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Tsh Oxenreider, uber-popular blogger of Simple Mom fame, is hitting the bookstores this month with her first book: Organized Simplicity. Here’s what Tsh had to say about blogging, becoming an author, and managing it all as a mother of three:
Theo: When did you first consider yourself “a writer?”
Tsh: Sadly, it was after I actually became a writer — I see that now, looking back. I first considered myself a writer after I signed the book contract for my first (and recently-released) book, Organized Simplicity. But that’s really when I finally looked at myself squarely and admitted to wearing the writer hat — before that, I differentiated between the title of “blogger” and “writer,” and felt like up until then, I had only been bestowed the former. But as I wrote the book’s manuscript and plowed through edits with my editor, all while continually publishing content on my blog three times per week, I admitted that in all honesty, I became a writer the first time I clicked “publish.” Blogging IS writing.
Theo: How did the idea for your blog Simple Mom come about?
Tsh: In the summer of 2007, I was diagnosed with depression. My family and I had just moved overseas four months prior (for my husband’s work), and the psychologist who diagnosed me suggested we seek out face-to-face care to learn how to best handle my depression while living cross-culturally. We ended up spending two months in Thailand, and while I was there, I met with a counselor who encouraged me to find a creative outlet as a means of coping with the stress of cross-cultural life and depression.
Several months later, my husband Kyle suggested I start a blog to fulfill that creative itch. I had always liked writing, and was currently keeping a simple, update-the-grandparents-on-the-grandkids type of blog, so I knew the basics of blogging. I also loved reading blogs, and got a sense of what was out there already, and what was yet to be said. My favorite blog niches were blogs about motherhood and blogs about productivity, but I had never found one that was about both. So one day, in January 2008, I decided to start my own, as more of a dumping ground to jot down my experiences in these two interests. I bought the domain name SimpleMom.net, and just started writing.
Theo: Before the blog, had you considered the possibility of writing a book?
Absolutely. Writing a book has been on my “bucket list” since I was a kid, but it honestly was shelved for some time, probably since college. Motherhood was my primary gig when I started the blog, and for most of its first year, most of my writing focus was more on creating a great online space than on creating a platform for a book. It was only in the second year that I even tinkered with the thought of book writing.
Theo: How did you balance the demands of the blog and the book at the same time? Did they compete for your writing time?
Tsh: This was genuinely difficult. At the time I signed the book contract, I was writing content for Simple Mom at least twice per week (one of six contributors wrote each Wednesday), editing Simple Kids, and prepping behind-the-scenes work for launching four other blog channels (which eventually became my blog network, Simple Living Media). I was also a mama to a four-year-old and an 18-month-old, was living overseas and dealing with all that entailed (language and cultural differences galore), and doing my best to keep my marriage a priority. And a few months in to the book writing, I went through a miscarriage and lost twins. Just a few months later, I became pregnant with our third-born.
So I went through a lot during the book’s creation. The only way I found a slice of sanity and the ability to balance the blog and the book was with outside help. We hired a mother’s helper to come watch the kids two mornings per week. Kyle rolled up his sleeves and did more than his fair share around the house. And in all honesty, the blog wasn’t all that I felt it could be — in some ways, that took a backseat creatively while I invested most of my energy into the book.
I knew it was a short-term venture; I could see a definitive light at the end of the tunnel with the book writing, so I plowed through the work for the long-term gain (which is one of the main differences with writing a blog). So in all honesty, I balanced by plowing through and enduring a heavy season of busyness, knowing it wouldn’t last forever.
Theo: Do you have a writing routine? And for those moms out there, how do you write with kids around?
Tsh: I sleep in until 9, at which time I leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee and work in my writing loft that overlooks the ocean until about noon, when I eat a three-course meal prepared by my personal chef. Then I write the rest of the day in my mountain cabin next to a rolling fire.
In reality, I write amongst the laundry pile and between kissing owies. I would love to have a writing routine, and in some ways, I do — I write whenever I can. This changes month-to-month, and there are times when I have a slightly more regimented writing schedule, and other seasons when I go with the flow. Right now, for example, I write on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings while my oldest daughter is at her half-day kindergarten. It’s not ideal, but it’s what works for now, because as much as I love writing, being a mom is my main gig. I scoop up all those precious moments of writing time as I get them because they don’t happen often, and they’re usually not in a creatively-freeing space.
I know it won’t be this way forever, so that makes this season okay. I’ll blink, and then all three will be school age and they’ll be able to tie their own shoes and go to the bathroom on their own. Perhaps then I’ll be able to spread out and devote time and space to perfecting this craft that I love. In the meantime, though, I live fully in the season I’m in. I don’t wish it away because my children are precious; a gift. They’re messy and inconsistent and loud, but there just as much an inspiration as any breathtaking view.
Theo: Are you thinking of writing another book?
Tsh: Yes. I’ll mostly likely start my next book after the embers cool a bit from this book’s release, and after several months of “normal” life (my family needs a good dose of that right now). I also have an idea for another blog channel that I might work in to my network, who knows.
Basically, I want to marry my experience of living overseas with parenting and simple living, and explore the ways different cultures run their homes and families successfully. What can we each learn from our varied perceptions of how to best raise children? Have company over for dinner? Have a good relationship with the in-laws? I’d like to dive in to several cultures’ unique ideas for living everyday family life, and highlight that culture’s qualities in a positive, life-affirming way.
Learn more about Tsh Oxenreider and Simple Mom at the Simple Mom site.