Hey, children don’t kill writers

A friend of mine just recently sent me this article from The Guardian by Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer and father of seven. Yes, that’s right. Seven.

When I became pregnant, a few people told me I would have no time for writing and that children were creative Kryptonite. I believed them. After all, I come from a family of five girls and I’m pretty sure my parents were so exhausted that whatever creative pursuits they may have dreamed about once were pushed to the side, buried under baskets of laundry and discarded Barbie dolls. My father wanted to be a visual artist once upon a time. My mother just wanted to be rich. Neither of those things happened.

I don’t think that I’m some kind of Supermom for finishing Shelter and The Better Mother while my son was a newborn. Rather, I was under a lot of pressure, internal and external, to get those books done. Everything during that time other than caring for the baby and writing fell away. My house was dirty. I was dirty. My dog was dirty. My husband and I ate a lot of frozen soup that kindly friends brewed and dropped off at our front door. And it was hard. Harder than I can even express.

I don’t feel very functional as a mother even now. I will never be the woman who bakes cookies from alternative grains, or knits little sweaters out of organic wool. I’m the woman who lets my son play with ballpoint pens so I can finish writing an email. I’m the woman who says to my one-year-old, “Read the book yourself,” so I can watch So You Think You Can Dance on my PVR. All right, I’m not like that all the time, but I don’t vacuum out the car or bake pies. I can barely brush my own hair. And this makes me feel alternately guilty and relieved. Which leads to more guilt.

But, I believe strongly in emotion. I’m not the most florid writer. I tend to hold back, which has been my literary Waterloo for as long as I can remember. If anything, I need to feel more in order to write comparable feelings for my characters. And nothing has made me emote more than this baby and those books.

True, the pockets of time that I have available for writing now are small and staggered. And it’s also true that I don’t have the same focus that I used to have. You know, those hours writers can spend worrying over the same two sentences.Should they be combined? What if I split them into four fragments? Could they be turned into dialogue?

But I view this as a positive. No one needs to obsess over sentences and micro-manage like that. You’ll go blind. Right after you go insane, of course.

And I’m way faster now as a writer than I ever was. I can revise three chapters in an hour! And it turns out that they’re no worse than the work I did before! Huzzah!

My world is simultaneously smaller and bigger. Smaller because I try to see things from my son’s perspective. Bigger because everything I am and feel is bigger. I love bigger. I cry bigger. I believe in bigger things, like Santa Claus and the power of a picture book to change an entire day. I am forced out of myself every single minute.

I can’t think of anything else better for writing.

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