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First of all, it’s important to realise that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones. For example, poverty and lack of leisure are certainly powerful deterrents  to art … It’s commonly supposed that poverty and lack of leisure did not hamper middle-class persons during the last century, but indeed they did  – when those persons were middle-class women.

As for the leisure .. Emily Dickinson seems to have had it (although she participated in the family housekeeping and nursed her mother in the latter’s last illness), but according to biographer Gordon Haight the time of the famous Marian Evans (later to become George Eliot) was demanded, through her late twenties, for managing the household and caring for her dying father … Marie Curie’s  biographer, her daughter Eve, describes her mother’s cleaning, shopping, cooking and child care, all unshared by Pierre Curie and all added to a full working day during Madame Curie’s domestic years, which were also the beginning’s of her scientific career.

Nor does the situation change much in the twentieth century. Sylvia Plath, rising at five in the morning to write, was – as far as her meagre work-time went – fortunate compared to Tillie Olsen, a working-class woman, who describes the triple load of family, writing, and full time outside job necessary for family survival.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing (University of Texas Press, 1983)

We haven’t really fully decided what’s going to happen post-baby. In our first broaching of the conversation, my husband asked me what I was thinking of doing and I told him my plan was to submit my PhD Candidacy application on time (due Sept 30), hopefully get candidacy, and then go on maternity leave. He nodded. And then I said I was planning on withdrawing from my degree for a year once the baby was born. To uh, you know, do the thing you do with newborns.  And my beautiful husband stood there, and looked at me and said, “Really? Uh … are you sure … are you sure you will be happy doing that?” Frankly, he looked really skeptical that that was a good plan for me and I possibly kissed him.

*Obviously* I’m not taking time off Twelfth Planet Press! When I stated such, he nodded and seemed much relieved. (Seriously … how is it that I ended up with the perfect person for me, who actually understands me?)

But in all seriousness, I’m preparing for the next chapter in my life. I’m well aware that my life is about to change. And I’m also really aware that I can’t expect myself to perform the way (or in the timeframe) that I am used to. At TPP, one of our focusses is to support female writers. And a big part of that has been to be ensure that we understand that timeframes for writing for women with family commitments need to be flexible, longer and understanding. Life happens. And it’s really easy for writing to fall off the radar when more pressing matters have to be dealt with. And when you haven’t published for three or five or ten years because you’re raising or caring for your family, well, it’s really easy for everyone else to decide you don’t write anymore. We have a few projects in the background at the moment working on supporting writers who are just going to take longer than commercial timeframes demand, because that’s the way it is. And I’m really proud of them, even if I don’t get to talk about them yet.

But that’s also why I’m not as hard arse an editor as I should be about deadlines. I’m way too soft with writers about meeting their timelines, and I think that’s possibly a weakness of mine. On the other hand, we’re all grown up professionals. And writers who are serious about writing, will write. And the rest are not. I make back up plans and I work with what I have. But I certainly don’t think that creativity being stuffed into 1 hour of writing before the kids get up or the last 10 minutes of lunchtime is going to be improved by hardlining.

That said, that pushing creativity into the hour before the baby wakes up, or grabbing a spare 10 minutes where I can find it, is going to be me soon (again, I guess, since that’s how I ran TPP when I had that pesky day job). So in preparation, I have been carefully planning what the heck I’m gonna do. I’ve blocked out a good chunk of time assuming I will be completely nonproductive (it’s possible I haven’t given myself enough time – Oct to Feb/March at the moment, thoughts?) And I’m trying to get ahead of that big block of down time with some titles finished early so that we can still roll out our books on time. A few authors got advanced warning of my news – I’m pregnant, you have to write faster! – so that we could bring forward some deadlines, shuffle some others around. Everybody’s been really great about it and I’m completely overloaded at the moment with work. If it doesn’t get done, it’s on me.

I don’t know how it’s going to go. But what I do know is, if you really want something, you find a way to make it work. And for now, I’m clinging to my plan :)



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14 Comments

  • By Josh Gentry on 15 May 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Go you. No doubt you will find your way to make it work.

  • By Fe on 15 May 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I actually found (after the first 6 weeks) that the rest of the first 6/7 months I had _buckets_ of time… Baby slept a lot more than I necessarily anticipated, and was quite … dandle-able … if there where things I needed doing. It was only after that that it got harder to manage time. I have vivid memories of a couple of occasions sitting there wondering what I would do—because baby was still sleeping and I’d done everything needed…

  • By Deb Kalin on 16 May 2013 at 3:09 am

    I found myself unable to write from about 7.5 months, and not really able to work much from 8 months — although if I’d had a job that was flexible enough (ie letting me stop for a nap!) I’d have been able to work for longer, just at reduced capacity. Once Squawk was born, the first 4-6 weeks were for sleep and adjustment. She actually got easy to work around after that (although I was still in sleep debt territory so felt a bit too groggy for much cerebral work). Then at 12 weeks she hit a growth spurt, got a cold, and then hit her 4 month fussy/wakeful period all at once. Plan to get nothing done at that point — she was sleeping 2 or 3 38 minute naps during the day, and was awake and needed resettling every hour during the night. It was … unpleasant and left me feeling sick from the sleep debt. So maybe budget yourself a month, somewhere around the 4 month mark, for another intensive adjustment period.

