But just because you're not actively writing doesn't mean you're not thinking. I often get my best ideas and thoughts away from the computer. I keep a notebook and jot down notes at those times. Through my worst years, my least stable years (following my divorce) I was still able to write. I can't explain how, but Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, Wifey, Superfudge, and the idea for Tiger Eyes came out of those four years. My angst was good for my work. I sometimes joke that finding happiness in my personal life has screwed up my career.

I used to fantasize about how free I'd be to write when my kids were grown. Instead, I find the opposite to be true. I was actually far more prolific in the early days of my career when my kids were in school. Now, after twenty-two books, I don't feel the same urgency as when I was younger and sure that my life would be cut short like my father's. I have to remind myself that that's okay.

Having a family isn't going to keep you from writing. You wouldn't write unless you had to, and by having to I don't mean to pay the bills. There has to be an easier way to pay the bills. You write because it's there, inside you, and it has to come out one way or another. Better for you and your children if it happens in a positive way.

You want to know the nuts and bolts of writing with little kids around? Okay, I would say it comes down to four things. Structure. Discipline. Determination. No Excuses. (All writers are great at coming up with excuses.) You have to make it happen. You have to figure out a way to grab those two-hour blocks every day. (I rented office space in order to start Wifey and, a few years later, a motel room which became my writing studio while I was trying to finish Tiger Eyes.)

It's not going to be easy. Talk to any parent who works at home. Because I didn't start to write until my kids were in preschool, I didn't have to worry about child care when they were very young. You will. For me, it meant focusing on my writing every morning while they were out of the house. A couple of years later they were at school all day. I wrote in the mornings. Did everything else in the afternoons. I still do my best creative work in the mornings.

I once asked my son if it bothered him that I was the only working mother on our street, and he looked at me as if I were crazy ‘You were always home," he said. "I never thought about you working." That's the truth. For better or worse, I don't think they thought about my work. If I were doing it today I'd make my work more important in our lives. Whether it was guilt or not, I never made a big thing out of it. They never saw the struggle. I don't think that was wise. They still have the mistaken idea that it all came easily for me.

Don't deny yourself the joys of parenthood, Jennifer, not if you really want a child. You won't lose yourself by becoming a mother. Kids have a way of helping you put everything else in perspective. Easy? No. It's the toughest job there is. Rewarding? Oh, yes! But also demanding, frustrating, sometimes painful, even humiliating. Sounds a lot like writing, doesn't it?

In friendship,

Judy Blume


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