Tags: writing with kids

Form Follows Function

It seems to me that whenever a room in my house is perpetually cluttered, it's due to an underlying problem with the room's structure. Take my daughter's bedroom, for example: The closet and clothes drawers are both tucked in the farthest corner of a difficult-to-access room. This means that it's easier for me to toss her clean laundry into a pile on her floor rather than carefully tuck it into drawers. I always mean to come back and sort the pile in ten minutes, but once the pile is blocking both the drawers and the closet, sorting becomes a difficult task and usually gets procrastinated.

When we move her into her new room next year, I am SO putting her closet near the door.

When writing, I often feel that stories have the same problem. I'll bang my head a thousand times against a scene that's not working, only to discover that the real trouble is in the story structure I had set up 30 pages back.


One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to set up story structures right the first time around...

Writing With Children

You know, when I was a kid, making the bed seemed like an impossible task. (Bear with me: this analogy is going someplace.) I was too small to spread the blanket in the air, so I had to shove it on the mattress in a crumpled heap and then tug at the edges. Every time I pulled one corner into place the rest of the bed got wrinkled. My hands left dents as I crawled from one corner to another, and half the time I was sitting on the part of the blanket that needed to move. It was all very frustrating.

Learning to write with small children at home was a lot like that. I know I'm not the only one who feels that way because at least once per year the new parents in my writer's group start a thread about how to juggle writing and family time. This is not a trivial task. New parents no longer have long stretches of quiet time in which to coax the muse out of hiding. There's just a frantic jumble of interruptions which, during the early years, don't even stop when you crawl into bed for the night. There doesn't seem to be enough time or energy to go around, and like five-year-old Nancy making the bed, every time we tug one part of life into position, something else goes askew.

It's all very frustrating, and more so because everyone else online seems to have the magic recipe. Write on the bus. Stay up late after the kids are asleep. Use your lunch hour at work. Learn to write faster, learn to write more carefully... the list goes on and on until you feel like climbing on top of your chair and screaming WHY HAS EVERYBODY ELSE GOT IT FIGURED OUT EXCEPT ME?!?

The trick, I think, is to accept that writing doesn't exist in isolation. Tug at a corner, and wrinkles will pop up somewhere else, right? So, if someone else has got it figured out -- and please be aware that they probably don't, but if they do -- it's not because they changed a single, isolated aspect of their life. It's because they shifted and tugged things around until they finally found a system that worked.

Let's face it. If we get up at five am to write, we're going to be crabby at the kids the next day. Unless we start going to bed earlier, of course, but this means we can't stay up late to finish the dishes anymore. So the dishes have to fit in someplace else. Or we have to learn to live with a cluttered sink. Or something.

See my point? There is no one magical change that will, Cinderella-like, create extra space for writing in our schedule. There's just tugging and shifting and muddling through until life settles into something more or less resembling sanity. That's all.

5 Ways Kids Help Stay-At-Home Writers

1) They got you into the business. If they hadn't come along, you'd probably be doing something more stressful, more lucrative, and less enjoyable.

2) They require frequent attention. This interrupts bursts of creativity, but it also interrupts glaze-eyed stints and obsessive clicking to see if a new email has showed up in the in-box.

3) They are ergonomically beneficial: They ensure that you stand up and move around at least once every thirty minutes.

4) They provide a neverending source of inspiration.

5) They keep you happy.