  • By Melina D on 16 May 2013 at 5:10 am

    I was at work up until 8 months – sore and waddling, but managing to wrangle children and write report cards still :) Around 39/40 weeks I was grumpy and unlivable with – but terribly bored. Some small things to do would have been nice (I couldn’t use my hands)

    Christian doesn’t nap very well, so I find it hard to do things during the day – I get most things done at night.Some people get babies who regularly nap up to 3 hours at a time . . . :) It’s been hard since he’s mixed crawling, standing and getting into everything – the last 2 months or so – I get almost nothing done while he’s awake now.

  • By Thoraiya on 16 May 2013 at 6:30 am

    Hmm, I found that I could be productive if I had other people to take the baby while I was productive.

    I had my husband and my mum looking after her (freezer full of breast milk) for a half-day at a time from about 2 months while I tried to go back to work (vet work turned out to be no good, they failed at giving me regular breaks to pump. I could write, though).

    How many close-by people do you have that you love and trust to give you breaks? :)

    (Fe: I would have killed for a dandle-able baby! Instead I had a really loud one that could only be silenced by constant entertainment, hated the car, hated the pram…all my friends’ babies were relaxed and content-seeming, I was so jealous!)

  • By Tansy Rayner Roberts on 16 May 2013 at 9:42 am

    As you can see from the comments so far – mileage varies!

    Your plan so far sounds pretty sound, and the main thing will be to build in flexibility. The good news is that combining your baby and your small press is almost certainly going to be way more achievable than combining either of those projects (small businesses? heh) with a full time day job.

    You’ll figure it out as you go, and I think those 3-4 months of ‘allowable non-productive’ time you’ve blocked out is a great start that you can build on as further information comes in.

    But yes the main thing is that babies don’t necessarily start out super hard and then get gradually easier/less trouble – sleep issues aside, a baby might be more compatible with work for the first six months than the second six months. You simply don’t know, but the one rule is that it won’t be predictable.

    For all my challenges with balancing my work and my kids, especially when they are tiny – I am so glad I didn’t have to factor in an external workplace during that time! Being able to use my own time management combined with baby issues worked for me – but it especially worked because I was willing to suck it up and ask for extensions, etc. when I ran out of time, because Life is Different Now and It’s Not Just About You and Your Pride, Tansy.

    It can be done. And while I have resented some of the work I had to do during the key baby years of my kids (like the horrible last 8 months of my PhD), I think it has been good for me and my brain to have my own work (the stuff I do for LOVE as well as career) there in between the breastfeedings and tummy tickles. It kept me feeling like myself, even when everything else had changed.

  • By Tansy Rayner Roberts on 16 May 2013 at 9:45 am

    Oh & if nothing else, you will totally get plenty of pop culture consuming time during your babymoon! I read stacks of books while breastfeeding & cuddling baby Raeli – but Mima constantly kicked the books out of my hands like a ninja, so I kept up with podcasts instead with her. Thank goodness for the invention of the iPod.

  • By Helen on 16 May 2013 at 11:27 am

    You are wise to allow yourself an adjustment period but be aware that all babies are different and I agree with . Of my two, one was a nightmare from the beginning of my pregnancy until he was one. He was prem and I had an infection from a caesarean. He started screaming at 4 weeks and didn’t stop except when he was exhausted until he was ten months (when a new paediatrician found out what was wrong with him). I was barely functioning due to sleep deprivation for that whole time but then slowly things improved and I was able to think again and go back to work. Guess why there is nearly seven years between my children.
    The second was one of those poster children – after a straight forward and almost morning sickness free pregnancy she was good tempered, slept well, ate well and was a complete joy to be with. So you never know what will happen. Just be prepared to be flexible, accept help if you need it and don’t overload yourself. The one thing that is standard about babies is that nothing is standard and we all have to do what works for us and our child.

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Some things I just won’t be able to plan for til we find out what kind of baby we got! Be nice to have one that sleeps and to be wandering around wondering what to do!

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I think it’s fair to assume, whatever baby you get, those first few weeks there will be adjustment.

    But yeah, I don’t much enjoy sleep debt and that feeling of pulling your brain through mud.

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I live an hour drive away from almost everyone so I need to figure out how I’m gonna do this on my own. My parents might come down and stay for a bit at the beginning but that’s not going to be part of the ongoing plan.

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I figure, if I’m ahead of my publishing schedule going in, then I have built in flexibility going forward for however long I manage to sustain that.

    But yeah, not really going to know with what we’re dealing with til we’re hands on.

    Not having to deal with external workplace right now is I think a main reason I’ve been able to stay sane (literally). And I have Helen to thank forever for that.

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Yeah, I figure I might finally catch up on all that reading!

  • By AlisaK on 19 May 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Well, if the one thing to learn in all this, and so far, is … every experience is unique. Which is both really annoying and I guess exciting?

    Flexibility is so going to be the thing I have to learn in all this.

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