I’m not sure that anyone should try to give advice about raising children. Much less about raising children while trying to write. Much less about raising children while trying to write and hold a job outside of writing. Much less about raising children while trying to write and hold a job outside of writing – while in quarantine.
But here you find yourself. And here I find myself. I have four kids. I had my first three kids during a five-year window. Then after a suspicious seven-year gap, I had a fourth. I published my first book when my third child was nine months old. I’ve gone on to publish twenty-some books, mostly novels.
Please read my tone correctly. I’m not saying this in some kind of chipper, look-at-me, cheerleader-y bullshit way.
My tone is grim. I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, in fact. My hair is unbrushed. I’m still in my bathrobe; it’s approaching lunchtime. The yard is weedy, the house disastrous. My thirteen-year-old daughter just walked in and said, “So when are we having a party?”
What? What party? Am I throwing a party in quarantine for my own Mother’s Day? “You’re thirty-four years old,” I told her. “You can throw a party yourself.”
She was confused because she’s clearly not thirty-four. I was confused. (Maybe this is a parenting tip? Sometimes, just don’t make sense. Throw them off. Occasionally, they just look at you and then walk away.)
How long have we been in quarantine? Shouldn’t she be thirty-four years old by now?
Before we proceed, I want to tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to break down your writing process into parts. And then we’re going to break down your parenting into parts. And we’re then going to rebuild a process from there.
First, your process.
The main things I want to distinguish between for writerly parents are 1. Your writing time and 2. Your muse time.
Having kids is going to apply massive pressure on both. But people forget that there are distinct phases to writing. One you can do with kids around. The other is very very hard to do with kids around – at least for me.
So The Most Important Tip of All is to think about your process and break it down into parts. It’s possible that you used to do a lot of musing during your writing time. You’d sit down to write and begin by musing about it. Gazing out a window. Pacing around. Then moving back to the keyboard.
This might just be a luxury you no longer have.
Muse time can happen when you’re not at the desk. You can muse while living your chaotic life. You’re changing diapers, chopping food into non-choke-able sizes, washing, folding, rocking a kid to sleep, getting some rocks set up to be painted, sitting through some rehearsal/practice, shopping… and you can let your mind drift.
This mind drifting can be random and lack direction and just feel like daydreaming – or you can purposefully be aware of it and use it to think about your work.
[For a breakdown of how this muse-time process can be really active, I walk you through it here. [https://soundcloud.com/user-430267500/efficient-creativity-the-six-week-audio-series ]
I suggest a few things to go with this. [Read more…]