Latest News

The Shining Places

I’ll be honest: I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last while.

I'm a stay at home parent to an almost-three year old, so my days are always busy, but the last few weeks have been full. I've been getting by in the stretch of time between my daughter’s bedtime and my own, when it’s available, wearily working on the same conversation between two characters, one tiny bunch of words at a time, asking myself the same questions over and over: Is this line actually necessary? Would the story suffer at all if it wasn't there? Because if I'm only managing a few words per day, I would rather not have to delete them. What am I writing towards right now? Is this line of dialogue moving the scene in the right direction, or am I going round in circles? Because it's easy to lose my sense of direction when I'm writing small amounts sporadically. Especially if I'm tired.

Sure, in an ideal world, I wouldn't be writing when I was tired. But sometimes if you rule out writing when you're tired, you rule out writing completely, as most writers with small children would tell you. The internet is full of advice on how to maximize your writing output, most of which assumes that you're getting enough sleep, that you can lay the rest of your life aside for a long stretch of time and write endlessly. There's not so much advice on how to deal with writing when you're muddling through, writing round the edges of everything else because there is no other option. Yet there are writers with day jobs, writers with more kids than me, writers with day jobs and kids, writers dealing with challenging life circumstances, writers navigating levels of complicatedness I could not even imagine, just in order to write words.

But there is no sacred time or space or circumstance which will make you a writer. There is no minimum number of words. There is no ideal moment. There is only this one, only now. Sometimes, if you look hard, you might see possibilities. Other times everything else is so overwhelming that you can't see anything, but you stay watchful anyway, in case one sneaks up on you later, a space of time to write in, a place tiny but shining, like the small patch of water in the distance where the sunlight dances on the surface of the sea.

And sometimes it really is such a small thing, this shining place. The stretch of time between my daughter going to bed and my energy running out. The length of a lunch break. The length of a bedtime story. The wait at a bus stop. The unpredictable space between a toddler's interruptions. And sometimes I am so tired, or the space is so short, that I'm lucky even to manage a hundred words inside this space. Or ten words. And there is no way to maximize them, because they're already written at the very edge of what's possible.

There might only be ten words, but ten words mean that I'm still writing. That this story is still moving. That there is a direction and I'm still heading in it, even if I've only managed one step.

When the time came for me to start this blog post, I was feeling grumpy and stuck. I made myself a cup of coffee, gathered up my laptop and notebook, and sneaked into the bedroom. A second later, my daughter was crying outside the door. I wasn't the only adult around, but no one else was immediately available, so I let her in. She plopped down on the bed next to me and asked why I had gone into the bedroom, why it was raining outside, why my headphones were beside me but I wasn't wearing them, why there was a book underneath my laptop. I did my best to answer her patiently, without scowling, without grumping at all the writing I wasn't doing. After a while, she snuggled in close and buried her face in my side. And I glimpsed it, briefly, the shining place. The chance at words.

So I wrapped my arm around my daughter, and I wrote.

Leila Austin

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

Posts by Leila

tumblr twitter

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. Thanks Leila, I really needed to read this today. Busy or not, I need to remember to write on.

  2. As the SAHM of two (almost 5 and 15 months) I completely understand those few hours between their bedtime and your own. I try to write in those precious minutes, but some days it does seem almost pointless. But, we keep keeping on and moving forward!

  3. Such a spectacular post. I have a 7 year old in school and a 3 year old at home with me and the way time gets gobbled up every day is astounding! Sometimes I really do feel like I will never have enough free minutes to finish another book, like I should just pack it in and pursue something more practical so that I can actually count on a return on all the time I'm wringing out of my day to work on it. But other days I just shrug and remind myself that this - all of it, the at-home-ness and the writing and everything else - is where I am and where I am is good and intentional. Big high fives to all of us who write against the current of our lives and live to face another day of it!


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: The Shining Places Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin