Writing with kids around is hard.
Writing with my kids around is next to impossible. Even simple tasks such as putting on socks becomes a triathlon of bathroom breaks, tantrums, and cannon-fire.
I’ve heard of miracle babies who play quietly and only cry when seriously injured. I’m not sure such lacklustre angels exist. And I know I’m not alone in experiencing the delights of having high-intensity children.
I’m not being entirely sarcastic when I use the word ‘delights.’ My kids are amazing. They were early walkers, early talkers, and early-swearers (don’t look at me that way). They love stories and produce a volcanic eruption of art every day. Sometimes they just run in circles, providing minutes of enjoyment before someone splits their head open.
More than all of that, I’ve become a more self-aware person for having them in my life. Their births and growing levels of maturity have made me assess and re-assess myself many times over. The responsibility I feel towards them, and the deeper emotions they’ve brought out in me have, I think, made me a better writer and—perhaps more importantly—a better human being.
When I’m with them, I must forget trying to do anything else meaningful. And that’s ok. They deserve my attention. However it makes ‘writing at home’ a dicey proposition. By the time I’ve finished my day at work and had some old-fashioned family time, I’m exhausted. Not the best mental or physical state to produce much beyond Run Spot Run.
So, how to achieve any balance?
One: I have to commit to the project. This means setting word-count or chapter goals for myself. I work much better with specific goals and deadlines. I’ve learned over time to be more forgiving with myself when I don’t meet them. Because life happens, and right now writing has to fit wherever it can.
Two: I have to get the words out. This means trying to push past the exhaustion on more days than not. It also means not putting crazy pressure on myself to make the words right in the first draft. Rookie mistake was thinking that a book comes out much the same way my papers did in university. Ten pages to be handed in the next morning? Not a problem for the Essay Queen of the North. Stupid idea when writing a book. Fiction readers are much pickier than university professors.
Three: Coffee. Thank you, Starbucks, for free re-fills.
Four: Keep loving it. Keep the passion for each project alive and bright. I write because it’s part of me. One day, I hope to share more of that part with my kids. I want to pass on not only my love of story, but the attitude that you shouldn’t give up the things you’re passionate about. That you can achieve your goals if you put in the effort. I also want them to know that their mom is a whole person herself … not just that voice telling them to get ready for school and to pick up that damned Lego I just stepped on!
(Oh wait, that’s mine.)
This is an entry from my bestselling* book, A is for Adverb: An Alphabet for Authors in Agony. To read the entire alphabet, join me weekly for #WriteTip Tuesday. If you’re in a rush, get the whole book free by signing up here, or do this writer a solid and buy the book on Amazon.
*Totally a bestseller for, like, a day on Amazon.ca.