Today’s guest post, on balancing writing and family, is by Kate Belle
How do you juggle your family with writing? It’s a common enough question (although interestingly more often directed at female than male authors). Creativity, like the human beings it’s borne in, is complex, flexible and responsive. For those juggling a family, work, household and writing, life can leave them feeling like they’re the one up in the air wondering if someone will catch them on the way down.
The majority of writers I know are women, and most of them have to squeeze their love of the word into tiny strips of time left to them when all the other chores are done. I’m one of the lucky ones. I married a domesticated man–a freak of nature you could say. When I need to spend time snuggled up to my laptop he picks up the cleaning, shopping, childcare–to a point.
Every partner (and family) have their limits of tolerance when it comes to us selfish, single-minded authors taking a leave of absence to hang out with our fictional characters. When you sign up for a family you are expected to pull your weight, a weight I’ve heard many pro-authors dismiss as just an “excuse not to write”.
“Your writing must come first!”
I can’t help wondering, do these people have children? Or partners? Or mortgages? I’d love to put my writing first, but the reality is if I am to write at all, my home and relationship must be in good order first.
Every writer needs to commit to regular writing time, but for a writer with young children and/or a job, this can be a diabolical thing to negotiate. Many women, willing or not, find themselves the hub of the family wheel. If they want to undertake a course or fellowship to develop their craft, a battle plan must be put in place to allow partners to continue to work, children to be cared for, and ensure the family diet doesn’t deteriorate to frankfurts and chuppa chups (although in some cases the latter can’t be helped). For women in this position, time is the ever present enemy and disruption a given.
We snatch 30 minutes here and there, between episodes of Playschool or naps, praying for our little ones to sleep “just another ten minutes so I can finish this scene”. We haunt our laptops at midnight while our family sleeps, and take our work to basketball and swimming, hoping for a quick 15 minutes to edit a paragraph or two.
Writing in this distracted way means it’s easy to lose the thread, and it’s frustrating when the muse is hot but everyone around you needs your ears or eyes or hands for some other purpose. Still, while hands are busy, your mind is free. I’m never far from a pen and scrap of paper, so if a bit of dialogue or a new scene strikes while I’m cooking dinner or packing lunches I can capture it before it disappears to find another, more available writer.
One thing writers with families learn very quickly is that the procrastination that plagues most writers is a luxury they can’t afford. By necessity we are creative in short bursts. It gets a bit easier as children go to school. Whole windows of time open up between 9 and 3, when the phone can be taken off the hook and instant soup suffices for lunch before we return to the blurry, time-hungry routine of family life.
But no matter how understanding a partner is, no one likes living with crunchy floors, a basketful of dirty undies and a lack of intimate relations. Resentment from partners is particularly sticky territory, especially for debut authors. Partners who have been picking up the slack can’t help but feel it as they watch their writer descend into a world they’re not part of or don’t understand.
Which brings me to guilt. I have long believed that when a woman grows a baby she also grows a guilt gland that pumps the poisonous emotion into her system at 1L/minute. Speak to any woman writer with a young family and she will tell you how guilty she feels for indulging herself in the pleasures of writing. Admissions of neglect are common. “I was thinking about how to get character X out of Y when I realised Sam was drinking dishwashing liquid and Alice had stuck a crayon up the dog’s nose.” There is nothing more shaming than a three year old pulling on your arm insisting– “No, Mummy, look at me with your eyes.” (Yes, that’s happened to me).
I would not have survived the last five years without my must-have writer’s accessory – a network of like-minded souls, connected by internet or phone. These are the understanding brethren who keep a writer lurking amongst dark smears of vegemite and buckets of napi-san going. Not only do they critique my work, they offer remedies for gastro, 15 minute recipes for dinner, make me laugh (hard) and sympathise when life eats up all my writing time. More importantly, though, they remind me of my true priorities. I may be a writer, but without my family I won’t be a successful one.
About the author:
Kate Belle began writing seriously when her daughter was 3 years old. Over the past 5 years she has juggled her writing with part-time study, part-time work, a flourishing web-based social life and a high-maintenance family. She has been commended in a number of literary awards, published short stories and freelance articles, and blogs regularly at The Ecstasy Files.
Kate writes commercial and literary erotic fiction. Two of Kate’s erotic novellas, Breaking the Rules and Bloom, were published through Random Romance in February. Her first novel, The Yearning, was released as an ebook 1 April, and will be released in print 1 May through Simon & Schuster.
Find out more about Kate and her work at:
or support your local independent.
The Yearning by Kate Belle:
It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.
Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.
Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. What they choose to do next will haunt them until they meet again twenty five years later.
Other books by Kate: