Writing with a toddler handicap

Back before I had children and had all day to write (all day!!! Madness.) I never thought I could write with noise or distractions. I rarely wrote to music and agonised over the words, the words, the damned words every moment. I would reach the end of the day with sometimes fewer than three hundred words done and a deep feeling of annoyance and drown my sorrows in a glass of wine. Aah good times yes?

Last week I finished a draft of my fantasy novel sitting on my unmade bed, laptop on a pillow being pelted about the head with a sock by an irate toddler who was not taking ‘mummy needs to finish this book” with any tolerance. I was literally writing the last lines and only managed to do it because I was able to hand him to his granny and shut the door for the last ten minutes. Such is the change in my circumstance and I can feel other writing parents out there nodding their heads and saying, ‘yes, welcome to the club, we are all mildly insane here’.

So my writing time now is vastly different to my previous life. However because of the time constraints I am forced to write more in a shorter period and agonise less. In a half hour session I can sometimes get fifteen hundred words down, or close to two thousand on a really good day and I don’t agonise over what I may have written because there’s lunch to make or a crying baby to soothe so after the session is done, I’ve clocked off. And there’s a certain freedom in that. My writing time now happens when both my children are asleep. Some days this doesn’t happen, other days I might get two hours so I’m training my writer brain to be more flexible and switch on when the opportunity is there.

It doesn’t always happen. Some days I’m just too tired and do nothing but sit on the couch feeling mildly guilty, drinking tea and watching Ellen, but that’s the reality of writing with small children  it’s always swings and roundabouts.

I have learned a few things though about how to cope:

1. Don’t re-read the previous session’s work, there’s no time, just get typing.

2. Don’t worry about spelling errors or hitting the comma key instead of the full stop, that’s what the edit is for just keep going with the flow of the words that are coming.

3. If the words aren’t coming use the time to plan. I review my outline and make notes on scenes that need to be written. Sometimes just making notes can spark a writing flurry.

4. Be happy with any word count I manage to get done. Even one hundred words is better than no words. Writing a book is a marathon with rest stops, not the hundred metre dash.

The main thing I’ve learned though is to be okay with that fact that there will be days when I accomplish little more than a few words and a line of notes and other days when I get nothing done at all. I’ve gathered more patience, let go of any delusions of perfection and accepted that for these few tracksuit years, writing will be harder, take longer and deadlines will need to be fluid, but that’s okay because I’m certainly not alone in this and one day I’ll be back to those full days of writing and wine and look back on this with some nostalgia.

Or possibly not. Excuse me now, must fly, I think Ellen is starting….