Monday, April 26, 2010

Mothering and Writing

Hey ho! I had a fantastabulous weekend at my editing workshop, and will tell you all about it in tomorrow's post. I learned a lot, and more importantly, enjoyed every second of it.

Today I'm talking about being a mother and a writer. There have been many blog posts written about mothering and writing and the balance it requires, especially when the kids are babies. And by babies I mean until 18. It's hard. We don't always have the time, energy, or focus that we need to produce usable material for a novel or short story, because we give the best of ourselves to our children (or we should, anyway). Note: I'm sure you dads out there do the same.

I don't know how many of you moms out there who write novels also work full-time, as I do. But I get asked a lot, "Where do you find the time?" And in fact, a week or so ago Tawna Fenske asked "How do you do it?" So I shall tell you.

I write when the baby sleeps.

This means that after the whippersnapper goes to bed, around 8 pm, I have an hour and a half to pound out/revise whatever I can. This also often means that the kitchen isn't as sparkling clean as I would like it, and sometimes I don't speak to my husband until bedtime. (Balance is key there; my own scientific observations have revealed that that my husband will only tolerate so many nights in a row of no sounds except those of my fingers on my laptop keyboard.)

I also write when he naps. I admit I am starting to despair at the idea of losing those two precious hours in the afternoons on weekends, because the whippersnapper is beginning to show signs of outgrowing his nap. So I have instituted "quiet time" whereby he plays quietly in his room and "rests," while I type away. This seems to work well for right now. I know it won't work forever.

I think and plot when I am on my own.
Mostly, this is to and from work in the car. It's also in the shower. There's really no other time.

I write fast.
I have to. And yes, I wrote this post when I should have been overhauling my protagonist's mother. And I will.

I schedule things ahead of time.
This means blog posts (I always schedule posts a day or two ahead of time, sometimes a week or two ahead of time), this means being organized about what revisions I'll make in a night, and sometimes, it means not writing at all. This is particularly true during pregnancy. When that late first trimester exhaustion hits and you have to go to bed every night at 7:30, writing gets put on hold. And if it's your second pregnancy and your existing whippersnapper's bedtime is 8 pm,'ll be writing another time.

If you have more than one child, you really have to scramble. That might include not writing at the pace you were used to for a while -- maybe even months or years. That is the sacrifice we make for having babies.

Some people get up before the kids to do to write. I will not get up at 5:30 willingly, so that's never going to happen. Balancing out my evening time is key.

I do things in stages.
After the whippersnapper was born, we could no longer watch a movie in one sitting. There just wasn't that kind of time. And now that the whippersnapper is a little older, he wants to watch full length movies, but I don't like for him to sit for two or more hours in front of the telly at one time. So we break things up. We took two weeks to watch Wall-e. Had to. Did we mind? Not really. There isn't really an alternative and we don't have that kind of concentrated time. This post is a good example. I've written this in a few stages: I started it one night, left it for later finishing another night, and now I've given it a final edit it the night before it's scheduled to post. (For those of you thinking, "Interesting. Then why are your posts so poorly edited and written?" I can only say "Pbbbbbtttthhh!")

So likewise, I write and edit in phases.

I don't dwell on my pre-parenthood days.

I don't sit there and think "Holy Krakow, it was soooooo good when there were no kids to think about and I could sit here and write and write and write." Because thinking along those lines will only bring bitterness along the lines of "If only I were independently wealthy." Not going to happen. Right now anyway.

Bottom line: I'm passionate and committed to writing. So I do it. That means missing Glee and 30 Rock and all the other shows I know nothing about (truly), and it means making time to write at the expense of a cleaner house or other leisure activities. And of course, it means being very organized about time and finding that thin line of balance.

It's really all about priorities.


Valerie Wangnet said...

Very interestin post! A person who can juggle so much is very inspiring!


Caroline Starr Rose said...

When mine were small, I'd aim for three writing sessions a week. It wasn't much, but it was doable. Any extra writing time was icing.

I think if I'd made a stricter schedule for myself discouragment would have kept me from being writing much at all.

Worked for me!

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I'm not a parent (yet?) but this seems like great tips. Also, I want to nibble on those cute little baby toes in your picture.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Great post! I work full-time and have a three-year-old who no longer naps. Sigh. My writing is done after she goes to bed. Thankfully, my husband is at work at that time most days so I've got perfect quiet time.

KLM said...

The loss of the nap is really heart-breaking. Ugh. I remember the sense of dread that I felt when my oldest started showing signs of throwing off her nap altogether. Saying goodbye to that little respite in the middle of the day was not easy. But then hopefully he'll start going to sleep a little earlier as a result and you can recoup some of that time. And btw, this is why I had to stop writing altogether for 4 years when my girls were little. I just could NOT do what you're doing. My brain. It no workee late at night.

Ee Leen Lee said...

thanks for visiting and commenting
here's a website if you can't get enough of Michael Biehn (in grunt gear or not...)

Sierra Godfrey said...

I love hearing from all of you who have different methods of dealing. This is fascinating.

Caroline, I like your three sessions a week aim, it seems like that would really help structure.

Lt. -- That's kind of gross. :)

Stephanie and Kristen, I'm wondering how long I can push the quiet time? The afternoon nap can go until 5 years old in some kids, alas, mine is resisting it at 3 1/2.

My brain doesn't work well at night either, but sometimes I just have to slog through. Being energized about a project rather than bogged down in revisions helps.

Ee Leen Lee, thanks for the link, I'll definitely be checking him out ;)

Jm Diaz said...

I can hardly remember my pre-parent days. I was divorced a little after my son turned a year old, and suddenly found myself as a single dad for the next three'ish years. That taught me real quick to get priorities in order, and how to plan to for needs\wants. Other than that, my planning, writing schedule is not unlike yours... with the difference that I have agreed with the wife that a couple of nights a week I leave the office and go straight to Starbucks to write for 2 - 3 hours. She's all for it and kinda laughs at it, saying most guys would go to a strip club.. instead, I come home smelling at coffee and cigarettes.

Cynthia Reese said...

Hate to tell you, but, oh, you will definitely miss those napping hours. I got so much done when The Kiddo went to bed at 8 and had a nap during the day. And we won't even begin to mention homework. Arrrgh.

But yes, it can be done, and your ideas are marvelous! Thanks for sharing!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I thankfully am able to stay at home with my kiddo, so that does free up more time. I'm in awe of those of you who work full-time, write, and mother. I will be there one day when I return to work, but for now, I have a couple of years to try to get myself published.

I think your tips are great (although I refuse to miss Glee, I do have my priorities straight.) :) And I think anyone who can find time to write during baby's first year of life deserves a medal. I barely remembered to shower during that initial year--although I had a kiddo who refused to sleep, so that may be part of it, lol.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Starring this post to re-visit in about eight months. ;)

Meghan Ward said...

My son has been skipping naps a lot lately - ugh! But I keep putting him down, and some days he does sleep. I stopped dwelling on my pre-parenthood days about three months into it, and now I can hardly remember what it was like to go to a movie when I felt like it. The nice thing about being trapped at home evenings is it gives us time to write, read, and blog. Otherwise we might be out having a LIFE!

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