About a year ago I attended a Q&A session with the author Zadie Smith and an audience member posed her the question: “what is your writing process?” Her answer intrigued me. Like me she was mother to a, at the time, one year old and she basically said (and I’m totally paraphrasing here, cause it was a year ago) that she didn’t hold any stock in The Writing Process – her basic premise for writing was to take any given day and if she had child care organized she would write. Simple. Right? Actually, it is pretty profound. And one that is the same sentiment of what made me start this blog and what I am trying to put into practice more and more on a daily basis – just write, dag-nam-it!
However, since I’m at home full time with my, now, two year old my opportunity to write is based more on if-she-naps and if-she-has-slept-well-the-night-before-so-I-don’t-need-to-nap and if-the-house-isn’t-a-complete-disaster and if-I-have-enough-brain-power-to-not-want-to-just-sit-and-watch-rubbish-tv then just write, dag-nam-it! But, I have discovered some unexpected pluses to being a parent that helps my writing. The biggest roadblock to my writing is that I am extremely easily distracted – especially by this wonderful thing called the internet. I can be deep into writing a paragraph for a new story and one of my characters is hungry for cake – which means I’m hungry for cake which means I have to start trolling the internet for new baking recipes which leads to me looking up a source to buy a new fun cake stand which leads to me thinking about completely remodeling my kitchen which leads me to spending hours on Houzz looking at inspirational photographs of kitchens I could never afford. Which ultimately leads to me wasting all of the time that my little one is napping doing anything but writing. So, I need to get away from the internet and that is where being a parent to a toddler has actually helped.
There are two times during which I am forced to be disconnected from the internet and at the same time not be required to eat play food that has been ‘cooked’ for me on her kitchen. The first is when we are out for a walk – I’m lucky enough that we live in a neighbourhood that has pavements (sidewalks) everywhere and that she hasn’t yet claimed that she is too big to go in the buggy (stroller) so I get anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour of time to daydream while I push her around and she waves ‘hello’ to all the neighbourhood dogs. But there is a catch – I do own a smartphone and I am very adapt at pushing a buggy one-handidly while catching up on celebrity gossip on some rubbishy website, so when I’m not actively chewing on a scene in my head it is all too easy to no fully unplug myself and waste my strolling time.
One place I can not take my phone, or laptop, or kindle, or book, or iPad is when I’m rocking my toddler to sleep – yes, yes I still rock my two year old to sleep – to discuss how this makes me a “failure” of a parent is a whole other blog! But rather than it being incredibly annoying to be sitting in the pitch black rocking back & forth with no sounds other than that of the white-noise machine, the same CD of lullabies that we have been listening to every single day for two years, and the snuffles of my take-forever-to-fall-asleep toddler I’ve found it is the time that my mind does some of its best writing. It has been in her rocking chair that I’ve un-snagged a plot line that was so entangled that it was incomprehensible, where a character has spoken a critical line of dialogue, where blog posts start to find form, and where new stories have materialized. And once I finally have my toddler sleep in the cot (crib) I often have to make a beeline for my laptop to note down whatever thought has been bouncing around my head in the dark before it seeps out of my far-too-holey-memory. So, if in a few years I admit to you that I am still rocking my six year old to sleep you will fully understand that it is a sacrifice that I undertake purely for the advancement of my writing career … honest!