Friday, 30 March 2012

best laid plans

 My life is on hold at the moment: my writing life very much so.  Or, rather, I'm on holiday, enjoying a precious, never to be repeated time. And typing one handed while cradling my five week old. I look a mess, I'm still overweight, my book is unedited on the coffee table, the laundry threatens to overwhelm me and the pinnacle of my achievement day by day is to have fed everyone and listened to the five year old read. I'm not being hard on myself about this. It will be over all too soon, and I'd rather be hampered from writing by a baby than by the housework!

Just read The Interpretation of Murder, and found myself analysing what kept me reading, and how it was all orchestrated. This was just about achievable while feeding the baby, but it did take me the unprecedented time of nearly a week...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cheat's guide to writing when life is in the way

As an unpublished writer just stepping out on the writing pathway, having a newborn baby is a bit of a barrier to my productivity. How do you keep writing when you have a family? If anyone has any great tips on keeping the flow going, please share them...These first few weeks are definitely going to be the hardest, so here are a few ideas I've had for convincing myself and those around me that I am still writing, honestly, even while I'm slumped on the sofa, breast-feeding - again.

1. Keep a journal of your baby's development. 
It's still writing, right? And it keeps your hand in.

2. Read.  Every good writer is first a good reader, and even baby magazines can be passed off as research for when you get round to pitching some parenting articles to them.

3. Daydream. Stare out of the window. You never know, the sleep deprivation might add a random element that sparks new, weird and wonderful ideas.

4. Find le mot juste.  Enforced sitting for long periods of time can lend itself to some writing or word exercises.  While you're sitting, your mind can be doing anything you like.

5. Keep your notebook of ideas going.  It only takes a couple of moments to scribble a phrase, or idea or observation down.  One day soon, you'll be able to polish one of those ideas into something worthwhile.

6. Exploit the new people you'll meet through your new baby as sources of ideas for characters.  Midwives, health visitors, other'll be thrown together with all sorts of people you might not normally have met - don't waste it!

7. Enjoy a writing magazine (or two). Hopefully you'll be inspired, or learn something new. At least it will keep you partially focused on your long term goals, even if you're taking a brief baby break right now.

8. Look for the magic in the everyday.  It's easy to overlook things, especially when you're swamped by the laundry mountain, or have burnt the dinner (again). But everything is material, and if you look at a situation from the right angle, or squint just a tiny bit, you might find something special going on in your life. You only get to be a new mother a few times in life.  Enjoy it and treasure it up to use.

9. Watch daytime TV.  And evening TV. And middle of the night TV. You never know what person or situation on a television programme might just trigger an idea or advance a plotline or subplot in a project you have begun. And you'll soon be so sick of television shows that when your baby starts sleeping through, and you've begun to get your life back, you'll be glad to switch it off, and spend the time writing instead.

10. Call yourself a writer.  It takes guts, this one, if you're unpublished (and perhaps if you're not). Make your commitment clear to yourself though - you are more likely to stick with it and succeed if you have a clear self-image of yourself as a writer.

I'm off to take my own  advice now...with a pinch of salt, of course.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A whole load of trouble...

It is a blessing, having a new baby. She might cry so loudly that environmental health would slap a warning on her, but you can't overlook the fact that you'd rather that than have a sick, silent baby.  You have to be grateful (through gritted teeth) for a healthy, loud newborn.

But I'm struggling with the laundry mountain.  My other half is at home on paternity leave, and he likes doing the laundry. Or at least, he will put it in the machine and turn it on.  He is quite happy to hang it on the line, after a day or two, and even gets irritable if someone else does it, 'wrong'. It's just a shame that that's as far as he'll go.  When it comes to folding it into the basket and putting it away in the right person's wardrobe, that's my department, apparently.  And even that is too much for me, right now.

And the laundry has always been the sort of thing you mustn't take your eyes off.  If you turn your back on the laundry pile, or blink, even, you look back and it's doubled or tripled in size. And now there's a newborn....

I'd forgotten (blissful ignorance!) how much washing a baby generates. It's not just the leaky nappies doing their worst to vests, or the 'posseting' (vomiting to you and me) all over outfits you've just changed her into.  It's the way she waits till you're changing her nappy, and have lifted her bottom in the air, and then wees, so that the urine runs back over her tummy and onto her clothes. It's the way she jerks back when she possets in order to aim the sick away from her muslin and onto your fresh-on outfit.  When you've changed her two or three times a day, and yourself as well, you're well on the way to a full washing basket every day.

Sometimes I think it will defeat me.  The laundry will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's spine. (And hurray for washing machines and tumble dryers; and respect for the great-grandparents who raised seventeen children without modern technology).

But there is something worse; something to make me appreciate my lot.  I went to takea dark load out of the machine this week, and out came an unrecognisable grey item. On closer investigation I was able to identify it as a pair of leggings. Next came the three year old's jumper, covered in snow. I pulled more out of the machine; everything was dull and covered in something white.  I thought at first that a rogue tissue bent on mischief had sneaked into the machine, but this was devastation on a catastrophic scale.  Whatever had happened was far worse than a tissue's suicide mission. 

At last, out came the culprit; a disposable nappy.  I'm blaming the three year old for its appearance in the laundry pile, but I was the one who put it in the machine.  The gel crystals had burst everywhere; I've never seen anything like it.  They lay in every crevice of the drum, and freckled and dusted every item of clothing.  The man of the house and I shook the laundry out, and took the machine and its filter apart to try to clean it.  It took hours.  And the clothes still look off-colour.

Suddenly a normal pile of washing (or four) doesn't seem such a chore, after all.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Positive thinking

It's a busy time in our household.  The two year old turned three a couple of days ago, and I actually was showered and dressed by 8am on the day in question.  The six year old turns seven next week, so I have to make sure I'm on the ball for that, too.

It's so hard to do anything but feed, and wind and snatch a shower or a nap between.  I had forgotten so much: how many nappies a newborn can generate. How much washing she can create. How you stare at her face, thinking you'll remember it like this forever, and before you know it, it's overlaid by an older child's face, and you can't quite untangle the two. How it's possible to fall asleep in the most incredible positions, including upright while feeding, and even while writing a note to yourself that no longer makes any sense when you jerk awake and try to read it.  How my husband can pull out all the stops and surprise me by shouldering responsibilities he's avoided for nearly seven years, and do it well.

I haven't begun to read my novel yet, nor do anything new - what a good job I did a little while I was waiting. My Grandad's book, which I felt so glad to be working on again, is languishing, uncared for, on my laptop once more.  But I am managing to keep up with the writing magazines I subscribe to, and I know one day I'll have some time to myself again - surely? - and if I keep my dreams in the front of my mind, and the top of my 'wish I had time to do' list, I know I'll be able to tackle them again soon.