Writing in the Cracks and Chunks: An Interview with writer Marian Jacobs
Editor's Introduction: I'm been looking forward to publishing this interview with Marian Jacobs for a while now. Marian and her husband, Tim, are close friends of ours from Kentucky. We served in the same church, and Tim and I both attended Southern Seminary. Among many other things, Tim is a philosopher and Marian is a writer.
One of the many reasons that I wanted to interview Marian is because she is a busy and loving wife, mother, and author. That's a lot to balance! I hope this interview inspires you in your calling.
My questions, of course, are in bold (or if you're reading this on your phone, the questions with ">>" next to them).
>>How long have you been writing?
My interest in creative writing started in middle school. I wrote short stories for my creative writing class and kept a private notebook of poems. There was a short time I even told people I wanted to be a poet when I grew up. That season only last a couple years at the most. The closest I came to creative writing in high school was my thought process. No, I’m not kidding! I used to organize my thoughts or events happening around me in book/dialogue format complete with a visual of an off-white book page in my mind. I didn’t start to write seriously (I don’t consider blogging as serious writing--at least it wasn’t for me) until after my second child was born. I’d heard of people doing short writing exercises based off pictures so I skipped off to Pinterest! I was planning on doing a lot of practice before considering myself to be a “real” writer. Then my very first Pinterest picture turned into the inspiration for my first novel. A few years after that, I began to write non-fiction articles for the Church.
>>You now are a busy mother and wife. In what ways do you find that writing now is more of a challenge? And are there any ways in which it is now easier (or at least being a mother and wife inspires you in your writing)?
I’ve never known anything different. At first, I would write only when my husband found time to release me from the home for an entire day at the public library. Even then, I couldn’t always find the courage to go between heavy bouts of writer doubt. (i.e. Who do I think I am writing a novel?) After reading a blog from Christian author K.B. Hoyle, I began writing in the small spaces of my busy day. This has been my norm for most of my writing journey. When someone asks me, “When do you find time to write?” I always answer with a programmed, “In between diaper changes!” It’s not harder or easier since it’s all I know. It’s chaos and that’s okay.
>>Can you describe for me what your writing routine looks like for a typical week?
Things have changed a bit since I first began writing. I have three kids and the oldest two are in school full time. I get very little done during the summer months and relish a little extra freedom during the school year. My best weapon for productivity is a schedule. Since I’m naturally unorganized, spontaneous, and unplanned, I find this need for discipline to be exhausting most of the time. But it’s also necessary since I have so much on my plate. My (almost) two-year old naps in the middle of the day so I divide my time with tasks I can do while he’s awake (laundry, meal prep, errands, etc.) and tasks that must be done while he’s asleep--such as writing. That time gets a special bubble of protection placed around it since I can’t do it any other time. If someone calls, I ignore the phone. If I get a sudden urge to make techno hymns on Garageband, I suppress the urge. Since I’m too tired to think at the end of the day and my constant battle with insomnia prevents me from getting up before the kids to write, nap time on weekdays is the answer most days.
>>I’m sure that some of your colleagues are also mothers and wives. Have you spoken with them about the journey of their writing in this season?
I met most of my writer friends who are Christian moms through an organization called Realm Makers--Christians who write science fiction and fantasy. They’re all dedicated to their writing and in different stages of busyness with their families. Here are just a few pieces of advice I’ve gathered from these amazing women:
“Hope Writers has this idea of crack time and chunk time. Crack time is when you only have a few minutes--like waiting for water to boil--and can jot down ideas. Chunk time is more like 30 minutes or more, when you actually have time to sit down. The idea is to learn to use both.” - Rebekah Claborn, @byraclaborn
“Schedule, schedule, schedule. I’m a homeschooling mom of three, and in order to get my writing time in every day, we have to keep a pretty strict timetable. Also, I had to start getting up an hour earlier.” - Bonnie Maison
“Schedule is everything. I write for about two hours in the morning and then start my chores. I try to save that time for actual book production. I can often be found reading books for review on my Kindle during karate lessons or in doctor's office waiting rooms. Everybody has the season of the year that works for them--find something that works for you.” - H. Halverstadt, @H_Halverstadt
“Write in the mornings or after bedtime. Force yourself to do it. Write in the cracks. Write in the car on long trips. Take a tablet to dance lessons and sports practices.” - Gretchen E. K. Engel, @GretchenEKEngel
“Don’t be afraid to teach your kids to entertain themselves for a short period of time while you get work done. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and tell them—'you guys can play with toys/watch a show for this long. Let me work. When you hear the timer go off, I will take a break and you can come ask for snacks/drinks/whatever.’” - H. A. Titus, @HATitusWriting
“I use chores to think about my next scene. So dishes, vacuuming, laundry, etc. I would plan out the next scene so when I sat down I knew what to write. Constantly adjust. Kids' schedules are constantly changing so try to be flexible as well. What works in June might not work in January and that’s okay.” - Nikki Haverstock, @RancherNikki
>>You write for a number of online communities and publications. In light of this, how might you describe your audience?
That’s a pretty complicated question to be honest. Since I’m still in the process of trying to get my novel published, my audience isn’t set in stone. There is the potential of having two separate audiences if my book gets picked up by a secular publisher. My articles, some of which were exclusively written for women or parents, were featured by Christian websites or magazines and I have a following there. When I first began querying literary agents, I only wanted to write fiction for the general (secular) market. But since then, God has changed my heart. My husband and I have both felt God pulling us to write for the edification of the Church and I’m now excited about the idea of pursuing a Christian publisher. I plan to continue writing my stories with strong Christian themes that any worldview can enjoy.
Marian Jacobs lives near Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. She occasionally finds time for photography and writing stories about monsters and magic. Her work has been featured at Desiring God and Speculative Faith. You can find more about her and her work at her personal website.