February 23, 2017 by email@example.com
Why Having Babies is Good For Your Writing
“Once I have a baby, I’ll never _______ again.”
Run. See friends. Bake. Go to a concert.
What’s in YOUR blank?
For me, it was writing. I was sure that having my twin girls meant I’d never have time to write another word. Reading would fall by the wayside, too. Before my due date, I would pat the library card in my wallet and sigh. “Oh well,” I thought. “It was fun while it lasted.”
But you know what? The opposite happened. In the first 13 months of my girls’ life, I read 88 books and wrote a 65,000 word first draft of a novel. I did this while being the primary (often sole) caregiver for my twins.
I don’t say this to pat myself on the back. I don’t have superpowers. There are so many, many things I did NOT do in that 13 month period (like, leave the house more than once a week. Or, you know. . . earn an income.) But I gotta admit, I’m pretty freakin’ proud of all the reading and writing I accomplished in 2016.
As it turns out, having babies was the best thing to ever happen to me as a writer. Here’s three reasons why.
1. Babies Helps You Cut The BS
I wouldn’t trust anyone who says they *didn’t* emerge from the first few months of motherhood a different person. There’s the very early days, when literally everyone sees you naked. Those dark, scary days and nights when the little one is in your home–100% YOUR RESPONSIBILITY–for the first time. The fourth trimester, when hormones zip all over the place, taking you, in the span of an hour, from joyful to paranoid to depressed to enraged–rinse, repeat, do it all over again the next hour. It’s all insane.
(Side note: I believe this is true no matter how you become a parent. Adoption, surrogacy, dolphin-assisted water birth, whatevs. No one escapes the crazy.)
Before I plunged into this dark hole myself, I was much more prone to say the things that people wanted to hear. To bite my tongue about “controversial” topics for fear of offending. . .who, exactly? Not sure. That innocuousness was there in my writing, too. I hadn’t yet learned that honesty is the most important thing. In writing as in life–if something isn’t honest, it’s just a bunch of BS.
Maybe having two other humans for whom I’m totally responsible has helped me shake some of my “what will other people think” fears. Since their birth, my writing has sharpened. It’s become more personal, and therefore more universal. I have less tolerance for BS with others and WAY less for it in my writing. I’m writing from a deeper part of myself. My work is more true.
Some people learn how to write this way without going through the crucible of parenthood. Not me. I needed it.
2. Babies Build Your Persistence Muscle
If I stopped and counted how many hours each day I spend [making food, sweeping up food, changing diapers, clipping fingernails, unloading dishes, doing laundry, etc.], I’m sure I would be thoroughly depressed. Being the primary caregiver to two toddlers is so much WORK. Like, straight-up physical labor.
Minus the physical labor, writing is the same way. Fun work, but still work. From brainstorming to research to plotting to drafting to revising to editing, to possibly scrapping the whole thing and starting anew. All of this for something that MIGHT, in a few years’ time, end up on a bookshelf somewhere.
Stopping to think about all this can be thoroughly depressing, too. So, most often, I don’t. Writing, like parenting, requires you to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Plod on and do the next right thing. Over time, all of those little things add up to something big.
3. Babies Prepare You For The Long Haul
Before I had my babies, my goal was to get an agent/published as fast as I could. I wanted things locked down quickly so that I’d feel more secure going into parenthood. I rushed the manuscript; I rushed the querying process.
That manuscript now has a vibrant life somewhere in the bowels of my computer.
Since I had my girls, I’ve learned for myself the lesson that there are no shortcuts. There’s drafting and revising. Asking for feedback, revising some more. Building relationships–online or IRL. Going to conferences. Twitter-stalking agents. READING. Writing just for fun. Going chapter by chapter through some really good books to see how the author did it. READING SOME MORE. Scrapping the whole thing and starting over.
My babies are teaching me about the long haul. After all, what project could possibly be more long-term than parenting? There’s no rushing through. There’s only each day, each moment. I work–do whatever task a particular moment of parenting or writing calls for. I rest. I’m learning to cure my “rush so I can do ______ instead” habit.
And the result? I get so much more done. More, better quality. Pretty much the inverse of what I expected when I was seven months pregnant thinking that all my dreams of writing glory were slipping away.
There are plenty of other things I could add to this list. Becoming a parent helps you clarify your own desires. It motivates you to get your butt in gear and achieve your goals (you have mouths to feed now). Moms and dads know how to seize upon any second of free time and get crap done. Babies, with their little Buddha selves, teach you to be in the moment–something that enhances your writing and every other aspect of life.
I never would have guessed before I became a parent: I have my girls to thank for my best work. What a delightful, sleep-depriving, spit-uppy surprise.
I’d love to hear from you; how has parenthood changed your writing? For better (or worse)? Let me know!