Multi-Tasking in the Publix Parking Lot

by - February 07, 2014

I traded cars with my husband last evening, gesturing wildly to let him know I would pick up Noelle from dance. Holding the phone to my face with one finger while my purse dangled from the other four, I managed to open the car door and slide into the new driver's seat without giving myself away to the man on the other end of the phone or dropping the pink folder full of my notes.

It was a phone interview—impromptu but important. I was multi-tasking to meet a deadline, and that, more than any other thing, describes my writing life. I've had to do it on top of all life's other responsibilities, and it often looks like a frantic woman changing cars in the Publix parking lot or running late for work.

In the beginning was the word (John 1:1), and that is where it all started.

I fell in love with reading, the written word, long before I discovered that writing thrilled me as much, if not more. So I majored in English in college and wrote about literature. Youth is the intoxicating mixture of ambition, inexperience, and blissful ignorance, so I dreamed of book-signings or my picture beside a magazine editor's column or roaming the marbled offices of New York's publishing houses. Maybe all of them. I don't remember—it was a long time ago.
And then real life happened, as it often does, not exactly how you had planned.

But so much of it was good. A husband, his graduate school, a modest mortgage, then three little progenies. Soon I could hardly remember how to carry an adult conversation, much less my illustrious desire to write poignant, profound passages. And so it was, until I was the homeschooling mom of three tweens 14 years later in 2009.
That's when I met Lindsay.

She photographed our church staff and then our family one cold misty afternoon in November. With one eye squinting into the camera and digital clicks filling the air around us, she said, "I blog," two words that would change so much for me. They flitted lightly thought the foggy air like an uncaged butterfly. A casual comment that was somehow bold and defiant would gently bend my life in a new direction, only I didn't know it yet.

A month later, I had acquainted myself with Lindsay's blog and we were winding down homeschooling for Christmas. I began a new read aloud book with my daughters, The Island of the Blue Dolphin. We read the first two chapters, and I hurried upstairs to change for work. I couldn't shift gears mentally, though. The ideas from the book niggled. They teamed up, reproduced, and organized themselves into a picketing workforce that demanded to be heard.

Dressed for work, I acquiesced. I sat at the computer, laid down the car keys beside me, and let the words have their way into the world. I posted it, unedited, as a Facebook note.

I was 45 minutes late for work and more alive inside myself than I had been since I was pregnant.

By February of 2010, I had read enough of Lindsay's blog to know two things: I can do that, and I want to do that. So one more blog entered cyberspace.

The next year I joined a local writers group where strangers became friends and was published in a local magazine. I've contributed to an online site for two years and regularly contribute to two Christian magazines with feature articles and personal essays.

I cashed my first writer's paycheck in 2012 and did the happy dance unashamed in my kitchen.

To write with a full-time job, three teenagers, and pastor's wife duties, it can get a little crazy. Sometimes dinner burns. Sometimes I set the alarm to go off early or write through my lunch hour. Sometimes—okay, last night—I even pretended to listen to my husband tell me a little about his day while my mind stayed on this unfinished sentence. Yes, that very one.

I carve out the time by multi-tasking so I can write. My writing life may not look like the slick, glossy book covers and the posh publishing houses of my younger self's imaginings. But a version of the dream lives on in the older me, the woman with dark circles under her eyes, an untouched To Do list, and a willingness to stop in a grocery store parking lot in not one but two makeshift car-offices to conduct an interview for the next article.

Cover Photo

I'm writing in community with some beautiful girls from (in)courage. We're reading and discussing Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, and I'll be reflecting on the book and my own writing life here on Fridays for the next eight weeks. I invite you to read along and be inspired to dust off your own youthful dreams and drag them back into your real life, where they belong.

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  1. I'm so excited to join you on this journey in the (in)courage group. I'm at the very beginning of my writing journey and it is so encouraging to meet others who are much further along. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Wow! What fun! I guess we need to chat. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  3. This is so great, Dawn! You are a wonderful writer.
    Could you give me the link to the (in)courage group?

    1. The groups at (in) courage are closed. Registration was a few weeks ago and they do their best to keep the groups small. There are lots of groups, and they had a Fall session last year. Maybe they will have a Fall session again this year. Here's a link if you want to know more:

  4. I can so relate to that need to get those words down quickly! Been there! Now, I'm an empty nest mom and a semi-retired English teacher. I continue to teach part time at a local career college. And it is so important to get those words out and to tell the important stories. I'm looking forward to exploring the writing life with all of you in the (in)courage group.

  5. "and then life happened" seems to be a common theme I hear from a lot of writers. However, I am thankful for that life because it provided the stories I can now write about.
    I love getting to know you more through your writing story. I can't wait to continue on this journey with you.

  6. Dawn,
    I've read your words before, and I always enjoy your style! I giggled when I read about you at Publix because that is how I live this season of my life. Multitasking like a mad woman.

    Favorite paragraph:

    "My writing life may not look like the slick, glossy book covers and the posh publishing houses of my younger self's imaginings. But a version of the dream lives on in the older me, the woman with dark circles under her eyes, an untouched To Do list, and a willingness to stop in a grocery store parking lot in not one but two makeshift car-offices to conduct an interview for the next article."

    How I can relate to this.

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

  7. Great post Dawn. Excited to journey with you this season in our (in) Courage group. ~m

  8. It is so great to learn more about you and how you became a writer. It is so great to meet you through the (in)courage group.


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