At the end of the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does” (based on the novel by Allison Pearson) the Greg Kinnear character describes his wife (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) as “a juggler.” Words which I find very apropos of my own life these days. I’m very fortunate that Mélanie’s temperament and my own schedule make easier than I had anticipated to keep up with my writing schedule while being a mom. But it is a juggling act. Whether that means balancing a baby against my shoulder or nursing while I type one-handed, spoonimg applesauce while I brainstorm with writer friends, doing a book reading aware on the edge of my consciousness of some tiny squeaks as a friend walks with Mel at the back of the room, holding her asleep in my lap on the red eye while I edit on my iPad, having lunch with my agent and editor with Mel asleep in her carrier beside me.
I think it’s fortunate that my writing process has always involved lots of thinking and mulling time. I was talking today with Veronica Wolff, a wonderful writer, fabulous mom, and great friend, about how we can both only write so many words before before inevitably we need to ponder how to handle a transition, a plot development, an upcoming scene (it’s amazing how something as simple as getting a character into or out of the room can stymie one). And a lot of this mulling is subconscious, so I often find I can work through whatever writing issue is plaguing me during a break with Mélanie.
Of course some things fall by the wayside. Some days I don’t look at social media at all. And others days when I find the one thing I can accomplish while tending to a fussing baby is updating Facebook and Twitter (fairly easy to do one-handed). Some nights I wonder how writing a book with a baby can seem entirely do-able but fixing dinner with one can seem an insurmountable challenge. And as for my house – well, my friends can attest that I was inclined to let housework go when on a deadline even pre-Mélanie :-).
There are days when I feel I’m not getting anything done. But Mel is seven months old and somehow I’ve finished a book, written a novella, and started on a new book (wrote the opening scene today). Even the days when I only write a few hundred words add up over the course of a week or a month.
This weekend I visited the Stanford campus with friends and showed Mélanie where Mummy was an undergrad. We went to the History Department, where I learned so much that helps me as an historical novelist. But thinking back to those days of balancing classes, rehearsals, an honors thesis, my first novel (which I was co-writing my mom while in school), I realized that the art of juggling is something else I took away from my university years.
How do you balance different elements of your life, whether it’s writing or parenthood or other elements? I’m planning to make posts about writing and motherhood a regular feature on my blog along with posts about the craft of writing.
In keep with the theme, Mélanie/Suzanne writes to Isobel Lydgate about the challenges of parenting in this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition.