Once upon a time there was a writer who lived in a cottage by the sea. The world pretty much left her alone, apart from the seagulls she had trained to bring her the odd packet of Doritos. She wrote stories and sold them to publishers who paid all her bills. The taxman liked her stories so much he left her alone. And so she whiled away her days eating Doritos, walking on the beach and effortlessly writing books without distraction. THE END
Now, even as a fantasy writer, that is pretty far-fetched - but a lot of us have some version of this tucked away in a dark corner of our minds. "If only it wasn't for my (delete as appropriate)... job / husband / kids / pets / responsibilities I would be able to write! Goddammit, I could write!" [adopts tortured expression of frustrated artist]
Thing is, we all have to juggle writing with life. I don't think that ever goes away, even if you're some amazingly successful writer - I mean c'mon, then you've got cool parties to attend and book panels to waffle on and that house in the Bermudas to visit... (See why I write fantasy, this stuff is easy...). Stephen King points out that TV is one of the greatest distractions for many aspiring writers ('sucking on the glass teat' is the rather evocative phrase he uses). For me the internet is my personal precipice - after all, as a writer the internet is so essential, so justifiable! You have to do research, email editors and agents, connect with other writers - and of course readers.
And from tomorrow I will have a whole new 'ball' to juggle. It - or rather she - will be roughly 9lbs in weight and pretty ferocious when she's tired or hungry. I'm guessing parenthood brings particular challenges for any writer - after all, being a parent is largely about being unselfish and sacrificing your personal wishes and desires for someone else, especially at the beginning. You begin to dream some new dreams for someone else - and for once they're not a character, they're a real flesh and blood human being. They don't have to follow the path you prescribe for them - tough for any writer (because let's face it, writing is as close as you can get to playing God without actually re-training as a dictator). And writing is selfish in a way - romping through your own head, choosing at times to ignore the world around you. From what I hear newborns don't tend to tolerate being ignored for long...
So as I sit here typing I can feel our daughter having a final alien-style squirm around, getting ready to erupt into the world, a whole new human being! Hopefully I'll learn the same skills so many of you have had to learn - balancing the role of writer and mum without messing up* as either (*Disclaimer: too much, most of the time. Is that aiming low?)
And any tips you've learned along the way - do share. After all, every one of us is a juggler - but many hands make light(er) work.