Parenting and Publishing

More than a week ago, on a calm Sunday evening, I casually mentioned to my husband that I'd started a blog. "Yeah, I'm going to write something every Monday," I said. "Even if it's brief, I think it's important to write something regularly." 

Well, here we are, over a week later, on a Tuesday. My daughter is napping alone in her crib for the first time in several days. She's had a lot to deal with this past week--teething, illness, a harsh antibiotic--and we spent most of Labor Day weekend just trying to keep her comfortable. This morning she finally seemed like her normal, happy self, which is such a relief for all of us. 

Dan Chiasson told me once that his work improved after he had kids. I think the way he described it is that all of a sudden his free time took on greater value, and he was less likely to waste it. I think I've noticed that, too. Even before I had my daughter, the urgency of her imminent arrival pushed me to finish my last big revision of Fräulein M. just four days before she was born. I think some of the best scenes in the novel were created at the end of that snowy winter of 2015. I wasn't done yet, though--my agent and I did one final round of revisions that following summer, creating the version of the book that finally won a publisher's heart. That was accomplished in four two-hour babysitting sessions. I laugh when I think about the hour I used to waste when I first sat down at my computer at a library or coffee shop. I actually did that--I planned to waste the first hour, checking every email and social media account I had.

Still, it is pretty darn difficult to write when you have a toddler. Your writer self, like so many of your past selves (the one who showered daily, for instance) can easily be tossed aside for weeks, months, years if you're not careful. Something that has helped me is author Cari Luna's series Writer, With Kids. It's so reassuring to read that other writer-parents struggle in the same way and reassuring to hear how they've managed to create space for their work. Peter Ho Davies, for example, apparently wrote much of The Welsh Girl in 20-minute increments while his kid napped.