Are you on holidays yet? I hope you are or will be soon. This year has been so full-throttle all the way, don’t you think – big shocks, uncertain energy and major world shifts… have you felt that closer to home as well?
Yesterday I finished up the contract position I’ve been working in all year, as maternity leave cover at an audiobook company. It’s the first full-time role I’ve had since Olive was born (she’s 8) and it was a huge change for us and my writing practice. I loved the people and I loved being back in the industry, but it was a hard year in lots of ways, too.
We renovated in 2015 and it’s been a necessity to have more income coming in. I don’t regret it, the Crafty Minx books came about because we were trying to find a new way of adjusting once we were saddled with the boring reality of a mortgage, but the sad truth is that working like this has left me no time whatsoever to write. Apart from four days away back at the start of November (that was all the time I could manage, what with family commitments and work), I’ve made virtually zero progress on my follow-up to Precious Things, which was due earlier this year but had to be extended for submission by another six months (hence the writing retreat – HarperCollins is now looking to release the second novel in April 2018).
Which brings me to my point: for years I’ve been preaching in my books that all you need is a little scrap of time, nothing much at all really to be creative… to make something… to do… to write. But I don’t think it’s true.
Those who say they find time to write at 4am before their family’s up or at 7pm once the kids are in bed… I don’t know if we’re hearing the full picture because, hand on my heart I tried that (and on the weekends – not good), and I just couldn’t get that solid block of time to pour into feeling creative at all, without feeling like I was neglecting everything else. Maybe it’s easier for writers without kids? Because my writing (apart from those four days away) was cramped and left me feeling frustrated and mostly upset that I couldn’t spend more time with it. And the last time I had a habit of writing at 4am (while I was feeding a baby, what was I thinking?) I ran myself into the ground and had a completed book but almost 18 months camped out on the sofa with chronic fatigue to show for it. And I only have one child to look after.
So, what to do?
I’m still trying to find that elusive balance – trying to find a way to meet the most important needs (family, friends, creative life) as we all are. For now, I’ll be taking a much-needed break over Christmas and gearing up over the holidays to start writing again, or at least for a good chunk of time before I start my next freelance role. And I think full-time work when you mother, wife and want to write or pursue your creative path is pretty tricky.
But it can be done.
I met a beautiful, talented writer this year and she told me she writes one year on, one year off. This clever woman has three small kids. She has a part-time job in the philanthropic not-for-profit sector which she loves. So it is about making things work. Not every day, but over time.
Unless you’re an heiress. In which case, you probably want to hang about on yachts all day cruising the Greek Islands. Just saying, but I think all that leisure would get tiring, don’t you? No struggle, no pleasure. I honestly believe that.
“You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.”
― Alain de Botton
Right on, Alain.
Love to you and yours for a peaceful holiday and 2017 ahead. I hope it brings you all the inspiration, space and time you need.