have there. I have just been back and noted down the idea of Frozen Yoghurt drops and the coloured meringues. I have a nephew coming to stay in a couple of months so it is always great to pick up some food and activity ideas. Just realised I never commented… naughty me! (will fix that) Loved getting to know you and your adorable boys!

  2. Fun post! I don’t think I’ve met a write-a-holic like you, who wrote clear up to delivery time! What a story, Hannah! Your blog looks great, chock full of neat activities for science! Have you ever published your activities?

    • Thanks, Tina. I have a few published articles but not since the twins were born. I took most of last year off writing, and I’m taking this year off submitting. I need to get my legs under me before I think about diving into the pool again. Searching for submissions is a full time job all by itself.

  3. Great post! So fun to get to know you better, Hannah, and what a terrific story! (I never brought a ms to the delivery room, but even if I had, I don’t think I would have been able to concentrate! :)) I love your water pump comparison – so true!

    • Thanks, Susanna. I had already discovered your books before 12×12, but it’s so wonderful to “get to know you” through your blog. You are a wonderful cheerleader and champion of children’s literature.

  4. That’s what I like to see. A writer writing her heart out while delivering her twins! Dang we’re good! *wink* Loved getting to know you, Hannah. It was fun to read! *waves peace sign*

  5. It must be fun to have twins! 😉 I like your list of what you do to put your creativity on. 🙂

  6. What a fantastic post! Few of us are that dedicated — I’m wondering if your twins popped out saying, “I think paragraph two would do better in a different place, and you missed a typo…” ??? 😉

    Your list of best practices is so good. Thank you. I *love* that “Join 12×12” is on the list.

  7. I love this post and I love Hannah’s blog. She has some real insights into how kids tick and what inspires them. 1-5 are great pearls for us all. Thank you!

  8. Why does your hospital editing experience sound so familiar? I done it! Not prior to delivery, but so many times during the five or six years my husband was in and out of the hospital and visiting the ER. (He’s better now, btw.) And the most recent time — me at the ER with chest pains! LOL We write because we must. Looking forward to reading your blog, Hannah.

  9. great post! Thanks for the words of wisdom and good luck with all your labors of love.

  10. Inspiring post. I love your “writing badly” tip – I really connected with the old water pump. I also love your tip about writing for yourself. Worrying about writing for the market is messing with my creativity big time! I think I will back off of that for a while 🙂 Thank you for sharing your tips for maximizing creativity.

  11. Hannah, you are an inspiration! I loved all your advice especially # 2.

  12. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    Hannah! I love your perspective on the ms you were working on during labor… you don’t regret the passion. That is SO true. What a great example you are for your children. And what a great story to share with the twins as they grow. Congrats on returning to your adventures in writing!

  13. “…staying present during important moments, like birth.” *snerk* Hannah, I celebrate your weirdness! We moms of twins must stick together. I love all of your sage advice, and I love your blog. In fact, why am I not linking to it in my poetry extension activities? Duh! I shall remedy that.

    In the meantime, HUZZAH that you found your way back to writing. You’ve got great style, lady! 🙂

    • If you can find an extension activity that matches, I say HUZZAH to that! I haven’t forgotten I owe you a video. One of these years when I’m feeling brave (and eloquent), I’ll ask you for the instructions again. If you aren’t too famous by then… 🙂

  14. Awh that’s a lovely post and great story. It made me laugh because my husband would have told me off for bringing my ms and tossed it in a bin or something 🙂

    • Yes, we each have a different vision for the ideal birth. By my third time around, I definitely felt more relaxed about the whole process. Thank goodness my husband is as nutty as me.

  15. One foot in the park and one in Mordor – love it! Too bad you moved away, but you did in time to miss all the smoke. Good for you. Thanks for the picture you’ve painted scribbling down the hallway to deliver. It sure made me laugh, and if it didn’t sell, maybe you just ‘pushed too soon’ – ha! Great post, thanks ladies!

    • I know. I’m so sad we moved away right as I was getting to know you. If you are ever in Portland, send me a message! And you are too clever. I’m always trying to push things out the door too soon. Ha!

  16. I’m finding out that writing in a hospital is the best. It really helps with concentration. It’s an intensive (hygenic) writing retreat! Now, if only those nurses and doctors wouldn’t intrude so often. LOL 😀

    • Another hospital writer! Although I am sorry to hear your father is doing poorly. My thoughts are with you. I hope his recovery goes well.

