School Hols & the writing parent: Week 1

I baked a cake

And what a long week that was!

I want to keep these posts short and I want to be realistic. What is possible when you have four children between the ages of 10 and 3 in the house, one of whom is a night owl, the others who are larks? I’ve had this dream for many years of a continuous span of writing time, a writing retreat perhaps, or a weekend lost in the corridors of my novel. In reality, I work best in shorter bursts with an energetic and engaging activity in between.  I am not a fast writer, even though I wish I was. I do manage to do the 1667 required for the novel writing month by doing odd things like getting up in the middle of the night if I wake up or writing 7000 words in one day when the kids are elsewhere.

But what is the reality of this week since the holidays began?

I am a little adrift to be honest. I have been up early several times (although the children soon joined me) . I have begun to read through my newly stuck together novel and one morning to write a new scene. But I’m too full of thoughts about what my novel might need and all the other projects that are lined up. I have stepped back from Twitter and moved back into life a bit.  I think my novel needs more stewing and I have been giving myself stewing time, taking walks, relaxing (for a change), watching the telly, reading the sunday magazines, listening to the radio.  I have found several ideas along the way. I have written 700 words of a short story or flash about a bug.

No themeparks. The three youngest with Thomas and an ornamental hedgehog at the DIY store

I have been a mother. I have baked a birthday cake for son 2, now 9 and arranged a little  family party with grandparents and cousins. I have run alongside my children on the Wii Fit. I have gone to the local DIY store and bought a sandpit, sand and an ornamental hedgehog.  I have done something interesting. I have taken my three older children on a walk individually, just a circuit from the house, around the local small lane, to the main road and back again. I introduced the idea of observation. I pointed out garden ornaments, poppies, cracks in the pavements, ambiguous painted stencils on walls. I listened to each one of them, noted how they were different. With one it was all about action, leaping up onto walls and gates, running fast and much talk of zombies and codes.  My daughter wanted to gather wild roses, and we did, despite the thorns. The eldest enjoyed discussing scientific fascinations.  Each of them surprised me.



I saw a rainbow in the morning before anyone was up. I enjoy seeing people catching buses in the nick of time.

My second son inspired the story about the bug through an amusing remark.

In my writing I am edging along very slowly. I become frustrated because there is so much to do. I become afraid that, although I love to write, some of the precious time given over to it may be wasted if I can’t make the novel work, if I don’t finish these projects and follow through on them. It matters, and then it doesn’t matter. It matters again.  It is all a muddle.  Sometimes the challenges of parenting (especially a child with Aspergers during less structured holiday time) can be draining.

A beautiful bouquet of roadside flowers from the walk with my daughter

I read a very helpful post lately on writing time, versus writing energy and it really made sense to me.  Especially as writing parents, we need to use the time we have carefully and maintain our energy, to put something back in, to replenish ourselves for the job of being a consistent, stable and comforting entity in our children’s lives. We need to have a life too, a feeling of vitality, a marriage, a means of income, nothing is in isolation.  As Miranda says in this wonderful post on studio mothers, there is no such thing as balance, we might not ever get everything just right.

So then what? A novel to write. A dinner to make. I sit in the early morning at my writing table. My newly nine year old boy arrives sleepy eyed and wants me to look at his Moshi cards, to chose my favourite. This is the same boy who gave me the idea for the bug story, who leaps on walls and gates, thinks of zombies, is writing his own stories about islands and adventures. I put my writing away, for now.


10 thoughts on “School Hols & the writing parent: Week 1

  1. clarekirkpatrick

    What a lovely post. It is a real struggle making time for all the vitally important things in our lives when we’re mothers. If we need to write to stay sane, then we need to fit that in. If we don’t, then we’re no good as mothers. But fitting it in and not neglecting our children is so difficult! I keep in my mind that in only five years’ time, I’ll be able to go out to write, or retreat to my room and know that they are all old enough to be unsupervised while I have some concentrating time. At the moment, it’s their youth that is the issue. It’s all a big muddle! But it won’t be forever – this too shall pass…

  2. You are a good mother. And a good writer too. I think during the holidays it’s much more challenging to balance the two, and you’re doing a great job of it. It’s lovely to enjoy time with kids (but Sept 1 is good too!)

  3. It’s very interesting that you wrote that post, Alison. @KrystalWade just wrote something very similar on her blog, about running our of gas. I guess sometimes you have to take a step back when you have so many commitments. And I suppose the summer time is as good a time as any. Recharge the batteries, refuel the muse, and then launch back in full steam ahead in Sept!

  4. I’m in a similar boat lately, the summers resist any real schedule, writing is hard to get to and I’ve no tangible way of measuring my progress or lack of, its all a bit fuzzy:) thanks for the link, looking forward to reading it.

    1. alisonwells

      Thanks for your comments. Yes Niamh and Clare fuzzy and muddle are the words. Although I have just tried to schedule myself to an early morn hour or two for novelling and whatever energy is left over later in the day for short stories or blog posts. That way it is clear in my mind and I don’t hop about. There is still not much tangible result though so I will have to see how it goes. As you say Derek, we all need some time to recharge. Being a stay at home mother there really such a thing as a holiday. This year my husband will take his two weeks off and we may visit relations down the country but the kids still need minding and feeding etc so it’s necessary to try to refuel the batteries and the imagination along the way. In a way I’m nearly at the top of a hill. September will be the first time in nearly eleven years that I have some time with my own thoughts as the youngest goes to preschool. And thanks Sally and Martha for the encouragement. We need it some days more than others but we always appreciate it!

  5. Oof, I wish you lived a bit closer 🙂 I’ve been cycling with the dog so I can go faster & shorten his walk timewise, to jam in the school run between baby feeds and still allow a shower. Today we made the cake from the front of the book, ‘Where Is The Cake?’ and I have spent the last hour copiloting (one hand each) a Binweevil racing car with my 7 y/o while shouting letters and colours to the 4 y/o with his alphabet caterpillar and, of course, feeding baby.Now I just have to finish the baby feed and I can reach over and grab some food and then soooooon, put them to bed and think about reading sime subs and writing out the scribbled novel bits which currently lie on the crumpled envelope, under last night’s coffee rings. Hmm, my text is disappearing under my login name…? Perhaps that’s a sign I’ve written enough! 🙂

      1. alisonwells

        I see it here fine Martha. Just to remind you, you forgot sleeping in your list! If we lived closer I would make you a sandwich! Writing out the scribbled novel bits is wonderful. I’m doing a lot of looking and thinking but not much writing. Got woken up at 4.30 by 3yo, settled him, then decided it would be a good time to write. Then 3yo woke again, then 6yo! Eventually I went back to bed! I keep thinking of what you said about forging our best work in the fire of our busy lives (or something along those lines). When the craziness goes away we will sitting in the quiet, staring at a screen and go ‘Hmmmm?’ 🙂

  6. I love this post. Such a good idea just to go for a walk with each of your children – one on one time is the thing I think we miss out on the most when we have more children. Beautiful flowers as well. I hope your second week has been ok. I will be joining you in the school holiday madness soon. Good luck to us all!

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