How to Write with a Newborn in the House

Header images via Leonardo Luz & Pixabay

No one can write with a child around. It’s no good. You just get cross.
- Doris Lessing

Finding time to write is difficult enough when there aren’t a million other responsibilities vying for your attention. So when you’ve got a newborn baby in the house, keeping your dream of being an author alive can be a daunting task. But it isn’t impossible. Koji Suzuki wrote the bulk of his classic horror novel, The Ring, with a baby sitting in his lap. J.K. Rowling finished her first Harry Potter novel as a single mother looking after her daughter. J.G. Ballard was a single father raising three kids when he wrote some of his best-known works. If they can do it, so can you.

When They Sleep, You Write

Don’t feel pressured or shamed just because your fellow author is still pumping out content with three infants, a part-time job and two cocker spaniels.

While it can be tempting to stare at their little adorable faces while they snooze, or simply get some shut-eye for yourself, this can also be the best time to get your writing done. Admittedly, this suggestion isn’t for everyone, but writing when the baby sleeps can provide the silence and concentration you need to succeed. Sometimes you will be too exhausted to write more than a paragraph. Sometimes you’ll use that time to do the hundred chores on your list. But in the long run, the routine of writing when your child sleeps, even sporadicalll produce results. Also, remember that you don’t need to be sitting at your desk with pen in hand to produce content. During the day, use the mundane tasks of folding diapers or watching your baby try to figure out how to roll over as contemplation time where you can let your creative ideas ferment in your mind.

Cooperation Makes It Happen

Raising a baby is a lot easier when you have two or more people working together to make it happen. The same holds true for your writing career. If you have a supporting partner, tell them that writing is your main priority outside of childcare and that you need time and space to make it happen. This could mean something as simple as your husband strolling the baby around the block a few times while you hack out a couple pages. Try to keep your partner abreast of your progress and make them aware of deadlines you’re trying to meet, so they don’t become resentful of you sitting peacefully and only pretending to write when they’re doing all the hard work. Most importantly, make sure to return the favour and take care of the child while they attend to their own personal concerns, so it doesn’t become a one-way deal. Those of you who are raising a child solo may need to rely on friends or family members to take over for brief periods to allow for writing to get completed. These teamwork situations may not always be possible, but don’t be afraid to make your writing desires clear and ask for help when it’s available.

Take an Extended Break

Babies are unpredictable creatures. Sometimes the child doesn’t want to cooperate with your writing career. They may come down with a respiratory infection that needs your constant attention. They may decide to cry all night for a month and leave you totally drained of life. Your baby and your own health should always be the top two priorities. Don’t feel pressured or shamed just because your fellow author is still pumping out content with three infants, a part-time job and two cocker spaniels. They are not you, so stop comparing yourself to them. It’s perfectly okay to put your latest project on hiatus and give yourself some time off from writing in order to deal with your childcare issues. Take a three-week, or even a three-month break from writing if you need to and come back to the project fresh. My only advice is to set a firm restart date, so that the project, and your writing career, doesn’t move permanently to the back burner.

Good luck, and congratulations!

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Repo Kempt

Column by Repo Kempt

Repo Kempt has worked as a criminal lawyer in the Canadian Arctic for over ten years. He is the author of a book about seal hunting, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and a guest columnist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lives on a cricket farm with his wife, Joy and his little dog, Galactus. In his spare time, he looks for an agent for his latest manuscript.

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