  17. Thanks for sharing your tips, Hannah. Your post spoke to me because I am a write-a-holic too. Thanks for giving me tip #4. I do have to learn to turn off once in a while to be fully present for my family. Sometimes it can be tough with a full time job, kids, and more. I feel like i have to do as much writing as I can squeeze in.

  18. Hi Helen, I love the comment: ‘The first water out might be rusty and bitter, but keep at it and sweetness will flow.’
    It is so very true. I always feel that our children get so much out of seeing us strive for a dream with determination and passion and take the odd rejection with strength and bravery.

    Ramona

  19. Very funny and inspiring!!! Loved—
    “delivery revisions”
    “write-a-holic”

    Your five tips are really good! My favorite was four. My husband told me recently that I was going way overboard with this “writing” thing!!! He was right! I was going from before dawn to the late hours in front of the computer! Since then, I have taken a step back. I’m trying to pick and choose! Between all the writing and revising and social media-ing there would never be enough hours in a day….or enough stamina in my back 🙂 So, I working for that balance and four confirmed my decision!
    Thanks for sharing Hannah!

    • Many times I wish I could spend all day at my computer, but I wonder if I would use my time any better. For now, I have a strict two hour per week social media budget. After the first draft, I have to be very careful about the projects I choose to develop. How do you prioritize projects?

      • I’m not good at prioritizing. But I definitely stay up to date with my critique group because it effects 7 other people. I need to work on prioritizing my projects because I have a lot of revisions awaiting me 🙂

  20. I enjoyed this post and I checked out Hannah’s website. I’ll be giving my daughter (mother of my grandson) the link so she can check out the neat ideas to do with her little guy. She likes finding fun things for them to do.

    Thanks.

  21. This was a fantastic post Hannah! You know I love #3 on your list and completely agree with you on #5! I am so glad to have met you through this experience. Good luck with your writing and keep creating with your kids!

    • You do a fantastic job including the kids. You are probably the best role model for #3. And the activities you put together for them are such a hoot. Keep up the awesomeness!

  22. Amen to being fully present with our kids! Sometimes I worry that their childhood memories will be of me with my face in the laptop. Thanks for the great reminder!

  23. Finding the right balance is so difficult. I do a lot of writing at night. At least the kids aren’t awake, but I’m not sure sleep deprivation is making me a better mother either. Good luck finding your balance.

  24. Wonderful list and remembering to stay present instead of always getting lost in the worlds inside your head is so very important. Thank you for that reminder! I have a fantastic image of you being wheeled down the hospital corridor as the nurse attempts to wrestle the manuscript from your grip.

    • Thanks, Heather. I’m so glad I “met” you through 12×12. Your passion for painting and creating inspire me. (Not to mention, you are just plain awesome.)

  25. I loved reading your post, Hannah. Your advice is great–especially because it’s filled with life experience. Good luck with your kids and your writing.

    • Thanks, Dana. I love the bright colors in your paintings. Your work is so full of life. Maybe some day if I’m lucky enough, I’ll own an original Dana Carey. 🙂

  26. This is such practical advice, Hannah! It’s so wise to write for yourself, and not the market. And thanks for reminding me that I need to take time for living, apart from my writing. Love the dedication you have for your family!

  27. Wonderful. Brilliant. I especially like the first Creative Maxum. Brava!

  28. Haha. Hannah, that is the first time I’ve heard of some writing while in labour.

  29. Great points, Hannah. Your words will be on my wall (my literal wall, behind my laptop).
    You actually explained to me why I find it helpful to constantly remind my 3-year old granddaughter that ‘Poppi writes for kids.’
    Thanks for sharing. – Damon Dean

  30. Don’t know why I am just getting to read this post…oh yes, I guess I do…life just seems to get in the way sometimes. 🙂
    Love the story about editing your manuscript while in labor at the hospital…that’s what I call dedication. 🙂
    Hannah…it is so lovely to connect with you…BTW, your picture book prize will be mailed tomorrow…and I LOVE your blog concept of crafting and cooking and picture books…that’s the basis of Show Me How!
    Julie, thank you for a wonderful interview…it’s fun to get to know fellow 12×12 participants this way. 🙂

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