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Parents Who Make Writing Work: Cati Porter

In my most recent post, I shared tips that have worked for me when trying to balance my roles as a parent and as a writer. In this new series, Parents Who Make Writing Work, other writers who have children share their experiences, insight, and advice.

First up is Cati Porter, author of the forthcoming poetry collection The Body at a Loss

Becca: What was your writing routine before having kids? How did that change after having kids?
Cati: Before having kids, my routine was very non-specific. I didn’t really have one. I went through periods of writing late into the night, or I went through one phase where I wrote everything on an electric typewriter. I didn’t have to worry about “finding” time to write, and yet, what I found once I had kids was that I more productive.
Something about having to carve out dedicated time while they slept, or with them in my lap, or paying my sister to babysit (in the other room) while I met a deadline — that, strangely, made me far more productive than before I had kids even though there were fewer constraints then.
A little about constraints:
I think they can be useful tools. It’s one of the reasons why I turn to poetry in received forms (sonnet, villanelle, pantoum, sestina, etc.) when I’m feeling stuck. The constraints are paradoxically freeing. That was sort of how it was with having my first child, after which my first book came flooding out.
When you know you only have a limited amount of time (or space) to write, you are more apt to use it wisely.
Becca: Yes!! Same here!! I get things done so much more quickly now.
Cati: Seriously! I am much more efficient now.
Becca: Yes! It’s amazing what can get done in ten quiet minutes. How has your writing, itself, changed since having kids?
Cati: My writing itself has continued to change over time. Where once I focused almost exclusively on mama-centric work, that morphed into work that pushed the boundaries of the autobiography, into surrealism and fabulism, allowing a sort of respite from what was going in my life.
Becca: What advice do you have for parents of young kids who want to write?
Cati: My main advice for any writers with children is accept all offers of free time. Use it. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that having kids will limit the amount of work you produce.
Someone once told me that for every one child you have, that’s one book you’ll never write. I think that’s wrong. If it weren’t for my kids, I may not have written any books, just written aimlessly forever.
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