Can you believe it’s April already? The days are flying by so quickly. With a new baby along for the adventure, I have been cherishing every moment; savouring my maternity leave has been important for literary reasons too.
What is a writer to do when a baby is part of the equation? Luckily, writing is one of those jobs that can be pretty much accomplished anywhere: it’s a case of making the time, not finding the time for it. In the past I have found inspiration while bedridden with flu, namely from the accompanying fever dreams. This time around, while on maternity leave, I haven’t so much been bedridden as sofa-bound. So what can a writer do while feeding baby, bum-on-couch? For me, my literary goals didn’t stop once baby arrived. In fact, baby helped me to keep to a loose writing schedule, in quiet moments while nursing or sleeping on my chest.
Of course, balancing a laptop on a tray with a baby on your lap is pretty much a no-no. If anyone has managed this, I would love to hear about it! Nor was writing in a notebook: if it didn’t continually get kicked to the floor by chunky legs, the pages got crumpled by chubby fists and the corners got gnawed for teething! Finding a balance was key.
Fortunately, I had many almost-finished projects that could be tinkered with on my smartphone. These were realistic goals that I had set out to achieve when first beginning my maternity leave (see my post from 30 June 2017, Writing goals and wrapping up the day job for more on this).
So, in no particular order, here is what I have accomplished over the past 9 months:
1. Finishing a 102,000 word novel.
The timing was admittedly good on this one: I’m not sure how it would have unfolded to write a novel from scratch during either antenatal or postnatal periods (see my post from 8 June 2017 on writing during pregnancy: baby brain and writer’s block for more on this). I had thankfully written the meat of my novel before pregnancy, so fine tuning was easy during the third trimester from my phone. Giving a final edit, preparing a synopsis and cover letter was much more manageable, as was researching literary agents and publishers. In July 2017, I began a final edit of my fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel, which you can read about here. In November, this project was ready for the publishing rounds: it is currently under consideration by literary agents in the UK and publishers in the UK and US.
2. Running Bindweed Magazine:
Reading poetry and short story submissions from writers all over the world, selecting ones for publication, writing acceptance or rejection emails to authors and publishing work online and in print, as a labour-of-love no less, is no easy feat under normal circumstances never mind with a baby on board. When I began my maternity leave, Bindweed Magazine Issue 5 was live. Bindweed Magazine Issue 8 is the current issue and the forthcoming anthology to celebrate the magazine’s 2 year birthday, Bindweed Anthology 2018: Devil’s Guts, is currently open to submissions. Recently Bindweed has also received a market listing on Duotrope, and has been inundated with submissions as a result. Much to celebrate!
3. Submitting my short fiction for publication in magazines and anthologies:
In preparation for submitting my novel to publishers and literary agents, I have been building my writing CV to help with promotion. In July last year my novelette, Til Death do us Boneapart, was published in print anthology, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine Summer 2017, and in February this year my surreal flash fiction piece, The Existence of Things Inside Wall Spaces, was published in online magazine Amethyst Review. I have another short story, House of Cards, forthcoming in Entropy Magazine.
What is the takeaway from all this? Essentially, my writing and publishing commitments have helped to keep my mind engaged while my little one has been resting, especially as I am an advocate of baby-led routines and feeding-on-demand. Have I been more productive on maternity leave compared to writing while working a day job? I would honestly answer that my level of productivity has changed, not increased or decreased per se. But, I hope to convey to all other writer-poet parents out there that it certainly is possible to meet personal writing goals, even when priorities have changed. Baby’s needs are number 1, of course. However, setting realistic, bite-sized weekly writing tasks is not only manageable but fun too. Depending on the content of your writing, heck, you can even read your work aloud to baby. Our (Joseph Robert and I) little one has heard mama read aloud her poetry and fiction on many an occasion. If my brain-babies can boost my baby’s brain, then why not? Let the literary fun commence!