Ah, it’s Breakfast time again—my favorite way to start Friday! This week, our creative mother from the blogosphere is Sarah Markley. I discovered Sarah when Lisa Leonard recommended I read Sarah’s blog. I was quickly enamored with Sarah’s honesty and open sharing of her life and spiritual journey. I don’t know Sarah personally, but I sense that her external beauty is reflected on the inside. Another cup of decaf, anyone?
CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family parameters.
SM: I am Sarah Markley and I am a wife and a mother to two girls, ages 2 and 6. I got married at the freakishly too-young age of 21 and we just celebrated 12 years. I got my bachelor’s degree in English and my masters in education before teaching middle school language arts for a few years. I quit almost 7 years ago when my first daughter was born. Now I work from home a little for my husband’s business (he/we have a small technology consulting company) and I volunteer at my church. Between those things and trying to keep my house clutter-free (an impossible task), I am a mother to my girls.
CC: Tell us about your writing life.
SM: I guess I could say that I am somewhat new to writing. Sort of. I wrote some in college and had something tiny published in my university literary publication. For some reason, when I got married a couple weeks after graduation, my writing just dried up. It wasn’t my husband’s fault; I just stopped and didn’t begin again. I began dozens of journals over 10 years and I have stacks of them with two pages written. I would put that aside and buy a new blank book a couple months later. Same story.
Until I began blogging. It has been the discipline of trying to produce a decent piece of writing each day that has changed my life. I began last summer and haven’t stopped. There is a purpose to it and there is immediate feedback. A friend knew that I was quietly trying to pursue writing and she invited me to a writer’s conference. It was the most amazing experience. It was like taking a crash course in writing and I met some wonderful other women writers, some working on books and others on article-length writing, but each one very encouraging.
I know that blogging does not equal writing, but for me, it has been the daily discipline of trying to be creative that has helped me feel like I am moving forward in my craft. I am still unpublished, but we’ll see what the next year holds. The pull and almost “call” I feel toward writing is very strong. I know I have a lot to learn and many more rejection emails to receive, but I’m not giving up yet!
CC: What prompted you to start a blog?
SM: A good friend of mine, Lisa Leonard (featured on one of your previous “Breakfasts”), moved four hours away and began a blog. I initially began reading it to keep up with her life and her new jewelry business. After a couple months, I realized that I could do this too. In fact, I felt I needed too.
CC: On your blog, you posted a moving and personal story about your weight loss experience, in four installments. What moved you to be so open with the general public?
SM: I had shared a little bit about weight loss in some of my early posts and it seemed like it really resonated with readers. I feel like everything a person goes through is so that they can be a helper to others who struggle with similar issues. I’ve always been moderately open with friends and family about my weight loss journey, and I figured that blogging was a perfect medium to share my entire story. Also, you use the term “general public.” And even though the internet is surely open to every person on earth, somehow I feel like my blog readers are closer than the general public. Sure I get someone who disagrees with me now and then, but for the most part, I felt like I was just sharing another facet of myself with people who, for the most part, were interested in what I had to say.
CC: Where do you do your creative work?
SM: As I considered how to answer this question, I kept laughing. If you all saw my house, you’d laugh too. Toys, unfolded clothes, Goldfish crackers — you name it. To find my own space seems impossible. I usually carve out a piece of my dining room table to work and then at night, hoist my laptop upstairs and work in bed. My bedroom is my favorite place to work and the most peaceful room in my house, but it just isn’t practical during the day when I am trying to keep sisters from fighting. I use a desk too, and I’ve only recently had an actual space that is just mine.
But also, when considering the idea of spaces, I do a lot of my work outside. I jog most mornings for exercise and so many days I do my writing in my head. Whether it is actual outdoor inspiration, or me just putting my life in order being by myself, many mornings I return with great ideas and a couple of paragraphs written already.
CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
SM: No schedule. But I imagine as my kids get older and require less of my intense attention, I will be able to do more writing on a schedule.
CC: What do you struggle with most?
SM: Blogging is one thing: 300 words, one idea, a decent take-away and I’m good to go. But writing, editing, and polishing an article for a publication is another thing altogether. Finding the actual time to perfect and article is one of my biggest challenges. By the end of the day I am so exhausted. I have no inspiration left at 9:30 at night.
CC: How much does guilt factor in your life?
SM: I don’t feel a ton of guilt. I try to balance everything so I don’t go crazy (doesn’t always work out) and give everything/everyone the right amount of energy and time. Maybe my writing suffers, maybe I’d write more if I didn’t have kids, but I sure wouldn’t have much to write about.
CC: Where do you find inspiration?
SM: Inspiration really comes from anywhere. I guess that is a cliché answer, but it’s true. I think that an artist (any kind) has to live her life trying to look at things through different eyes — I try to see my kids and my husband and myself in a new light every day.
CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
- Food: Ice cream or if I’m trying to be good, frozen yogurt.
- Shopping: Books. I just buy them and only read about half of them.
- Me time: Jogging or exercising
- Us time: Getting out of town with my husband a couple times a year without the kids (I have amazing parents)
- If I had lots of money: Travel, travel, travel
CC: What are you reading right now?
SM: Both of the books I’m reading right now are memoirs. I guess I’m drawn to real stories told in fresh ways. I’m finally digging in to Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies. I’m flip flopping between that and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I might have never picked it up had someone not given it to me as a gift (it was the only book I brought with me on vacation). I love her unique perspective on fiction and how it is woven into the greater story of our lives.
CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to be more creative?
SM: I recently had a discussion with my husband about “creative people.” It seems like some people are creative and work in creative fields (photographers, designers, writers, etc.) and some people move through life without pursuing anything that requires “creation” at all. I think that we all are creative in some way (some of us have multiple talents) and that it is the doing of something consistently that makes the difference. Advice I would give to mothers who struggle to be creative? Just decide to do it and don’t stop. Do a little every day of whatever makes you feel like you are in the process of creation. Someone told me at my writer’s conference, “You’ll get published if you keep writing.” Sounds like good advice to me.
CC: Good advice all around, Sarah! Thank you.