Sarah Kohls Roberts earned a Ph.D. in chemistry once upon a time, before she became a mom of three and an author. She writes children’s picture books, children’s nonfiction, and short stories. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her family and a guinea pig with an attitude.
This past December, I suffered a seizure. To be safe, my doctor put me on a driving ban for three months. It was two weeks before Christmas, and I struggled to rearrange my life. All aspects of my busy schedule as a mom with three kids had to be navigated.
Friends and neighbors helped a lot. I took the bus, walked, and asked for rides. Some errands went undone. We used the online shopping and pickup service at the grocery store. I walked more and went to the gym less. My son walked home from after-school activities. My husband helped, but I felt guilty adding to his workload. My older daughter can drive, but couldn’t help much due to her academic and extracurricular schedule. To add to the difficulty, everyone in my family was sick sometime between December and April.
During this crazy and stressful time, I did my best to continue with normal life. I wrote, edited, and queried. I attempted to keep up with critique groups, and participated in a writing contest. Everyone encounters difficult and complicated situations in life. Forward progress is still necessary, because the world does not stop for you.
I was free for two wonderful weeks in March. Then I had another seizure.
Once I recovered from the initial shock, the second round of my driving ban was easier than the first. My support systems were in place, warmer weather made it easier to bike, and my daughter’s schedule relaxed. Surprisingly, the lessons from this experience extend to my writing journey.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Others are often more than willing to lend a hand, whether it is by giving you a ride, reading your manuscript, or connecting you to other authors or valuable writing resources. If you feel isolated in your writing life, or if you are stuck on some part of your manuscript, chances are you are not alone. Asking for help from other writers can be the break you need to get out of that rut.
Be flexible (and forgive yourself). It’s important to have a routine as a writer, because it can be easy to get distracted or blow off that writing time. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that other priorities occasionally must take precedence. A sick child doesn’t care whether you meant to spend your day(s) writing. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to change your writing routine. If you are sick or dealing with a difficult situation, it’s all right to rest, recover, and manage your challenges. Just make sure you get back to work once the crisis has passed.
Be patient. I am not patient by nature, so depending on others to get somewhere was a challenge. Having patience is critical for a writer. Once you send that manuscript to an agent or editor, you must wait for a reply, and hopefully an acceptance. All writers experience rejection, so this process continues for many cycles. Next you have to wait for edits, wait for beta readers, wait for book covers, wait for a book release date, wait, wait, wait…
Know that there will be setbacks. Having another seizure three months after the first was a shock to me. It was a setback, but made me realize that this was not a random, passing thing. In writing, setbacks seem inevitable. They can stem from life events that affect our writing: illness, job loss, or extra care for a family member. Setbacks also come from writer’s block, seemingly endless rejections, difficulties with an agent or editor, or bad reviews. But they can spur us to action or cause us to reflect upon our journey and change something that isn’t working. Setbacks can be a learning tool.
Value your support team. Through the past several months my family, friends, neighbors, and even mere acquaintances have assisted me in many ways. Their transportation help, friendship, and moral support have been invaluable. In my writing life, members of my critique groups, writing friends, and even random encounters with other authors have strengthened and supported me through both success and setbacks, and helped me to grow as a writer.
Keep writing! Through months of illness and inability to drive, I had to keep going, even when I was frustrated or down. And so it is with writing. There are days when the story does not flow, I don’t want to edit my story yet again, and I am hesitant to query another agent. But we must keep stringing words together into stories. We must get them into the world. They are like hungry babies or mountains of laundry—very hard to ignore. So recognize your talents, hold tight to your support system, be kind to yourself, and WRITE! You can do it.
I have met many amazing authors. Some of them I see at conferences, some are critique partners, and some have become dear friends. Most authors are encouraging and helpful. One stands out to me personally. I first met Teresa Funke at a moms group, and eventually learned she was an author. She inspired a spark of an idea: maybe I could write my own stories. When I did begin, Teresa encouraged me and told me about Northern Colorado Writers. As I turned toward children’s books, she invited me to our local SCBWI meeting. Teresa is naturally supportive and willing to share her knowledge. She has been a mentor without knowing it, an upbeat advisor operating at the edges of my writing journey. I hope to do the same for other authors with the same grace.
Sarah's Work in Progress
Currently I am working on Blossom’s Wish, a picture book about a horse who dreams of becoming a unicorn. I have two additional manuscripts about Blossom, with a third in the works. I have written several other picture book manuscripts, as well as some short stories. Another project is a children’s nonfiction book that features scientists from different backgrounds and explains the process of becoming a scientist.
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.