Becca: What was your writing routine before having kids?
Cari:I thought I was disciplined before kids. Wrong! I wasted so much time. I did write 500-1000 words a day, but nothing I wrote was structured, and I didn’t have a dedicated plan. That was probably why the two novels I completed were terrible. I also didn’t know any other writers, so I was fumbling blind without a community.
Becca: How has that changed since having kids?
Cari: How things have changed: I’m much more efficient now. I’ve become a time management guru, with lists and calendars and notes for everything. I currently work full-time, freelance, and teach at Kent State University in addition to writing novels. Much more than I ever did before I was a parent. I structure and outline everything I write before I write it, so I save time during the drafting process. I also have a systematic self-editing process.
I did give myself a break after having both kids – about six months off each. When I had Henry, I was just beginning my term as Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime. While I wasn’t writing, I was networking and making connections in the writing world, and I was learning all the time.
I needed that during the sleepless nights, and it helped to curb the anxiety of becoming a new parent.
By the time Oliver came along, I was fully entrenched in several writing communities. The extra support is crucial to becoming a working writer.
Becca: How has your writing itself changed since having kids?
Cari: I met the author James Renner when I was pregnant, and I remember him telling me that I’d have a new dimension to my writing – I’d be able to write about kids. I didn’t truly get what that meant until probably six months after Henry was born, when I realized that the parent-child dynamic from the parent side is totally different than from the child side.
It’s a new way to understand relationships. Parenting is a strong theme in my book, How to Remember, and I don’t think the novel would have evolved that way without my children.
Becca: What advice do you have for parents of young kids who want to write?
Cari: You must have some kind of a plan. It doesn’t have to be a crazy evolved one like mine. Set a small goal: write 500 words a day, or use a workbook to keep you on task in outlining or character building. The book Finishing School by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton is a great place to start for inspiration.
But also – don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t get done. Actually, don’t beat yourself if nothing gets done – housework, laundry, birthday cards, whatever. It is OK to prioritize writing over the dishes.
Your kids will only be young once, but at the same time, you will only be YOU once. You can do anything, but not all at the same time, and it won’t be perfect. Be mindful and let things ebb and flow as they will. (Easier said than done!)