Frequently Asked Question: How do you find time to write, when you are a full-time mama with no childcare, and work a part-time job?
Answer: I don’t wait for the spare moment of solitude, I just jump in and write amidst “The Carnival”.
I’m not referring to the seminal Wyclef Jean album, I’m talking about the fact that I write most of my blog posts, articles, and freelance pieces with my whole family rumbling and tumbling all around me.
There’s often a children’s show on in the background, my husband trying to show me a you tube video or talk to me about what he learned in meditation last night, and I take frequent breaks to get Olive more milk or change a “boo-boo diaper”.
Recently a friend sent me this article about the routines of famous writers, and of course I found myself dipped into a vat of longing when I read about the writers who could devote hours of their day to their craft, taking breaks only to do some physical activity like swimming or running, returning to the page in the evening, perhaps with a stiff drink in hand.
However, I also read about several writers who plunge right in, like Ray Bradbury, who wrote without any quietude, in the middle of the living room with his family all around. That seems so right to me. And it is how I am getting it done.
Writing in the midst of your family is not ideal — writing without the chatter of Go Diego Go in the background, or without my child trying to get her fingers on the keys would probably turn me into a novelist rather than a blogger/writer of short pieces. However, what does one receive by writing in the midst of family? I’m sure that their presence informs my work, especially because I write about family life most often.
Because my family needs at least part of my attention, writing is easier than reading. Writing I can leave off and pick up instantly again, but reading takes a sinking into, a leaving of this world for another. So, perhaps I write more, since I have to write with my family around?
I don’t know. I always, always, always crave more time and space to write. I am trying to be grateful for having to write and live all at once.
So, I don’t have swaths and swaths of time to write. However, I have plenty of time to live, and since I’m often writing about my life, I feel the need to do things and really live in order to have things to write about! We have to follow our interests in life, to get the energy flowing, but then also be careful that we are not avoiding writing. Distractions of a happy family are pretty lovely.
When writing needs total incubation, I jot some thoughts down in the morning time and then wait until nap time to polish them and finish up. Sometimes Joel will take Olive to the store and I’ll steal 15 minutes to write. Other times the pressure builds for days, and I have to make sure I set thoughts to page, even if it means staying up late, my brain positively on fire.
E. B. White also wrote with the “carnival” of his house all around him. “The members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” That final sentence may be my personal motto. I also love how he says that he’s grateful his wife is not “protective” of him. I would like to live in that kind of gratitude. There is an essentiality to it — that everyone is doing just as they please and no one is minded by the other’s activity, be it pedestrian or artistic. My writing is not precious, or more important than doing a puzzle with my child. We must get on with what is set before us, without much fuss about it. For me, that is to write, and take my child to the park, and redirect her when she pushes her friend, and feed her insane amounts of bread and cheese products, and then to write again.
However, I love that Jack Kerouac is so superstitious and religious about his writing. Sometimes it’s true. You have to pray to Jesus, or Athena, or Saraswati, to preserve your sanity and energy so you can be present for your family. In fact, I think that’s a wonderful prayer.
Maya Angelou also prefers to write in the morning, “Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home.” I adore that she writes this out – I am often pretending to be normal as I’m internally clanging away inside with the desire to get back to art-making. Gratefully, I’ve found a pack of nannies and a mom or two who I don’t need to pretend with, so when we are at the playground, and Olive kicks herself in the groin, I can say something like “Look! My inability to potty-train my daughter saved her hymen! Diaper Saves Virginity is an excellent Huff Po Parents article, right?” and they just laugh and don’t call CPS.
Listen, writing this all out is making me feel like it’s a freaking miracle that I ever publish anything. It’s actually making me a little bit depressed, thinking about how little time I have to write. I started this post a few days ago, and have worked on it several mornings in a row, and am only getting to finish it now because Olive is having her weekly time with her godfather, thank Jeebus for that.
However, I think having very little time to write gives me an urgency to do so. I think about what I want to write about ALL the time, and when I have screwed up enough courage and language to actually get it out there, I dive in. I leave all my doubts for after it is has been published, when I am usually consumed with about 15 seconds of total fear and vulnerability, after which I have to get on with my life.
Children leave you so little time for self-consciousness. A pity, really.
Recently I was bemoaning our financial woes to my best friend and I pointed up to our apartment building and yelled, “This whole thing is held together by string and luck!” Perhaps my writing career is as well. String, luck, and a shit-ton of love and desire. In fact, that’s what you are all getting for the holidays from me this year. It will come wrapped in toddler drawings, tied with a ribbon of precious time.