Recently there’s been an interesting series of posts over at Jim Hines’s blog about the pitfalls of being a writer, which are legion. Most of these are things you’ll already understand even if you don’t write yourself: the sense that your time is never really free because you could always be working on this draft or that revision or that query letter, the difficulty of making it in an over-crowded field, the total lack of time, and so on. But the one which you probably wouldn’t know, unless you happen to be both of these things, is the problem of being a writer and being a parent.
To wit: they don’t mesh.
Or so goes the argument. Jim’s been in the midst of a super-frustrating rewrite, and in one of his posts bemoans the fact that he won’t be able to spend his entire vacation with his kids, even going so far as to say this is the first time he has “resented being a writer.” That’s powerful stuff coming from someone who loves to do it as much as Jim does (and who has been as successful, by the way). And it made me wonder: what if? Because as you know (or you will when you check out my bio, anyway 🙂 ), I have a child too–only one, and only five and a half months, but still–she’s a child, and she’s mine, and that counts.
Which leads to the impact on my writing–because of course there’s been one, right? I finished Icarus about two weeks before Senavene arrived, anticipating a time drop, and sure enough there was one. She’s a bottle feeder (breastmilk, not formula, so fear not, La Leche League members!), which means I’m able to feed her…and do every night, normally twice in the wee hours. For the most part that’s great, obviously: I can bond with her, I don’t have to feel quite as useless as the father often does early on, and I can give my wife some desperately needed rest. But, well, being able to feed her means I have to feed her, and that means time. During the day I sometimes feed her as well, and that means time. And I play with her, and change her diaper, and carry her around, and take her to the pediatrician, and arrange family visits, and that means…
You get the idea. Caring for a child takes time, and it’s time taken away from my writing. Except–well–it hasn’t, or not more than anything else. Much more of my potential writing time is taken by academic responsibilities–grading, preparing classes, committee work, attending conferences, etc.–than any amount of stuff I have to do with my daughter. Partly this is a function of her age; she’s not even crawling yet, and that means there’s only so much she/we can do. When she hits the toddler stage I imagine I’ll be all over the place trying to keep up with her. But even there, she’ll be in bed eventually, for even a longer stretch of time than she is now, and I’ll have time then. All of which leads to the question: what’s with the whole children / writing divide? I totally understand Jim’s frustration of feeling like he can’t spend the time he wants to with his children, and it’s a real one (even though my guess is they don’t feel as frustrated as he does); and if and when medical concerns or emergencies intercede, obviously time is going to be allocated to those things. The priority has to be the kids. But it seems to me that in some way my daughter has enhanced my writing, and vice versa–that I’ve gained a kind of creative burst from her birth, and that I feel both better about her and about my writing from what each portion of my life has contributed to the other.
In short, I just haven’t felt the burden of “baby or book” yet–if anything, having both elements in my life has made both better. Now again, Senavene is only five and a half months old, and it’s the summer, and I don’t currently have an editor breathing down my neck (now that TTS is more or less into its “ready for final galley” stage), and my agent search for Icarus is moving along without too many hiccups as yet, and so on. And I fully understand that my perspective thus far is based entirely on limited evidence; many authors (heck, many athletes, politicians, and business people for that matter) have written about the difficulty about finding time for it all. I guess I’m just wondering about when, or if, I should expect the hammer to fall, and what to do when it does–because if everyone’s right, when it does fall it’s going to knock me silly.
But until then, I’m going to enjoy this relatively peaceful calm before the apparently onrushing storm. Now if I can figure out how to type, feed and rock at the same time I can drive my efficiency quotient through the roof, which, as you all know, is the key to winning at life. Hmmm…perhaps a robotic third arm…