Where do you find the time? – Kristen Bailey

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By Kristen Bailey

Since my debut novel was published in June, I am asked one question repeatedly, and that is: ‘where do you find the time?’ I ask that question of myself all the time. My life is for want of a better word, a bit of a whirlwind. There are the kids, all four of them aged from two to ten, the loyal but rather stupid dog, the husband, and all the chaos that comes in their wake.

So how do I write as a busy mum? To put it bluntly… not very well and not in any organised fashion. Often when I am writing, it is customary for a small person to come in the room and ask me, ‘where is dinner?’ I’ll look at my watch. Oh yes, I’ve broken the 50K mark but I’ve forgotten to feed the little people. And it’s been this way for the past ten years.

Most people think I manage to whip my books up in the same way I would a soufflé, but no, my first book Souper Mum took five years to get from first draft to publication. There was lots of fast and furious writing in between but family life often got in the way. Every time I birthed and nursed a newborn, moved house, endured the school holidays or played nurse through three months of chicken pox (true story…) writing would take a back seat and drafts of novels would sit on my hard drive for months sometimes years at a time. It wasn’t ideal but it was how I was going to juggle being a mum and writing. I say that. I did spend weeks at a time binge watching box sets and being a wastrel on Facebook, so don’t misplace too much respect for me.

However, things changed when I was asked to write the sequel to Souper Mum. Suddenly, I was instructed to write a whole novel in less than a year. I no longer had the luxury to sit down and write at leisure. I had to organise my time and dedicate planned pockets of time to authoring. And did I manage this? Not in the slightest. Yes, I managed to write Second Helpings, and edit and proof it within an inch of its life but everything else went to pot. Our house, most days, would like we’d been burgled. Laundry suffered the most. Even now my two year old knows that if you want socks, they are stored in the dryer. I laugh at the suggestion I pair them up.

I became the queen of being able to write with a small child in her lap, the theme tune to Paw Patrol on in the background. Many a day, my husband would come home to luxurious dinners such as scrambled eggs, frozen pizzas and potato waffles. There were catastrophes along the way. Like the day, a whole chapter plan I’d scribbled down got put in the recycling or when a little hand crept up to my keyboard and deleted a whole page of unsaved work. I’d write into the night, headphones on, then drag myself out of bed for the school run the next morning looking like road kill. All the while, people would ask me how I do it, and I would laugh. ‘Caffeine! Gin! Stress-induced insomnia! All of the above!’

But the question remains why? Why write at possibly the busiest juncture of my life? I could wait a while, even just a few years till the littlest is at school. Because my writing is about all of the above. Souper Mum and her sequel Second Helpings are based on the experiences of the modern family – all the bedlam and comedy moments that come with it.

I’ve always written what I know and what better time to write about that than now, while it’s happening and all those anecdotes and ideas are fresh in my mind, while I can still remember all those crazy characters at the school gate and the classic lines of dialogue that the kids come out with when I least expect it. This is when I realise the writer in me demands I beaver away with what little time I have so I can record my experiences, transform them into new stories and characters. The chaos of the everyday is what fuels my stories and helped me write the next chapter of my Souper Mum’s adventures. One wouldn’t exist without the other. So I do find the time, from somewhere. But the gin, the caffeine – well, that helps too…

Kristen Bailey lives in Fleet, Hampshire in a house overrun by Lego and odd socks. Her debut novel, Souper Mum was released by Accent Press in June and its sequel, Second Helpings, is out now. She writes a blog about being a modern mother.


1 Comment

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    Elisa McGarry

    November 23, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Love this, great piece! Even if it puts me to shame for not doing any writing despite being child free! Xx

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