I read this great article yesterday, ‘Writing between diapers‘.
Not only did it quote this beautiful piece of wisdom,
“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environment
and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
–C. G. Jung
But it also talked about stealing opportunities to work on your writing.
Which is just about exactly how it feels: like stealing.
On Wednesday we had visitors – Luuk’s aunt and uncle from the Netherlands. They were going to arrive some time in the morning and spend the day with us. Luuk took the day off work to spend time with them.
This looked at the outset like a classic writing-aint-happening day: it was both busy and a rare occasion. Busy: hard to find time. Rare occasion: easy to make excuses.
But not knowing when they would arrive, we were ready early. Both babies were down for their morning naps in preparation to socialise the day away later. Luuk’s aunt and uncle phoned to let Luuk know they were on their way and I was already sitting at the computer (checking facebook probably).
Luuk went to get some pastries for morning tea. I opened my word processor and snatched some words!
I had this great relaxed feeling for the rest of the day. I’d already done some writing. I have a reminder set up for four in the afternoon and I had already ticked it off by eleven in the morning.
But that wasn’t the end of it. We had this great day, picnicking and talking, playing with Louis’ new bubble gun (the best type of gun ever!) and adoring Elena.
On the way to our picnic lunch – watching the fishes and frogs outside l’hotel de ville (town hall).
After dinner but still fairly early in the evening, our visitors left to return to their camp site. Rather than bunker down, shut the curtains, and watch an episode of The Wire, I sat back at the computer. And there it was, an open document, an open book, just waiting for me.
I didn’t feel at all pressured to write, there was no guilt, no ‘should’, but I wanted to, I could, and so I did.
A little while later Elena woke. I relocated to the couch and watched a bit of tv while I fed her.
I know that breastfeeding is great reading time but sometimes the brain needs to blob – and Modern Family is good comedy to blob with. I have got into a habit of watching tv while breastfeeding – especially if Louis is awake. I can’t entertain him very well and the tv tends to keep him happy if he stops entertaining himself (which he’s pretty damn good at for a kid shy of two years old).
It is possible that the tv makes it more likely he’ll stop entertaining himself. But at least he’s not trying to hug/wrestle with me, or yelling in his adorable but often incomprehensible quest for something he wants, or thrusting books at me and accidentally taking out poor little Elena.
Yesterday, Thursday, was a more ordinary day, but I still have to snatch and steal to get writing time.
There’s a period most mornings when one or both of the kids are not settled. They’re both in bed and enroute to sleepsville, but they’re not there yet and I’m not certain they’re both going to be – at least not at the same time. If I’m going to have a nap then during their morning sleep is the best time, but I don’t want to go to bed until I’m certain they’re not going to get me up again.
While I wait for that fifteen minutes of silence that usually precedes a couple of hours of solitude (I know, I have it so good) there are so many things I could do: laundry, tidying the kitchen, putting away toys, having a shower, eating breakfast, taking the rubbish to the basement, etc. Breakfast and a shower are the only essentials, I think. Some days I skip the shower (too much information? sorry) and some days I eat breakfast before they go to bed.
If I can bear it, though, everything else can wait. I can write, right now, if I don’t mind doing it in a bit of a dump. I turn my back on the mess and look out the window…
…and get on with it.
I can do laundry and dishes and toy-tidy-away (though what’s the point really?) when Louis is awake. Writing with him running around is a bit more problematic. It can happen, but I don’t like to bank on it.
It is another opportunity I must snatch when I can because it doesn’t often last long.
I am noticing a trend, though. If I write first thing, even if it’s just a few lines of words likely to get cut later, then it’s more likely I’ll snatch more words later in the day.
Yesterday in happened again. My lovely toddler has two naps a day – still! I don’t know the secret. I’d tell you if I did. But he’s usually out to it for a good two hours. Elena’s rarely up for more than an hour at a time, so pretty regularly I get two periods of at least an hour.
It’s rare that I spend all of this time writing. But I suppose I could.
(Perhaps I’m not as good at ignoring the mess as I’d like to be. Perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing.)
So there’s that afternoon nap. I’m often tempted to nap at this time myself, but I’m more likely to grab a third or fourth cup of coffee and scroll through facebook or twitter or pinterest, till I remember to snatch some writing time.
Another time to snatch is when Luuk gets home and is spending some time with Louis. If I prepare dinner before Luuk gets home, and Elena is asleep, then this works out.
If Luuk cooks I can sometimes write then.
Writing at the playground would be wonderful but I might be dreaming. Prime playground times are between 11 and 12 in the morning, and then again between 4 and 6 in the afternoon. There are usually loads of other kids (and all their sandpit toys) which means I don’t need to focus much on Louis as he tends to have plenty to keep him busy/entertained.
I usually sit there and read – be it on kindle, my phone, or from a for-real paper-and-card book. I’ve written in my journal a couple of times, and I’ve noted ideas in a memo on my phone, but reading is a bit easier to juggle. We spent about twenty minutes on Monday kicking/pushing the ball through the little tunnel under the slide. I was standing up, reading something on my phone, and kicking it back to Louis whenever he pushed it through. Brilliant!
I suppose reading is snatching words too, kind of. If nothing else it might mean more time to write later.
Once-a-week I can snatch some words after our French lesson. Luuk is home early for the lesson but not early enough to commute back to work. Sometimes he will work from home after the lesson, but it’s not always possible.
What is possible, if the weather isn’t abysmal, is a bike ride. Off they go, my two boys, to see the world on two wheels, and if Elena sleeps I am all on my own for up to an hour.
And now? Well, it’s friday morning. I’m snatching these words, rather than novel words. But no more. I’ll put on a load of laundry, put on a pot of coffee, and then snatch, snatch, snatch!