My husband, my son, and I are travelling to Spain today. We’re staying for a week: eating tapas, riding a funicular up Mount Igeldo. And then they’re leaving.
Unlike most, if I wake up tired, I have a choice. I’m in my pajamas after all, and therein squats the problem. The best part about being an author is, you guessed it, the same thing that makes it hard.
There are some writers who are able to convince themselves of anything. But if I could say to myself, You’re not tired, then I could also say things like, You believe in the Easter Bunny.
When I had a more traditional job, it was easier to see myself romantically, easier to fantasize stealing away minutes to write. It was also easier to believe that stealing away those minutes was the right thing to do.
So now we skip to the best part of the best part: being an author forces me to have a balanced life. If I wake up and I’m sick or tired or hung-over, I can’t make myself sit at the computer and write well. I just can’t. So if I want to be a writer, then I’ve got to get enough sleep. Things don’t have to be perfect. Occasionally, I row my personal best drunk. (That happened only once in my three years of collegiate crew.) But usually, that’s not how it works.
So, fine, go out and drink like Hemmingway. Early Hemmingway. Smoke a cigar. But then brush your teeth and chug some water and go to bed. After all, it’s easy enough to second guess yourself as a writer. Not working out or getting a good meal or enough sleep, makes it even easier. A good writer is a confident one.
I wrote a short story during an undergraduate creative writing course. The protagonist was a pregnant writer. (She gave up using highlighters because she feared it would affect the fetus.) But I, the real writer behind the curtain, had never been pregnant. My professor suggested reading something in the African Literature tradition wherein I might find more examples of the relationship between thinking Mom and thinking, kicking, growing baby. He said I could find interesting works on how the two brains might strangely, interestingly, creatively intertwine. He suggested a few specific titles, all of which I’ve now, unfortunately, forgotten. So instead, when I became pregnant roughly a year ago to the day, I hit the internet. Hard.
First, I found gems like this one: “For many women, the ability to think is one of the first casualties of pregnancy.” (http://www.watermanwords.com/index.php/tips-writing/100-writing-while-pregnant)
And this one: “And then there are those who are actually pregnant while writing a novel. We turn into a bundle of hormones and cravings, fall asleep at inopportune times and occasionally wonder if our brains have been replaced by a sack of cornmeal…How are we supposed to keep characters straight when we keep putting our clothes on inside out and walking down the street with all the seams showing?” (http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/pregnancy-and-the-writers-brain/)
The article, unfortunately, goes on: “When in doubt, blame pregnancy brain–whether that’s for losing your keys again or using too many adverbs.”
I can’t (and won’t) speak to any other woman’s experience of pregnancy,—I’m now the mother of a happy 3.5-month-old—but I know that if you wake up and tell yourself you can’t write, then, pregnant or not, chances are, you won’t be able to write.
There are many things that might keep one from writing, some legitimate, some, well, not so much. A death in the family. A head cold. The laundry. Writing, because of its implied flexibility, is, unfortunately, acutely prone to the back burner.
It took me quite a while to find any article that implied something contrary to the common pregnancy-will-only-leave-you-drained wisdom. But could the small human in my uterus help me? Could he provide something extra? Give me an experience, and a perspective, I’ve never had? (Curiously, this last one is something, I think, that most writers value.)
I did, finally, come across this article (http://booksbywomen.org/creativity-in-pregnancy-by-eleanorfitzsimons/), called Creativity in Pregnancy, and written by Eleanor Fitzsimons. And, unlike the other articles I referenced earlier, it wasn’t all subjective. It cited studies, and quoted author interviews, and I was delighted.
Pregnancy will be different for every woman, every partner, every baby, for that matter. It might be a blast. It might be miserable. It’ll likely be something in between. But it doesn’t help anyone—writer, reader, plumber, firefighter—to spring from the gates and assume the worst. Pregnant or not, do what you’d do every day. Write. If you can’t, fine. Stop, relax, re-focus, repeat. Isn’t that always the process?