writing

NaNoWriMo with a Baby

If you’ve ever had a baby or been near someone who had a baby then you’ve probably heard the phrase sleep when baby sleeps. Sounds simple. Almost sounds luxurious when you think of how much a baby sleeps.

Which is all well and good, except there comes a point when you want to do something human and prove to yourself (and your cats) that you’re more than just a baby feeder/diaperer/sleeping apparatus. So I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a novel to write, that doesn’t want to wait for me or baby, and I can finally write again, so why not? I should have plenty of time.

Ahahahahaha.

See, the thing about newborns is that they’re deceptive little creatures with powers over time. One moment you’re feeding baby and it’s 7am. The next you’re still trying to get baby to sleep an it’s 9am. Where did those two hours go? You have no clue. Then it’s 9.30am and baby’s asleep and you think, finally I can write!

Except: you really need to pee, you haven’t eaten in six hours, you’re dehydrated, the cats are dying from hunger, and omg is that smell you?

If you’re lucky, you have a snack at hand, a water bottle, and someone else to feed the cats. The shower can wait. You can get some writing in!

If you’re unlucky, you scramble to meet your basic requirements of survival and then it’s 10.30am and, oh shit, baby’s eyes just flew open.

Occasionally, you get a longer stretch. And then it comes down to a different choice because, remember, you’ve been repeating this same 2-3 hour cycle for weeks now and you. are. beyond. exhausted.

Sleep when baby sleeps? Or… write when baby sleeps?

It’s a fine balancing act. Too much sleep and you start to think you’re a normal human being again. And, well, you don’t get any writing done. Too much writing and you don’t get enough sleep, but the hallucinations from sleep deprivation fuel your creativity and plot. They also fuel your loved one’s reasons for an intervention.

So each time the baby sleeps, I have to choose. Sometimes it’s an easy choice, sometimes it’s not. But no matter which I choose, I’ve had to lower my expectations. Just like I will probably not get more than five hours of accumulated sleep  each day, I will probably not reach 50k this month. But that’s okay – 5 hours is better than 4, 3, 2, or 1 and whatever amount of words I write will be better than nothing.

Has anyone else tried to write with a newborn? Succeeded? Failed? I’d love to hear your tips!

helpful tips, writing

Missing Limbs: Writing While Pregnant

I’ve been pretty quiet about writing around here.

And that’s mostly because I learned as a kid that if you got nothing good to say, you’d better say nothing.

So I’ve said nothing, because I was also afraid of what was going on. Only now, on the other side of what I can now confidently call my longest bout of real, honest-to-God, writer’s block, I feel comfortable enough to admit I didn’t – couldn’t – write while I was pregnant. Quite literally from week 3 until week 40.

And it was terrible.

Not that I didn’t try. Oh, how I tried. The number of hours I spent forcibly typing word after word, only to realize I had written maybe 50 words in two hours and none of them felt right. The number of times I put on music and went for a run, but instead of dreaming up more plot, I dreamed up… well nothing. The daydreaming had stopped. I could only think about my present reality.

There was certainly enough to think about. The exhaustion, the food aversions, the nausea, the fear that something could go wrong, and on top of that my wife was applying for and interviewing for and – finally – getting a job in another state, which then necessitated that we find a new home and arrange a cross-country move, all while projects came due at work and we had family to visit and a wedding to attend –

Oof. Just typing it all out makes me tired.

But the thing is, I’ve had busy and hectic points in my life before, and I was still able to carve out time to write. Yet here I was, overwhelmed even further by the undeniable fact that every time I tried to write, nothing happened.

It was as if someone had chopped off my imagination. A phantom limb that I could still feel, that I could swear was working, uncurling my fingers and reaching out to grasp a cup – only to touch nothing. That cup stubbornly refused to move and the words stubbornly refused to come.

I’ve always, perhaps naively, believed that writer’s block was something one could force their way through. I now humbly accept otherwise. I tried every trick in the book and yet, nothing.

Then I despaired. What if it lasted forever? What if this was the end of writing for me? I had completely lost the urge to write, the ability to dream. For once, I knew what it must be like for the majority of people without that driving need to create, to expand, to explore. And I thought, this isn’t so bad.

Just shy of three weeks from my due date, I finally accepted the loss.

One week after Baby Doore arrived, I was writing again.

I can’t even begin to describe the relief.

Nor the realization of how much shame I had carried with me for those ten months. I swore I would never use pregnancy as an excuse to be anything less than 100%, but that’s impossible. And I hope that by sharing this now, I might help someone else wondering if they will ever be creative again. Not every pregnant person will experience the same thing – I’ve read that some lucky few experience a boost in their creativity – but for those who do, there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Take the advice I should have taken: be kind to yourself. ❤