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Writing with babies

Guest post by: Emmet Matheson


There are plenty of writers who can manage the needs of raising a family, earning a bit of money, and getting some writing done. I am not one of them. I struggle with everything. Partly because I kind of love struggling, it’s what makes things interesting and worthwhile. The arrival of my first daughter, four years ago, actually renewed and resolved my writing efforts. But ever since the twins showed up, 18 months ago, it’s been a non-stop re-evaluation and recalibration of my writing methods and creative priorities.

Here are my five essential strategies for writing with babies:

Get some rest.

In my 20s, I could write all night. I still try to, but more often than not I end up falling asleep hypnotized by the idle, flashing cursor against a white screen. Being with your kids takes a lot of energy and writing (at least the way I do it, which might be the wrong way) takes a lot of energy. If you burn yourself out, you’ll be no good to your kids or your writing.

Do it every day.

 Dakota McFadzean draws and publishes a comic strip every day. Every day. He’s always been a pretty good cartoonist, but in the last year or two he’s become a great cartoonist. Sometimes he makes me laugh out loud, sometimes he makes me recoil in horror. It’s an oversimplification to give all the credit to his daily discipline, but it’s an oversimplification I try to emulate.

Set realistic goals.

 Okay, so I write every day. Ooo-oooh, right? But here’s the thing: my goal is 250 words. Chump change. But it’s a lot more than zero words a day, which is about the only easier writing goal to set for yourself. It’s the kind of goal you can meet in about 20 minutes. A lot of days I end up writing a lot more than 250 words, but even when I’m only hitting that low minimum, I’m still staying engaged with my story and chipping away at it.

Play. 

If you’re not having fun with your writing, what the heck are you doing it for?

Get help.

 My actor friends, in between waiting tables and auditions, are always going to class. They’re in movement classes, dialect classes, scene workshops, fight school. If it’s good enough for them, why not me? I’ve taken writing classes in a wide range of settings, but my two favourites have been Mette Bach’s continuing education course at Langara College in Vancouver and Sarah Selecky’s Story is a State of Mind online writing workshop–the latter has been a good fit with my life as a writing parent, eking out moments of writing and thinking about writing where I can.

Who is Emmet Matheson?

 Emmet Matheson is a recovering, relapse-prone music journalist, a sporadic blogger, and a wannabe crime novelist. Weekdays he’s a stay-at-home dad to three kids, weekends he works at a detox and transitional housing centre on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This is his first guest-blog.

What is Soundbites?

Soundbites is an ongoing conversation about creative life and work, moderated by Deryn Collier.

For the next few months we’ll be talking about writing and parenting with weekly guest posts from writer/parents who are really way too busy to bother with guest blog posts. And yet, here they are.

How about you? What are your essential tips for writing in a house full of babies? Your comments are always welcome below.

Coming up next week: But eventually they go to school…right? WRONG! Writing and the unschooling parent.

 

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2 Responses to Writing with babies

  1. “But here’s the thing: my goal is 250 words. Chump change. But it’s a lot more than zero words a day, which is about the only easier writing goal to set for yourself. It’s the kind of goal you can meet in about 20 minutes. A lot of days I end up writing a lot more than 250 words, but even when I’m only hitting that low minimum, I’m still staying engaged with my story and chipping away at it.”

    This is AWESOME and so true. Love it. Planning to adopt it.

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