I like to share on this blog stories of how people strive and find ways of achieving their writing goals over time. During January when I posted on creative and mental resilience I came in contact with many likeminded people who are oriented towards findiing energy and creative resourcefullness in their lives. One of these people is Diana Bletter whose blog called ‘The Best Chapter‘ is all about accessing that creative and personal energy.
Diana’s writing has achieved acclaim, she was the First Prize winner of Family Circle Magazine’s 2011 Fiction Contest, and her novel, The Witches’ Secret, was a semi-finalist in Amazon’s 2009 Breakout Novel Award. She has also been published extensively including in the New York Times and her first book was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. She and her husband raised six children and an unofficially adopted daughter from Ethiopia and in 2009 when the nest finally became empty she and her husband took off on an amazing rmotorcycle roadtrip to Alaska. Let’s hear more!
Diana, you had a successful career as a journalist and writer. Tell us how it was for you going on to raise 4 kids, two stepkids and your ‘unofficially adopted’ Ethiopian daughter and putting your writing aside?
I always made a commitment to myself to write even when I had a house full of kids. I’ve also been a member of the 5 A.M. Writers’ Club and prayed that the kids wouldn’t hear me sneaking around the kitchen and making my first cup of coffee. But I’d always wanted a large family and when things got tough, I told myself, you will only get one shot at raising these kids. You’ll always have your writing. I felt it would wait for me like a patient, loyal lover…
What gave me encouragement was reading about other women who started writing later. Anne Proulx was 53 when her first short story collection was published. She said, “I think that’s important, to know how the water’s gone over the dam before you start to describe it. It helps to have been over the dam yourself.”
Still, it’s absolutely vital for mothers who are writers to write. Because raising kids is very draining. You can get depleted and you need to fill your own well.
Even when I didn’t have whole chunks of time, I made sure to squeeze in some time for myself, even five minutes, because if I didn’t write, I’d feel so deprived. Writing for me is replenishing: I plug into the creative buzz of the universe. I knew that the best way to take care of myself was honoring my need to write. And once you take care of yourself, you take better care of everyone else. You know that on an airplane, they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you put on the oxygen mask on your kids.
I didn’t get to write as much as I would have liked to, however. It is hard to do it all. I would have loved a housewife with a half-hour to help me!
At what point in your family life did you decide that you wanted to shake things up and do something to bring you back to yourself?
Tell us about the trip you decided to go on.
I was in New York and happened to meet a woman who was riding on her motorcycle to Alaska. She was leaving that very day. I admired her but then forgot about her…until three months later, when I met the same woman the very same day she was returning from Alaska. I believe that a coincidence is when the universe wants to remain anonymous. But two coincidences? I knew I just had to ride a motorcycle up to Alaska and back to jump-start the next chapter of my life.
Had you ever been on a motorcycle before?
Yes, well, that was the problem. I’d never ridden a motorcycle before!
I took six lessons. One of my husband Jonny’s friends, whom I call Mr. X in my book, kept telling me I was never going to be able to do this 16,000-kilometer ride. But once I set my mind on it, I knew I couldn’t not do it.
What did you hope to experience on your trip and was it anything like you imagined?
I knew I’d stumbled upon a good story before the trip. It was almost as if I wanted to live this experience because I wanted to write about it.
Motorcycling for a long distance is like meditating with your eyes wide open. You have to be very still inside, very centered, very concentrated, and willing to accept the discomfort that can just about knock you over. You have to sit with the pain. We spend our lives fleeing from pain so that was a valuable lesson for me.
Without giving too much away, what is the key thing you gained from the trip in your relationship with yourself and also your husband.
We are very different, Jonny and I. He was a combat soldier who has remained hyper-vigilant. I’m a writer who likes to go off into my own imaginary world. We had to find a way to meet in the middle. Something terrible happened on our trip (I won’t say what) and we had to learn how to count on each other in a startling and unpredictable way.
Did you take notes as you went along or was there time for any of that?
I kept a journal and wrote a blog which formed the basis of my book. I was also on assignment for The New York Times to write a story about the Matanuska Glacier near Anchorage so once we got there, I had time to write the article and add to my notes.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I hope that my journey inspires readers to try to do the thing they think they cannot do. You write the story of your life every day, as you go along. You can make a commitment each day to try to write your best chapter, and it’s just as important that you live your best chapter. You have a choice. You can be the hero of your own life.
Thank you to Diana for her enthralling story. To read more about Diana and her book or to follow her on Twitter see below.
Diana’s blog www.thebestchapter.com T: @dianabletter
The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle is available at:
Check out Diana’s funny video on child-raising: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJRgPAw7jA8