'Don't tell me I can't do this': Sarah Meehan Sirk on becoming a writer
It took seven years of writing in stolen moments — after work, on vacations, and during the rare quiet interludes when her kids were down for a nap — for Sarah Meehan Sirk to spin her stories from their earliest drafts into a finished book.
But the hard work has paid off.
She also happens to be a former CBC Radio host — and one of the founding producers of Day 6.
Earlier this year, Meehan Sirk officially stepped away from her job at the CBC to become a full-time writer.
"I had been working for a really long time to make this happen in the background, and it just felt like it was time to put it in the foreground, for at least a period of time," she tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
Sticking with it
Between two maternity leaves and a busy, successful career, it wasn't always easy to find the time or mental energy for writing.
When Day 6 first launched in 2010, Meehan Sirk worked around the clock to put the show together. Then, the very week of the show's premiere, she signed with a literary agent.
"There was this 'Okay, let's make a book!' at the exact same time that we were saying, 'Okay, let's make a show!'"
Inevitably, there were periods of burnout over the years. But at the end of her long, intense workdays as a journalist, writing fiction offered a release for Meehan Sirk.
"For me, fiction has always been so close to truth," she says.
"It made sense of something; it calmed something."
Still, as she settled into a career and started a family, Meehan Sirk often felt a pressure to set aside her writing.
"That was the biggest current I was working against," she says. "'You're crazy; you're too old ... if you wanted to do this in your 20s, do it then; don't do it now."
"I just said, 'Forget it!' This is what I want to do."
A balancing act
The challenges of pairing parenthood with personal creative goals are a recurring theme in The Dead Husband Project.
In the book's title story, a young visual artist repeats a piece of advice she was given early on in her career: "Let other people have children."
Meehan Sirk recalls reading the same advice in a column for aspiring writers when she was a new mother herself.
You can have a career, you can have children, and you can make that thing happen. It's going to be hard; it's going to not be fun a lot of the time; but you can make it happen.- Sarah Meehan Sirk
"It was like an arrow to the heart," she says. "And I thought, 'I get it.' And it's not just about the time; but it's also the emotional pulls, too, and the exhaustion."
"But it was important to me to put it in the story, because I kind of wanted to own it. I wanted the artist character to have to confront it, but I did not want to let it be true."
In fact, Meehan Sirk says the decision to raise children has boosted her motivation as a writer.
"I want to show [them] that you can have a career, you can have children, and you can make that thing happen. It's going to be hard; it's going to not be fun a lot of the time; but you can make it happen."
"And that was way more important to me than shuffling under the rug this 'silly dream' that I had in the background."
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