Here’s a post from Phillip Mottaz, whose wonderful blog phillipmottaz.wordpress.com is a candid and fun exploration of what it’s like to be a screenwriter and stay-at-home dad.
Even though the post below is written from the prospective of a parent finding time to write, I feel like it’s a good lesson for all of us. After all, if a full-time parent can find time to write, can’t the rest of us? -Script Doctor Eric (About Eric)
FINDING TIME TO WRITE
I have to clarify that I don’t know how anybody does this, juggling parenting and a career. I cannot fathom how my parents did it, or yours, or anybody.
I sometimes listen to Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” podcast, and he recently admitted to watching “The Dark Knight Part 2” — a movie 2.5 hours long — 12 times. It had only come out about a week or so prior to the recording, and all I could think was, “How the hell did he find the time to do that?” Granted, he’s a successful movie maker, and his wife probably doesn’t have to work to support them, so she can stay with their daughter… but come on! I’m writing this while “watching” a movie I’ve seen already, and I mostly have it on to feel like a person I used to be. An irresponsible person.
So right off the bat, let me be clear: I’ve found there really IS no time to write. Especially when the kid is awake, and if anyone out there knows of a solution, I’d love to hear it. Honestly. Any time your kid is awake contains every possible hazard, emotion and situation you could imagine without actually resulting in something that would feel like a tangible achievement. Oh, you’re growing a person, sure, but we won’t know the results of that growth until later, and possibly through intense therapy sessions. When you’re teaching/molding/messing up your awake kid, the best you can hope for as far as writing goes is sending yourself a text message saying something like “Act Two should be exciting.”
Suffice it to say, I’ve mastered this parents-who-write thing.
The sleep times, on the other hand, can be marginally productive, especially if your standards of productivity are low. As your brain turns into Brie from hours of re-re-re-reading the same book over and over again, it sometimes takes a while to get cracking. The trick, I’ve found (besides low standards) is routine. Not just for yourself, but for your child.
My wife excels at organization, so from the beginning of Henry’s life, we had cataloged most of his major daily events, of which there were three: when he ate, when he slept, and when he had a diaper change. The nurses encouraged us to keep track while we were still in the hospital, and it carried over as part of our routine. It sounds insane (and, granted, the diaper log went away), but charting when he ate and when he slept and for how long helped us develop a schedule. We were able to anticipate our days a little easier, and this meant I could plan my work day a little easier. For the first two years of Henry’s life, he took two or three naps a day, at least an hour a piece. Considering there was always something to clean, food to prepare or my own cleanliness to attend to, this often allowed for a good 30-ish minutes at a time.
Admittedly, I didn’t always use that free time wisely. I watched movies (aka “research?”), wrote emails, checked Facebook. Typical idiot stuff. But the very disciplined writer-parent — the kind who would probably excel at getting their child on a sleep and nap schedule — could make some real headway with this time.
As Henry has grown up, and grown more aware of, well, everything, he has also dropped to one nap. He is now three-and-a-half, and down to one nap a day, if that. Some days he doesn’t nap at all. These have been psychologically trying on me, the stay-at-home parent, mostly (I think) because I’ve come to rely on these naps for writing and working and relaxing. I’m addicted to the naps, and sometimes I will rock Henry for an hour for the chance at a nap. Sometimes more if I fall asleep, too.
When you get to that point, you jam. You develop an ability to work fast. You may not be “good,” but you’ll cover a lot of ground, and sometimes that’s what it takes. I hope that’s what it takes.
So that’s the big advice, for being a writer-parent and for life in general: when you get that opportunity, jump on it. Seize the nap day.