New Life and Old Deadlines   

by Noah K. Sturdevant

So you went and had a kid (or another one). Congratulations! Now you’re in the special club, where you may need to write to support your little bundle of joy, but don’t have any time to do so.

As speculative fiction writers, you’d think we’d be used to paradoxes by now, but that doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Sure, you tell yourself you can set up a crib in your office, and later, a wearable baby holder, but as they say, a plan only survives first contact with the (in this case, adorable) enemy.

There are a million variables involved when it comes to the early days of parenting, so I can’t pretend to cover them all, especially as I’m a dad, and never went through many of the female experiences, such as breastfeeding.

Well, there was one time where my daughter became confused in the middle of the night and gave it a try, but that’s a story I’m saving for her rebellious teenage years.

So, yes, I acknowledge I’m writing this from a somewhat privileged position, but everyone’s experience is different.

What I can say, resolving most of the issues regarding parenting when you’re an author seem to come down to the way you resolve most issues with the other DNA donor. It’s all about communication and planning.

If you have a spouse, partner, nanny, or other helper, you’ll need to decide who is responsible for which parts of the million jobs that you inherit as soon as your baby comes along.

Does someone handle feeding time, and another baths, naps, and cleaning up the latest bout of projectile vomiting? Do you switch off during the weeks, or do more on weekends?

Do both of you work?

And what if you’re a single parent?

There are a million issues to face, and a million more possible solutions. Nobody has all the answers, but whatever your situation is, your baby comes first.

I don’t think that’s a surprise, or at least I hope not. What many don’t seem to realize is that all people directly involved in the raising of your child are in a close tie for second place.

Self-care is vital.

You can’t be expected to endure the 12,493rd repetition of Baby Shark, while simultaneously confronting the latest in a never-ending series of diaper blowouts if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You have to keep healthy, physically and mentally, so that you can be the best parent possible.

What does that mean for your writing? I think you know.

No matter your situation, you’re probably going to find that your writing output drops, drastically. That’s life. I tried to power through, figuring that I might as well get in 1,000 words while my wife was handling yet another 3 a.m. feeding, but energy drinks and motivation only hold off burnout for so long.

When I finally crashed, I crashed hard.

I lost weeks of productivity as I tried to catch up on sleep, while still keeping a rather ungrateful baby alive and healthy.

Even worse, when I went back to look at my writing from all the times I was pushed myself to get words down, I found the vast majority of my output was garbage. Something had to change.

So, I rested, I recovered, and then I reevaluated my priorities and made adjustments. It helped that the baby cut her midnight shrieking sessions down to two or three a night. In fact, time helped in a lot of ways.

Here’s my current situation, in case you were wondering. My wife is able to stay at home, which means she handles the bulk of the baby duties during the week. I still spend a few hours with them each night, but then I retreat up to my office to write before bedtime. I sleep less than I should, but enough to function.

On the weekend, we go shopping as a family, and I try to give my wife some time to herself. When my daughter was an infant, I could write in the same room as her, but now that she’s a creature of destruction, AKA, a toddler, that doesn’t work, so I mostly make notes on my phone, while she throws blocks at my head and reminds me of where my head, shoulders, knees, and toes are.

Does this system work? Most of the time. Your situation is undoubtedly different. The main thing I’ve learned is that flexibility is key, both with deadlines and with my family. I’ve decided that I can work full time, and be a good daddy, but, at least for now, I’ll have to settle for being the best part-time author I can be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the howls coming from the next room mean it’s time for me to grab the rubber ducky and towel, and pitch in for bath time.

Don’t get cocky, bad guys in my stories, you’re still going down, just not until after baby night-night.

•••

Noah is an author who primarily focuses on Urban Fantasy, Gamelit, Horror-comedy, and anything that lets him interject a little story-based levity into the world. He frequently collaborates with John P. Logsdon, but is slowly building up a catalog of solo work. His day job is supervising educational technology and online learning projects for an international university, but, through a lack of sleep and neglecting many of his obligations, he manages to release a book every few months. He currently lives in Bangkok, Thailand, with his wife, daughter, ridiculous French bulldog, and solemn and dignified reformed street cat. His website is noahksturdevant.com, but it’s usually easier to catch him hanging out on Twitter @noahksturdevant.

4 Responses

  1. Donna Willis

    Enjoyed your essay. You have learned a lot. If you have more children, remember the time line gets more severe. You will have no time to do anything else. Forget private time. When you have finally raised & educated them all & have that private time, what to do? You start a hobby. When you find one that interests you fully & gain new friends & activities. Life becomes enjoyable with something to look forward to every day. You have a place to go to with purpose & spend some of that money you are finally accruing now that the children are grown & don’t need all of it. By this time you are in your 60’s & Medicare has arrived to save you from bankruptcy, for you will need it. Some illness will hit you or a close member of the family. If not for Medicare, you still have to pay but not as much as you fear. By this time some of your close friends or family start on that lonely road by themselves, leaving you to mourn. Now comes the hard part. If you are fortunate as I have been, life gets really lonely for some I have known. Then if you have enough money left, you can start living in an old folks assisted living place where when it becomes inevitable that you will not be able to care for yourself, you are transferred to the nursing home . Hopefully you will pass on soon for those homes are necessary when you can’t even get on the pot, so you pee the bed, then all starts to smell.
    Fortunately I have had a really good & happy life, do to the husband I chose & for my children. They have all given a lot of pleasure & happiness. My grandchildren are all people to be proud of & I am very proud.
    That is my essay on life as I see it. Strive for what makes you happy, money only helps get you there but money alone does not bring happiness. It is only numbers on the bottom of the accountants page.

  2. Chris Christman II

    Great insights into first time parenting. Along with good advice for authors. It’s all about balance, finding what works for you. Especially coming from a working writer. On the job training. Well done sir.
    Editors: would love to read more from him. An ex-pat successfully working, in a foreign land. Must be a rich source of information.

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