Apparently, writing just after breakfast is turning out to be the most productive time for me. For some reason, right after I finish a meal, I’m totally primed to get some brainwork done. It’s rather odd, but hey–I won’t complain! Today, I managed to write the last two rewrite scenes of the Editing Project (working title, “Nobody Here But Us Monsters”), and am pretty pleased with the outcome. I think the POV shift from First Person, Past Tense (originally the New Wife’s POV) to First Person, Present, Plural (the “royal We,” though in this case, it’s actually an observing group with an unnamed narrator among them) has really improved the story overall. It’s a good chunk longer than I was *hoping* it was going to be, clocking in at about 7,400 (eek!), so there’s going to be some significant splicing and dicing to come. I’d love to get it under 6k (under 5.5k would be even more amazing), if possible, but that may be a bit of a stretch.
Next week, I’ll set this one aside to cool off a bit, and focus on cutting back an already fairly short story and see if I can’t bump it down into flash-fiction range, which would–I think–tighten up the story and give it the little kick it’s been needing. I have a market in mind for it, if I can manage to chop it down that much. After that’s done and wrapped up, I’ll pick this one back up and start on the hard-line revisions to get it into submittable shape.
Hooray, though! I’m so excited about getting back on the submitting bandwagon. It’s been too long, and I’ve been itching to get going again. And not just a story here and there every several months, either. Prior to June, I want to build up something of a completed-story arsenal, which I can then juggle around to various markets for the many months while I’m distracted by the New Little One. That’s one nice thing about long turn-around times–it keeps things floating for a while. (And nothing burns quite like an <24 hour rejection–ZING! Convenient, but painful.) If nothing else, it’ll help me feel still slightly connected to the whole writing world, even if I’m not producing much new work during that time. I want to be able to enjoy the kiddo and not pressure myself to do much beyond that.
So here’s where I get a little more serious, and discuss something I’ve been thinking about a lot as the months tick by and June–with all June implies–gets closer:
Work-life balance will always be an act of finesse. I’m not sure anyone really has it perfected. But lately I’ve been paying more attention to these weird little murmurs on the web, little passing comments, or polite pessimisms veiled behind well-intentioned concerns about the relative disparity of female writers in the SF/F world. One explanation, or possible explanation, comes up quite regularly in discussions: Maybe they get derailed when they start families. The idea that having kids, for a woman, means the end of her writing career (or, let’s face it, any career) hovers around all the time in the backdrop, but I’ve particularly noticed it recently, given my own situation. It always seems to be there in the wings, that little eyebrow arch of concern when talking with other writers, as though by confessing that you’re expecting a baby, you’ve admitted that you’re giving up, caving in. It’s as though even if you haven’t admitted it yet to yourself, they see it as writing on the wall. Yes, having a baby is time-consuming, and it should be. You can’t always do everything you want to simultaneously, or at the same pace as you used to. But that doesn’t mean it’s the death-toll of your hopes and dreams, either.
(I hasten to add, not all discussions about writing and having kids is like this. I’ve also felt a huge amount of support from some great friends in the industry who couldn’t be happier for me, and don’t in any way see having a baby as the end of anything, only the start of something wonderful. And I’m very grateful to them for that, because if I only read internet discussions on the subject, I’d probably start freaking out.)
The thing is, I’ve got some great writing ladies in my life to look to as examples of how to be a wonderful, doting new mom while also manage to keep a healthy balance between the New Little One and one’s own future aspirations. My own mother never gave up on her dreams, even when my sister and I were very little and she was a stay-at-home mom, and that’s something even as a kid I really looked up to; it’s all just a matter of taking each day at a time, and adjusting expectations (honestly, and with a serious dose of realism) to suit whatever stage one’s in. And the truth is, that’s how all of life is, not just having kids. I’ve interviewed quite a few pro authors, men and women, for Apex who have kids–some of them, very little kids–and who are the primary caregivers for their children while also maintaining a writing career.
Honestly, I’m looking forward to the kiddo’s arrival. One always thinks that having all the time in the world to write means you’ll be super productive, but I’ve found that for me, that’s not really the case. I love how Geoff Ryman put it in his Apex Magazine interview when I asked him about how his writing routine had changed since switching his day job from full-time to part-time:
“I got a lot more writing done when I worked full time. Time is fractal; it’s a Tardis. The more you pack in, the bigger it gets.” (You can read the full interview here–I highly recommend it.)
And so far, I’ve found that to be true for me, too. I definitely get more reading done now than I used to, but in terms of getting more writing and editing done? Not so much. A little bit, but not as much as I might have expected, given the unfettered time restraints. Having the pressure-cooker of demands on your time means you don’t procrastinate. You don’t mince minutes. There isn’t time. If you only have a few minutes–ten, fifteen, thirty–you jump in and GO because who knows when you’ll have another chance. I’ve learned I can write a lot in short breaks like that. My attention span can’t quite muster more than an hour and a half of solid writing time in one go. I get distracted. I become drained and bored. Little bursts work much better for me, though I like a bit of structure, too (like writing directly after breakfast, whenever breakfast comes around). Usually, if left to my own devices, I’ll sit and write for an hour before tapping out. I can get a good chunk of words done that way. But add up a few of my ten or fifteen minute sessions when I worked full time? Or even the half-hour sessions I’d get during lunch breaks at my old job? I was flying. The urgency of the time constraints translated into the urgency of the prose. Every word had to matter. It was great! And those were the years I was hands-down the most productive and sold the most fiction!
So, I’m looking forward to being mom with a New Little One. I want to be prepared ahead of time for what little bit I can do during those heady (and exhausting) early months to still feel like I haven’t completely forgotten about the thing I love doing, even if I’m not as actively pursuing it for a little while. And I’m relishing the idea of the pressure-cooker, the snatched moments, the rush of a scribbled story note in the last few seconds of nap time. It’ll be a change of pace, a new challenge, and an exciting time of life. I’ve missed that, and I think I’m in a good place to embrace it–all of it–come June.
And there’s my heavier thoughts! Tomorrow’s post will probably be short, but we find out the New Little One’s gender tomorrow if we’re lucky! *fingers crossed*
P.S.–Whatever it is, it’s got energy legs. It’s been kicking all afternoon again. What a strange, new feeling! XD