Pick up the baby: dealing with writers block when looking after a small person

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have set myself the inadvisable task of trying to finish (and publish, or find a publisher for!) my novel this year while I am on maternity leave and also looking after a tiny person.

So far things have actually gone quite well, in that I’ve managed to finish a first draft of my novel. However it has been completed while I am in a sleep deprived daze, and so I am sure that there is lots of work to do now to make it readable.

One of the things I found early on was that when I did have those moments to myself in which I could write, I found it very difficult to get words down. I have previously blogged about some of the strategies I was trying out here, which included writing everyday, and having a (sort of) plan of what I would write. As I now have a finished first draft, I can say that they have worked ok.

The thing I didn’t write about in that post is what helps when those things fail. There have definitely been moments where I had a bit of time, and I knew what content I needed, but somehow the words wouldn’t come. In this situation I found that the best thing to do was actually to walk away, and pick up the baby. Or do the washing up. Or fold his cloth nappies. Something like that.

I think for me, just doing something different and physical like playing with the baby, paying attention to all the new little things he was doing instead of working on a sentence was actually a great way of giving my conscious brain a break. Often after a little bit of time I would find that my subconscious mind had worked through what ever sentence I was having trouble with, and something good enough for a first draft would pop into my mind.

Sometimes the only way to moving forwards with an idea is to step away from it.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

‘I’ll fix that later’: things that help when trying to write and look after a baby.

When I was pregnant last year I had difficulty thinking about how I would continue to ‘be me’ and also be a mum. Keeping up my creative practice was one of the ‘be me’ things I was worried about. As I write this my baby is almost eleven weeks old and, as I’ve written about here, I’m concentrating on the writing at the moment, as it’s the easiest thing for me to manage. This has been pretty helpful to me from a psychological point of view, as my identity inevitably changes, and I have limits on my time, I am finding myself able to continue with a few things that were important to me.

Obviously I’m no expert in productivity, I’ve been working on my novel for a long time (eight years and counting), but I’m beginning to figure out some of the things that help me actually get words on the screen. I’m also understanding what I need to let go of for now. Here are my thoughts for now:

1. The phrase ‘I’ll fix that later’ is your friend. I have found that the less I try to get everything down perfectly the more I can actually get done. Interrupting the flow of writing to try to fix something or research something normally just results in me not doing anything. Instead I try to keep with the flow, and where I notice I’ve just done something I don’t really like I think ‘I’ll fix that later’. It’s then quite straightforward to fix issues in an edit when there is a bit more time.

2. Small chunks of writing are possible in even very short periods of time. I have found two to four hundred words very doable in ten minutes, which is two to four hundred words more than yesterday.

3. Small chunks of writing are only possible if I give myself reminders. If I try to cast around for the muse in ten minutes I inevitably don’t find her. So, if I have to put my writing down quickly, which I frequently do at the moment, I’m finding that if I can get a sentence down (often highlighted in red) to remind me what I was going to write next I have no trouble returning to it.

I hope this is helpful. Now I need to go and cuddle the baby.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.