can you write with children

On writing and raising children

It’s been quite a while since I posted here and for good reason. I’ve been making a concerted effort to bring many of my projects to completion. My novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities about the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and two women who need stories to survive is on submission, The Exhibit of Held Breaths, about an unusual exhibit and its effect on a town and its curator is in final revision and I am about to begin adding words to another exciting project (a novel based on a flash fiction. The flash fiction has just been accepted for publication by the fabulous Stinging Fly.) The latter is a project that allows me to write in a more visceral, lively and poetic way in a book filled with heart and humanity but looking into the psychology of both loneliness and evil.

Good things have happened writing wise, a shortlisting for the Over the Edge prize, inclusion in the Stinging Fly as I’ve said and also the Arena/RTE experimental fiction anthology New Planet Cabaret. I have at least another five books on the boil in the back of my mind, some begun already. Janet E. Cameron is asking whether you can have children and write and she wants your views. My succinct answer is that it is possible but it takes much longer and its particularly difficult to keep whole novels in your head. I’ve been trying to find out how other writers I admire managed to write fine books and have a family, A.S. Byatt is one. She had four children, – one tragically died aged 11 in an accident, a grief she naturally carried wIth her.

In a biography by Pauline Holdsworth for the Pensilvania Centre Byatt’s struggle to write the books she wanted to write, trying to fulfil both literary ambition and personal desire is demonstrated with reference to one of her earlier novels

Holdsworth says “On an essay on her first unsure protagonist in The Shadow of the Sun, Byatt wrote, “I always knew, as my heroine didn’t, that I must contrive to work (to think, to write).” Through two marriages and three children, (one had died in an accident) she continued to work. It wasn’t until age 54 that she experienced what she called her happiest moment. “I found myself alone in this house, and there was total silence, and the sun was absolutely blazing, and I walked up and down the stairs absolutely boiling with the sense that I belonged to myself, and could finish any thought.”

This I do find is my greatest struggle, to keep Head above Water now that my four chlldren are between 5 and 12 means not the physical hands on minding of infants but still the emotional energy, mental agility, persistence, cheerleading and constant regrouping of optimism and organisation in order to tend to the physical, emotional, organisational, psychological, spiritual needs of these children, one with Aspergers, to keep them on the right track. As every parent knows, September is a demanding month, getting everyone readjusted to the school routine. (This year my eldest had the new challenge of secondary school.) The mental and emotional energy required might sometimes have been put into writing. And yes I get energy and affection back and experiences and understanding of the core human things, love, self-sacrifice, human development, nature, nurture. There is always clamour though, it’s difficult to have your own thoughts as a mother, difficult to think new things and let the mind wander far. Writing takes far longer and there is always a sense (shared by writers in all circumstances of course) that you could have done more, reached further.

I will persist. I will create spaces, I will find the canvas of dark and quiet at 5am and use it. I will sit down when the children are at school and drink coffee and scroll through my document, letting both infuse into my system until I can create more. It is a much slower walk but it’s a walk, I’ll keep moving.

I’ll post next on the things I’ve been doing since the summer to create more headspace and finish those books.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a wonderful contemplation by Marc Nash of the relationship of Fiction to Reality (as compared to Art’s relationship.)  One of the themes of The Exhibit of Held Breaths is how an appreciation of Art might change a person’s view of life and reality, I’m also fascinated by our modern world and how our reality is mediated by the media and social networks. Marc Nash,(whose latest book An Eye for an Eye for an Eye is just released) makes some very interesting and important points about where fiction currently fits into that.