Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How will I write again?

I didn't expect it to be this hard to reconcile motherhood and writing. I figured all along that I was so lucky to be in the position I'm in-- I work from home and make my own schedule, so I always thought I'd be able to continue fairly easily once baby arrived.

I've hesitated to write a post like this, because it brings up another issue bloggers face: my editors could read this. My editors could read this and think, "She's not going to be committed to her work." But for the past 7 years, I've been telling the truth about my career and what I know about publishing in the hopes that it might help other writers, and I don't want to give that up now because it's a riskier topic. So I'll tell it.

Somewhere around halfway through my pregnancy, I stopped actively looking for work. I continued the projects I was already contracted for, and took on some small work here and there, but took a "wait and see" approach to the bigger work. I didn't want to sign on for a new book before I felt secure about being able to handle it.

I've now signed on for my next book, and have offers for several others. Normally, I'd work on at least two books at a time (I've done up to four at a time, but vowed not to do that again), but not now. I want to stick to one. So I have been telling the agents and editors who call on me that I'm booked until February, which is when that next book is due. None of them balked, so I'm still in talks and deciding which project (if any) I want to take on after that.

It's an awesome position to be in. I'm sure that if I were a struggling new writer reading this, I'd hate myself and warn myself to shut up now. But the feelings of "OMG, I get paid to write all day" do fade after a while, and even though it's a great job, it is still a job. So I continue...

Lots of offers. Several that really interest me. But I'm so torn. All I really want to do is make my daughter laugh all day. That's it. Right now, I want to be asleep next to her, instead of researching on the computer. I want to be a well-rested mommy so I can always be at my best for her.

We can't make it on one salary, though, so there isn't much of a choice: I do have to go back to work. My total earnings in the last seven months are about $200 for a couple of reprints. (I am waiting for other checks to arrive from more recent work, but I've depleted my savings paying the bills.) The question becomes how much work to take on, how soon, and how to figure out completely new time management.

Used to be that I'd work 16-hour days much of the time, especially as deadlines came nearer. I didn't have to worry about scheduling interviews far in advance; I could basically tell people that I could be ready whenever they wanted. Now I need advance warning, and I need to make sure Anthony or my mom is around to watch Sarina while I'm on the phone.

Wouldn't be a big deal if it was an occasional thing, but for a biographer, phone interviews take up a lot of time. And you really can't say, "Let me call you back... the baby needs a bottle" more than once.

The unpredictability of naps is tough to work around, too. I'm so used to sitting at the computer for hours, checking e-mails and Absolute Write and whatever before settling in to do whatever writing needed to be done. Then I'd have the liberty to "get in the groove" and write all night long. Now I may have 15 minutes in a stretch where baby is napping, I've finished the dishes and the pumping, and I'm hoping she doesn't wake up before I've come up with at least one new paragraph.

By the time I have another 15 minutes, the groove is blown, I've forgotten what I wanted to write next, and I lose hope of ever finishing anything.

I'm in this uncertain place, and it makes me edgy. I don't like not having a handle on my time, not feeling sure that I can work out a schedule that'll work on my short deadline. I have to do it, yet I worry that I might screw this up. I want to give 100 percent of my attention to my daughter, but writing a major book in 4 months is going to take a lot more than 0 percent of my attention.

And what if I get it done, but nearly lose my marbles in the process? I'll already be committed to one or more other books after that, no break in between. On the one hand, that's a good feeling because it makes me feel secure that we'll be able to afford what we need, but on the other, it makes me feel trapped on the same overachieving wheel that landed me with a panic disorder a decade ago.

I wrote an article last night. It felt good. Maybe it's just going to take some small "mommy steps" to get me back to a semblance of balance again.