How the Duck to Write with a Newborn
How the Duck to Write with a Newborn
by Gwendolyn N. Nix
Can you tell I’m tapping away at my phone here? I have a two month old passed out on my lap and moving him to his bassinet will result in a cranky, awake infant. The first days of early motherhood were ones of exhaustive leisure full of cooing and awing before tapping away at my phone while he was on feeding #20 or nap #176 or, dare I say, doing both at the same time. But this “free time” quickly whittled away when faced with the onslaught of sleep deprivation, crying, holding, singing, playing, and overall being a constant vaudeville show for one tiny human. Hey, it’s all supposed to help with brain development. Just wish the ticket sales would break even.
And I know things are only going to keep getting… well, “worse” is the wrong term… more like the vaudeville show is going to add a couple more acts like “Toddler Acrobatics” and “What’s That In Your Mouth?” bracketing the 8-hour intermission of “Full-Time Job.”
So, how the duck am I supposed to get anything done?
Sure, I could bow before the logic: you simply won’t get anything done. Bow before the sweet oxytocin glow and subsequent melancholy that I’ll just put my author career on hold “for now”, fully aware that this is a slippery slope into years-long unproductivity. C’mon – we all know the writing community backs daily word count goals, attention-focused programs, even rethinking writing as a form of self-care, yadda yada. Yes, it works, but even then I wasn’t cut of productive superhero cloth before kiddo number one arrived.
I could spend my nighttime feeding sesh memorizing my sweet boy before growing as green as She-Hulk reading how-to forums and accounts of women writing and selling their books written during their maternity leave. I live in the United States, by the by, so I’ve got like, three months instead of the blessed year like sane nations.
Honestly, it was overwhelming. There were so many app suggestions and programs and personal scheduling dictations, until it came down to me leaning back, closing my eyes, and doing what every writer in various stages of their career should do: figure out what works for me.
There is no magic way that’s the best way. There are just a gazillion different ways all mashed together into the one way that becomes Your Way. And this Frankenstein monster of A Way should make you sustained, satisfied, and proud, either through big leaps or baby steps. Which you’ll discover through trial and error. Annoying trial and error. I hate trial and error. So much error.
Soon, you’ll be a fantasy trope of your own, recalling the Old Ways of achieving your dream that have crumbled before the New Way, whether you have a human baby between the ages of one to a hundred, or possibly a fur baby.
For me, its setting the absolute minimum amount I need to get done to keep the ship sailing. Sure, it may be 10pm, I’m already dreading the wake up call for a diaper change in two hours, but right now? Right now, its rocking and contact nap time. I can prop my phone on the repurposed side table that is now full of burp rags and toys and muslin blankets, keeping the screen brightness angled away from my baby’s face. I can tap tap tap, while checking on the sleepy goblin king and think how cute he is before returning to my monster battles. And then, I have one paragraph that I didn’t before. One baby step forward.
But within that precious ten minutes are monsters of my own. Imagine I’m in a parlor. I rip back the heirloom rug and extract my manuscript from beneath the floorboards. I m alone…but not for long and my treatise on feminine freedom must not fall into the wrong hands. There is a pounding on the door; my name called from downstairs. My annoying cousin, Facebook, begs my attention to see a middle school’s acquaintance’s third child. My third aunt twice removed Twitters with gossip about a new BookTok video by my former roommate, The Gram. My neighbor YouTube shouts something vaguely about cats. But I have no time to waste. Ten minutes is all it takes. I write a groundbreaking paragraph and blow the ink dry, shuffling the thin pages away, just in the nick of time…
And then a baby cries. And let’s be real. No infant respects the Sacred Minutes of The Way. I rock him gently and enjoy this next ten minutes. But I also rejoice because I ducking did it.
I wrote with a newborn.
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GWENDOLYN N. NIX is a professional editor and author, penning the Celestial Scripts series (The Falling Dawn, and Seams of Shadow), Sharks of the Wasteland (Cataclysm Cycle), I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come, and is the editor of the Marvel Xavier’s Institute: School of X anthology. She lives in Montana with her partner, young son, and wild gray Labrador. Find her online at gwendolynnix.com.