Juggling writing and childcare – Kate Thompson

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By Kate Thompson

There is a distant scream rising up the stairs. ‘MUM … he’s trying to stab me with a pair of scissors.’♥

There is a certain irony in settling down to write a blog piece about how I juggle work and childcare, whilst my two sons seem set on killing each other downstairs. Anyway, rows now pacified (thank-you Scooby Doo) and scissors locked away, I’ll take two on attempting to write this.

There is much discussion on how women can effectively combine work and childcare, with some high-profile authors wading into the debate to say modern woman simply can’t have it all.

Nowhere is this issue more applicable than to the world of writing. Unless you’re in the top five per cent of authors, it’s unlikely you’re going to earn enough to cover off the exorbitant cost of full-time childcare, so where do you grasp the precious time to work on your novel, blog, novella, article etc?

The honest answer, for me at any rate, is you let your standards slip and you become a night owl. When my kids go off to school (quite often in mismatching socks) I’m not hanging round the school gates, I’m haring off home to try and make the most of child-free hours to write. But here lies a curious conundrum. For some strange reason, I can’t settle down to write in the morning, and I don’t really hit my flow, until 3pm, the exact time I need to switch off my PC and go and collect the kids! I’m not alone in this. When I questioned some writer friends of mine, they were all in complete agreement. Is this a coincidence, or some sort of strange circadian rhythm exclusive to writers?

Apparently, a recent study showed we tend to think more creatively when we’re tired. Fatigue and tiredness have been shown to free up thinking along non-linear paths, leading us to find new solutions to problems. Our brains are most likely to throw out the conventional ways of thinking and take us down new creative pathways when we’re tired from a long day.

This might explain why I was drifting off to sleep last Sunday when the answer to a plot problem suddenly came to me, and I had to leap out of bed to write it down. It also explains why most evenings, after the kids are in bed, I can be found tapping away in my spare room/office. I draw a strange sort of comfort from knowing many of my writer friends will also be burning the midnight oil (that and the glass of Rioja by the keyboard)

I have another friend, a well-known mummy blogger, who sets her alarm for 5am every day and has a productive two hours churning out blog posts before her girls wake up. Another mum writer friend of mine managed to make a particularly tight deadline, but only by going temporarily blind in one eye and getting admitted to hospital with a suspected stroke. That’s an extreme example obviously, but I think all writers will identify with twitchy eye syndrome.

We are all united by a fear of the deadline and a desire to write. Writing isn’t a 9-5 job, I can’t remember the last time I had a day off, or didn’t tweet or Facebook to connect with readers, whilst in the supermarket queue, or waiting outside the school gates. I love my kids, but I also love to write, and I believe being fulfilled as a writer, ultimately makes me a better mum.

Kate Thompson is the author of The Wedding Girls, published by Pan Macmillan out March 9th.


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