Today is the first interview in a series examining the interrelated roles that writing and parenting have on our lives. I'm so lucky to have my friend Ami as my first guest! Unsurprisingly, her impressive background in self-examination produced some answers that will keep me thinking for a long time.
First, a little about Ami, and then we'll get on to the questions!
Ami Chen Mills-Naim is a global speaker, coach, trainer, editor and author of State of Mind in the Classroom: Thought, Consciousness and the Essential Curriculum for Healthy Learning, and The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth.
Please tell us a little about your latest project, and the intended audience:
I am transcribing a webinar series I led, called "Spiritual Maturity," into a book. I am also working on a memoir about my childhood, and relationship with my father and the spiritual teacher Sydney Banks--through my adulthood.
How aware are your children of your writing efforts? What do they think of the whole idea?
They know the books I have already published, and we give them out to their friends sometimes (a self-help book for youth, "The Spark Inside" ... I also have a book for teachers out that they know about, as I have given it to all their teachers!)
They are proud of me as a writer, but don't really know what I'm working on now--not with any depth. I sometimes think I'd like to write a children's book and have them be involved in some fashion. Or write a book inspired by them, for them. I was thinking about writing a letter to my daughter about sex and sexuality now that she's 13 and boys are coming around.
I've been reading their books lately! I just read "The Thing About Jellyfish" and it reminded of how much I loved books as a kid, and what they did for me.
Do you prefer to write when you can be away from your family, or do you have ways to stay focused when you're home together? Any tips? :-)
Going aways gives me lots of concentrated time. That's been really helpful in completing writing projects.
In the past, I've rented a hotel room in Carmel to write. I've gone up to our local retreat center for personal retreat, to write. I've applied to formal writers' retreats. I find the writing comes in waves. I don't judge myself too much for not finding time to write. I find that the massive "goal orientation" around writing (while motivating and often helpful) can also be a way to be stressed and not enjoy life and my kids as they are now. So, there's "giving ourselves permission" to write, and then also becoming enslaved to the writing goals. I am not clear that publishing my memoir will bring total satisfaction and fulfillment. I know I want to do it, but I've learned that life can pass you by when you get overly attached to any goals at all.
Do you find it's more helpful to try and stick to a regular schedule, or just grab whatever available time you can? How do you like to get back on track when too much "life stuff" gets in the way?
I've just carved out Mondays and Tuesdays and some Wednesday mornings for writing. When I get off track, I step back and see if I can value what is happening in place of the writing. For example, political activism became very important for me recently, and I just allowed that to be important. It felt important. More important than my writing goals. Then, I get this feeling that it's time to write again. So, I set an intention. I visit the library and bookshops for inspiration, then I see what makes sense, what opens up in terms of my schedule. I do acknowledge that we need to prioritize writing from time to time, or maybe often, depending... I just don't think we need to prioritize it above happiness, in general.
Did you write before you became a mother? How do you believe parenting has affected your writing (e.g. inspiration, content, self-discipline...)?
Yes! Lots! Was a journalist. Published two books before first child. I have written a lot of blogs about parenting and hope to compile them some day into a book, with photos, as a collaborative project. My children have changed me, of course, opened me up, so I think that in terms of my psychology/self-help writing, it's been a real boon to have kids. As I grow in my awareness (prodded by them) I write from that awareness. At the same time, they, and my husband keep me humble. I never feel too "spiritually advanced" because my family and our sometimes messy dynamics remind me that I am not! :)
What would you like your children to get out of your work, when/if they read it?
Self awareness, consciousness, humor, happiness, becoming "in service" to the world and themselves. Knowing me better! As in: "Oh my God, my Mom did that?" A sense of our unique family history with spirituality, Sydney Banks and a global movement. Gratitude.
Wow, right? I really loved picking Ami's brain, and I know I'll be returning to her words over and over again as I set goals for myself - or rather, intentions! It's certainly worth periodic self-examination to figure out if your goals are aligned with your happiness, and that of your family as a whole.
Next week, I'll be interviewing children's author Kristi Wright - she offers the perspective of how her writing changed over the course of her daughter's entire childhood! You can subscribe to my blog updates from the home page if you don't want to miss it. See you then, and in the meantime, you can find out more about Ami here:
Ami Chen Mills-Naim is an award-winning writer and journalist, who hosted her own radio show and podcast, “On the Front Porch with Ami Chen: Spiritual Dialogues for the 21st Century.” Ami’s current focus is on helping families, educators and children through sharing and expanding an understanding of the "Three Principles," of innate wisdom and what she calls the “the living, breathing, formless Truth" ... both within, and separate from any movement or organization. Moreover, Ami shares the profound potential of our true nature, and the simple power of Love to help end needless suffering.