Today’s installment of Parents Who Make Writing Work is from Robert Batten, author of Blood Capital
Becca: What was your writing routine before having kids?
Robert: My writing routine was inconsistent before kids. It seems counter-intuitive, but I rarely held onto a regular process for long. I think this was, at least in part, a confidence issue. I didn’t believe in the quality of my work, and so a voice in the back of my mind constantly questioned the justification for investing so much time.
Secondary to that, and likely fueled by it, I allowed life to get in the way. There were shows to watch, drinking and eating to be done, friends to see, and games to play. I would sit down and commit to writing for a short burst, then permit distractions to draw me away.
Becca: How has that changed since having kids?
Robert: I now write at least five nights a week, after our son is asleep, and have cut back day-job hours to free some daylight hours. Children demand an enormous amount of your time, either directly with them, or all the peripheral tasks that come as part of being a parent. And then, when your time isn’t consumed by raising a child, you’re exhausted.
In that light, it seems a little strange that becoming a parent helped me write more, but it did. Thinking about it now, I feel there are several reasons for that.
Disciplined, regular writing is hard. Sitting down when you’re fresh and inspired, when there’re no distractions around you, is easy. That’s what I’d been doing before our son. But in real life, you don’t often get those moments (children or no).
Being a parent has conditioned me to do things regardless of whether I want to, or how tired I am, or how many other distractions there are. It’s helped me develop a greater level of discipline. It’s also naturally removed some of my distractions. I can no longer play violent video games whenever I want, so my gaming has shifted to the back-burner. All those nights going to the pub with friends? That doesn’t work so well with bath night, or getting your child into bed at a reasonable hour. So we’ve become more hermit-like, which means I’m more likely to be home writing.
The last thing that’s driven the change is a shift in our priorities and perspectives. I want to do something rewarding that gives me greater flexibility to spend time with my child. Writing makes that possible (as long as I can earn a living from it) and is more rewarding for me, so I’ve been approaching it with a more structured plan and dedication to make it my future.
Last, it would be remiss of me not to mention how important it’s been to have a supportive partner who’s not just willing to put up with me dedicating this time to the work, but who encourages me. That’s nothing to do with having kids as such, but it would be infinitely harder without her backing me up.
Becca: How has your writing itself changed since having kids?
Robert: My writing has changed in tone and quality since having a child, but I don’t think it’s because I had a child. Being a parent has given me better insight into how children think and behave, which will hopefully lead to better characters. It’s also inspired me to write stories for my son, which will be a big departure from my usual focus on adult / young adult sci-fi and fantasy. However, that plan is very much in addition to my other projects.
Becca: What advice do you have for parents of young kids who want to write?
Robert: Do it. It’s hard, and usually involves late nights at the keyboard after you’ve finally gotten the miscreants asleep, but it’s rewarding and it’s yours. We all need to retain a little sense of self, separate from our children. To know we’re still people in our own right. It could be anything: building miniatures, watching TV, jogging, knitting, whatever. However, if you feel the pull to create stories, you already know there’s a special sense of accomplishment in the act that little else can replicate.