December 31, 2014 by Nathaniel Tower
A few weeks ago, I welcomed a new baby girl into my life. My writer bio now contains the line “lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughters.” It almost seems surreal. I could go on and on about how beautiful she is and how lucky I am as a father, but we all know that won’t benefit anyone. I could also go into great detail about how tired I am, about how much work it is, about all the things that every new parent faces. Again, there’s not much to gain from such discussion.
Instead, I want to focus on one very important question: How the hell do you get any writing done with a new baby in the house?
It’s only been a month, but I have written zero words of fiction since Elise’s birth. I have edited zero pages of my novel-in-progress, in spite of the fact that I have ideas burning in my brain for how to rewrite the thing and make it brilliant.
Let’s take a step back from this apparent dilemma for a moment and look at a reality. Almost every writer struggles to find adequate time to write. Whether it be a day job, a new baby, a family crisis, or something else entirely, there are no writers out there who can say, “Wow, I just have too much time to write these days!”
So how does one get any writing done with so many other things going on?
Okay, I admit I have done some writing since my daughter was born. I just haven’t written any fiction, which happens to be my favorite thing to write. Most of my writing time has been spent working on freelance non-fiction projects—writing that actually can help pay the bills. If I wanted to, I suppose I could be writing fiction instead.
Writing with a busy schedule requires two basic things:
1. Making time to write
2. Sacrificing other pursuits
When it comes to “making” time to write, it more often can be described as scrambling to find some tiny portion of the day to hammer out a few words. Usually, making time to write and sacrificing other pursuits go hand-in-hand. Some examples:
1. Wake up extra early (or go to bed extra late): You are making time to write by sacrificing sleep.
2. Don’t shower: You are making time to write by sacrificing hygiene.
3. Don’t read: You are making time to write by sacrificing knowledge.
4. Ignore your family: You are making time to write by sacrificing relationships.
I certainly don’t recommend doing 2, 3, or 4 from this list. Especially not #4. With a baby in the house, I could barricade in my office and write at times, but I would be missing out on watching her grow. Working on my novel can wait. The words and ideas won’t disappear (as long as I jot something down occasionally). But spending time with a new baby can’t wait. If I skip out on it now, then I will just miss it. Before I know it, she’ll be an adult and I will have all the time in the world to write.
How did I find the time to write this? I woke up before everyone else. I can hear my baby girl snoring (she has her first cold) from my office. And my other daughter (she’s almost 4) just ran into the office with a sleepy grin and gave me a big hug. I’m writing this bit with her sitting in my lap. She just said, “Daddy, I think that’s enough typing on this sheet.” So, I’m going to do something I almost never do. I’m just going to stop and publish this. Without even proofreading or going back and looking for the ideal word choices. Because sometimes you have to make sacrifices…