How to be a parent and a writer

  1. Have a child.
  2. Write*.







*Scamper off to a room with a door with a lock on it or hide in plain sight in the driver’s seat of your practical four door sedan or seated at your dining room table and have a tumble with some words. Writing is your secret; cherish it. Go to bed late. Wake up early. Type the word “wilderness” on a blank document and then come back to it 10 days/weeks/months later and wonder where you were going with that, but shrug and go somewhere new and impossible instead. Be okay with being underwhelming. Be okay with a sink of dirty dishes. Fall asleep/rage/moan/weep at the page. Stare at the empty page wondering if words will ever again bubble up to fill the space. They may not then. Check back later. Leave space in your heart for emptiness. See it as slow fill as you clock your child breaking his curfew again. See everything as a creative experience, spiritual fodder for the day when you arrive at the page and something finally erupts from your fingertips. Find your tribe of other parent-writers or writer-parents. Commiserate. Push each other. Send each other poems you have written or someone else has. Stay engaged. Don’t get flabby. Write everyday. Write when inspiration punches you in the gut. Write when you have exactly one minute of free time. When the writing feels moth-eaten and clichéd, put it away and come back to it later. Try to love your writing as tenderly as you love your child. See it as flawed and needing room to grow. Furiously write down the phrases that come to you however they do (the creative gods, a toothpaste commercial) and keep them like a crow’s collection of candy wrappers and paper clips. Peruse through them even when you’re sure nothing will come to you. Sometimes you just need to check in. Remember the wildness of writing, how putting words together can be an exhilarating adventure. Parenting is like that too. You embark on an epic quest each day to make sure the children in your care stay alive and loved in a cruel unbearable world. Make your writing live in the same harsh world. Coerce the embers of it into a roaring fire. Don’t let it go out. 


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