Well, that’s the question isn’t it? At least, that’s the question a lot of my writer friends ask me. How the hell do you write books and have kids, especially if you aren’t rich enough to farm out parenting labor and you’re the primary caretaker of your kids. Let’s be real: when kids are young, it’s a dawn to dusk work of forming the creation myths and realities of your kids, and while there is down time, it tends to be sporadic, brief, and random. Let’s also be real: the U.S., for those of us who live here, does not have family friendly social or labor programs for families.
So to start, here’s my biggest trick: I have a lot of privilege. Period. Full stop. There are a ton of people on this planet who cannot, for all kinds of reasons, write books. I’m thinking war, unrest, access to literacy, access to food and water, economic precarity, disability, etc. Things I have: stable housing where kids can safely play, a partner who has a job, a car that makes my weekly chores way briefer, the ability to only work part-time paid work, and friends and neighbors with kids. So I’m writing this from the vantage of already having a lot of things going right.
So, if you are damn lucky enough to have those sorts of things, and are having a hard time making it work, here are some things that have helped me:
1. Let them watch TV every day for an hour while you write. Be vigilant in this time and do nothing else, nope nothing else at all, nope, go away alluring internet of shiny things. During these sixty minutes, write! Also, keep it to an hour, what with young brains and all.
2. Set up a dope milieu. Arrange warring stuffed animals on the floor, put out some duplos, make some snacks, and put on some music and pray, pray, pay that your kids fall for it and do stuff without asking you for a million things a second. I can usually get a solid hour’s work over a couple of hours time this way, which works for me for editing but not so much in drafting.
3. The stars do not need to align and twinkle for you. Don’t expect beautiful writing time with pink wine and smooth jazz playing in the background. Type on your snot-covered laptop balanced precariously on your lap while someone is pulling your hair and kicking your nose and know that life is good.
4. Kill lots of birds with stones (says the bleeding-heart vegetarian). Go on runs or walks and think about your book. Exercise is super for this kind of work, and your animal needs exercise. So try to do both at the same time.
5. Get down with your squalor. You want to write some heartbreaking books? Something, or maybe a lot of somethings have got to give to make this happen. My house is super-gross all the time except for when people are coming over and then it becomes slightly-less gross.
7. Go slow. Life is long, hopefully. Little ones are big ones tomorrow, so counterbalance your life work with your kids and try to really see them and be with them in deep ways all the time first and foremost. Really, I think we will all regret this if we’re so busy with work that we don’t make the deep and wild intimacies with our kids a priority. So kiss them and throw them in the air and remember to catch them on the way down and know that a deep life is good for writing.