Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Time to Write

When I wrote my first novel, I had a full-time job as a Technical Writer. Fortunately, my company defined "full time" as 40 hours per week, not 60 or more. And also fortunately, I was married to someone who believed that my fiction writing was a worthwhile activity, and didn't pout when I would disappear to write for hours night after night.

So, here's how my routine went, more or less. I came home from work. One of us cooked dinner. The other would clean up. After dinner, or after I was done cleaning up, I'd go up to the home office, open up my Word document, and write for at least ten minutes. If I wasn't much in the mood to write, I'd quit at that point and go do something else, but most evenings, I'd write for an hour or two. Eventually I'd knock off and go to bed.

It helped that I watched almost no TV. (I still don't watch much TV.) In order to make time to write, I also significantly cut down on my leisure reading. At the time, I had no Internet connection from home. Some evenings I'd quit after ten minutes to spend some quality time with my husband, and of course there were nights that we had friends over or went places or otherwise did stuff.

In September of 2000, I had a baby, and quit my job. We decided that I would be the stay-at-home parent in part because I thought it would mesh better with continuing to write. In the evenings, Ed could spend some time with the kids, and I could have some time to write. This was not a flawless plan, but I did get some writing done when Molly was a baby. I had finished about half of an SF mystery before she was born; the summer of 2001, Ed started taking her for long walks on the weekends, and I finished up a draft of this novel during that time. It wasn't pressing, though -- I had no deadline.

Then in September of 2001 (on Molly's first birthday), Bantam bought my first novel. And suddenly I had a kid and a deadline. They wanted me to split it into two books and do some fairly extensive revisions. Then I wrote a proposal for a trilogy, sent it off to Bantam, and they decided they wanted to buy it at right around the same time I discovered I was pregnant with Kiera.

So, I wrote Freedom's Gate while pregnant and taking care of a two-year-old. (I arranged to have it due a month before she'd be born, because I remembered that in my last month of pregnancy with Molly, I got NOTHING done.) I revised Freedom's Gate when Kiera was about a month old. I wrote Freedom's Apprentice with a newborn (a colicky newborn) and a three-year-old to take care of, and I wrote Freedom's Sisters with a four-year-old and a one-year-old.

Now, that was challenging.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, during both of those projects, Molly went to preschool from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., September through May. I'd do my best to get Kiera to nap when we got home, and if I could get her to sleep, I sat down and wrote. I did not do housework, I did not shower, I did not check e-mail: that time was reserved exclusively for writing.

It got harder and harder to get Kiera to nap when I wanted her to nap, though. She would usually fall asleep in the car, so I would strap her into her carseat, pack my laptop, drive around until she sacked out, then park and write on the laptop until she started to wake up. At which point I'd shove it aside and start driving again. I learned some interesting things from this: (1) the driver's seat of a Geo Prizm is not the most ergonomically optimal writing environment one could design; and (2) it's amazing what you can manage when you have a deadline hanging over your head.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Ed would make a really concerted effort to get the girls out of the house, or to get Molly out of the house while Kiera napped, to give me some writing time. At some point, he started scheduling evening appointments twice a week at the childcare center at our health club: he'd take the girls along, drop them off to play at the center while he exercised, and leave me at home to write.

These days, Kiera and Molly both go to bed at a predictable time (tucked in by Ed). Molly starts Kindergarten this fall (tomorrow, in fact) and Kiera starts preschool next week. Suddenly, I'll have hours of free time during the day, plus evenings.

I'll say, though, I still found it easier to write when I had a full-time job but no kids. The kids are entirely worth it; I love being a parent, and even if parenting had meant that I never wrote another word of fiction, it still would have been worth it. I both love and really like my kids, and getting to watch them learn and think and grow is honestly one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. But there's no question that kids will cramp your style in all kinds of ways. (We also haven't traveled abroad since before Molly was born.)

4 comments:

Erik Buchanan said...

Wow, I'm barely managing this with one kid and a full time job. The thought of doing it with two kids boggles the mind.

And we haven't gone far since Maggie was born, either.

Naomi said...

Well, you'll note I quit the full-time job when the kids were born.

I know there are people out there who manage to work a full-time job and raise children, and also write. But I'm not doing that, and I don't know how they do it.

Andrew said...

This backs up what I have been saying for a long time ... being a parent is MORE work than having a fulltime job! Also, people who say "I don't have time to do X" should read stories like yours. People can make time for the things that are really important to them, but it takes dedication and hard work.

Andrew
To Love, Honor and Dismay

Muneraven said...

We have two kids (teenagers now) with autism spectrum disorders. I went from being single to having a family with two kids almost overnight because my partner came with two kids and a minivan, lol. She called it baggage but I called it insta-family. When I got laid-off we decided I would stay home and write and take on some of the mom-at-home duties. It took me almost two years to get the mom-part down enough so that some of my brain was left to write with! So even though my situation is a little different, I appreciate how hard it is to carve out the time and mental space to write when kids are your first job.

Last year was the first year my son (the youngest) sort of had it together and could be a little more independent, and I got more than 500 pages done and rewritten in seven months. It made a huge difference. So I hope that all of you with little ones will find writing much easier once they start school and start finding ways to occupy themselves a little more without needing a parent right there. :-)