On writing with an infant

Eighteen weeks ago, I became a mom for the first time.

Scant hours before my baby was born, I hit “send” on an email to my agent containing a completed manuscript draft. I felt the relief that comes with the culmination of a project (and just in the nick of time!) but also the knowledge that soon a new one would take its place. In this case, that new project would not just be revising my manuscript and starting a new book, but starting it as a new mom.

Gulp.

I had no idea what that would mean, other than change. And, sure enough, when I held Alek in my arms, the whole world and everything in it shifted into a new kind of focus. Nothing would ever be the same again (yes, new parents always say this and I always used to roll my eyes at it…BUT IT IS TRUE).

My days are now filled with diapers and bottles, but also with the joy of watching an entirely new person emerge and discover the world around him. Each development–a smile, a giggle, a leg kick, the first grab at a toy, the way his eyes light with recognition when he sees me–seems like magic. I write about magic in my books sometimes, but I never truly understood what it was until now.

So, yes, with all this to occupy me, my life as a writer has changed. I knew it would and, honestly, I feared that change. I imagined a life where I no longer had time to write, in which the identity of “mom” would supersede all others and cause the writer in me to shrivel up and blow away.

Very melodramatic!

The reality wasn’t so fraught with peril, of course, but it was an adjustment, primarily in my process.

I am fortunate (SO fortunate) in that we have a caregiver who comes three days a week to hang out with Alek for a bit, allowing me to slip away and work. Aside from unpredictable snatches of time during naps, that means I have to be much more regimented in my writing.

Before Alek was born, I had a very flexible schedule and my process reflected that. I used to sit down in the morning, drink tea and write a bit, wander off, think, do dishes, go for a walk, think, write some more, surf the web “researching”, think…etc. Now, knowing babysitting time will be over soon, or Alek may wake at any moment, I sit in front of my laptop and I type. No second-guessing, no dithering. Fingers on keys. Write.

Initially, I hated this new way of working. These structured session felt like a cold, fragmented, and unsatisfying way to create. I missed the wandering off. I missed the time for leisurely thinking. Eventually, though, all that necessary processing time began to happen on its own, often outside of dedicated writing time. Now, my hands might be changing diapers, but a small part of my mind is off with my characters, and when writing time comes, I’m ready.

It’s interesting, but I guess not surprising, how adaptable we are. We get set in our ways and habits and imagine that a change to our lifestyle will be world-ending. Instead, it is transformative.

So, thanks Alek! Not only have you filled my life with more love and joy than I ever imagined possible, but you’ve also helped me evolve into a more productive and focused person. My identity as a writer has not been subsumed by becoming a mom. It has been expanded–just like my heart.

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