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Writing + baby = ?

Sleep? Meh. Sleep is for amateurs.
So, you’re having one of those things, you know, those ‘baby’ things, and you’ve heard a rumour they take up quite a lot of time, but you want to keep writing? And you’re wondering if that’s even remotely possible? Well, it’s definitely possible. However, there are a few things worth knowing.


Babies will not conform to your schedule.
In fact, they don’t know what a schedule is. I learnt this one early. I had everything planned out, you see. I was going to start my maternity leave six weeks before my due date, and I was going to spend those six weeks writing like a madwoman and finish a draft that I’d been working on forever. And also I was going to write approximately ten thousand blog posts and schedule them in advance, for those tricky early months. Because, you know, I was realistic. But as it turned out, my kid was one step ahead of me. I got a week into my maternity leave and made some progress on the draft. And then? Then she arrived, five weeks early. The best plan is probably not to make a plan. Just wait and see what happens.

Be adaptable! 
I seriously cannot emphasise this enough. In order to get writing to fit around a baby, you might have to write in new places, by different means and at weird times. Pre-baby, I was pretty fussy about when and where I wrote. After baby, well. I discovered the fine art of one handed typing while nursing the baby with the other arm, and scribbling things in precariously balanced notebooks while nursing the baby with the other arm. (You’ll notice a common theme here.) I started getting used to this, but remember what I said before about my baby being one step ahead of me? She got distractible. She started trying to steal my pen if I was writing in a notebook and helping me type if I was on the laptop. (Literary ambitions start young, apparently.) Then she got so distractible that feeding her off to sleep meant spending huge chunks of my evening in a darkened bedroom. Not particularly conducive to productivity. So I started taking my ipod touch in with me and making notes on there. And writing things at crazy late night hours after she’d gone to bed. (I try to take advantage of naps too, but my baby isn’t all that into napping. If she naps long enough for me to write something, that’s a bonus.)

Expect things to happen at a slow pace.
This might not be the case for everyone. However, when you haven’t had much sleep, when there are piles of washing in strange places all over the house, when there’s a little person who needs to be held, you may find that other things slip ahead of writing on your priority list, such as, you know, eating and showering. It is worth trying your very best to write something every day, even if ‘something’ means one sentence. But you might not even manage that. That draft I was talking about before, the one I wanted to finish before I had my baby? Well, my baby is seven and a half months now, and I’m still working on it. Is it worth beating yourself up over slow progress? Absolutely not. And there's a reason for that.

Your baby will be more incredible than you ever thought possible.
No really. They will be. I promise. Whether or not you admit to it, you'll probably find yourself spending a lot of time staring at them in wonder and thinking, I made that thing? Seriously? When you think of all the many years you and your child have together, there are plenty of years ahead when they'll be bigger and less needy, when they'll come home from school and stomp off to their bedroom, and suddenly, you'll remember the baby creature with its wide eyes and tiny hands, the one you held in your arms for hours on end. Even if it seems epic at the time, babies don't stay babies for long. So enjoy them. Make sure you put down your pen and turn off your computer and give them as much love as possible. It might seem counterproductive, but it's the opposite. Your baby will give you more inspiration than you ever thought possible.
Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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13 comments:

  1. This is a really great post! And an adorable kid.

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  2. Very good points. I would add that--having had two babies 17 months apart--every pregnancy can affect your writing differently, too. With baby number two, I was extremely productive on the writing front. I wrote a middle-grade novel and revised another. With baby number one, there were days when I was lucky to write two paragraphs that sounded coherent. But when she was born, after four months, I found a writing groove that worked for me. That's where your point of being adaptable comes in: find what works for you, day by day. And be kind to yourself along the way.

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  3. Love this! We are heading in the baby directions so now I know what to expect! Thanks for the advice :)

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  4. So what you're saying is, it's hard to work on two incredible things at the same time! I'm with you on this one. The wiggly one that giggles and poops gets top priority.

    She is so cute too!

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  5. I just throw the kids in the dog kennel with some cold pizza and a bowl of water. That way I can write all I want!

    What???? That's not the way you do it? ;)

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  6. What a helpful post. Right now I'm expecting my second. My biggest challenge is writing WHILE pregnant. Last pregnancy, I stopped writing about 6 weeks into my pregnancy and started again 6 weeks after. Mostly fatigue, pregnancy brain, and pregnancy depression. But this time I'm trying my best to keep plugging on!

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  7. Oh yeah. I've got three of those things. The youngest is eight months. I write from 11 to one every night. But hey, it works. Since she was born I've revised one novel, written and revised another, and started a third. It's hard, but it can be done!

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  8. What an absolutely gorgeous face! So sweet! : )

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  9. I am a brand new Grandmother to a beautiful baby girl. This is her second week of life. So far I eat, sleep (ocassionally) shop for family necessities, walk once a day and very rarely make it to the computer. I know all this will change and I will write again.

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  10. I'm 14 weeks pregnant and have not written for close to eight of those weeks. It's like my brain said, "I'm outta here, so long, sucker!" and split, leaving me to zombie on alone. Thanks a lot, brain. I really need to get back to at least revising because this long hiatus is really driving me nuts!

    I'm pretty sure this is incoherent but I am too pregnant to give a damn. :p

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  11. OMG...so true! Having just come off deadline with an entire second book written during my now 6 month old's life, I grimaced and grinned through this entire post, and am, in fact, typing my comment one-handed while fending him off the keyboard!

    I did better writing my first book with only my eldest son...it was tough to write with a the baby/toddler, but I also wasn't on deadline then! Two was a real challenge, as these boys of mine refuse to sleep on the same schedule. But I especially agree with your last point...they are worth it!

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  12. All I can say is Amen, Sister! My baby came 6.5 weeks early (at 33.5 weeks since we aren't math majors) and I was writing a book review due that morning for my weekly book review column in the local paper, when my water broke. I actually took the time to write to my editor and tell him what was going on and send one that I had ready (I was going to have 8 ready--two months worth--wound up having only 3 ready with one going to him that morning!) before I went to the hospital while my husband was yelling, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE NEED TO GO.

    "You are married to a writer, honey, I'm meeting my deadline."

    Anyway, my blog posts weren't done, i was in the middle of teaching an online writing course about blogging, and in the middle of a YA draft--which like you--is still not done. Then she had to spend a month in the NICU, which is a whole other ballgame. . .Luckily while having this baby, the submissions I sent out have done well, and I am now waiting for 2 books to come out this year. But now I have to start marketing .So, I have 16 month baby, and marketing and freelancing/teaching to make money to feed baby, so YA draft will probably still be in working mode this time next year. . .

    But OMG, you are so right about how amazing babies are. I would not trade ANY OF IT for the world. She amazes me every day. And now, she can pat me on the back and say, "Mama!" Brings tears to my eyes.

    Thank you for your post.

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  13. Love this piece and can identify with every bit of it! :)

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Item Reviewed: Writing + baby = ? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin