How to Keep Writing (When Life Gets in the Way)

I’m far from an expert at this, but I’ve had to learn really fast how to deal with high levels of writing commitments (i.e. publishing contracts with deadlines and money and stuff) with a baby/toddler in tow). And right now, I’m in the middle of my structural edit for my second novel, with a deadline this month so it can move through editing and onto the printers in time to hit the shelves in April next year (yay!).

And, timing of all timings, our household has been hit with one nasty virus after another–I’m talking flu, gastro, and now my toddler has a strain of a particularly nasty chest virus that’s knocked him down for more than a week. And when your very young child is sick, there’s not a lot you can do other than drop everything and look after them. They can’t go to daycare (if that’s what they do) and no one else (even the most doting aunties and grandparents) will want to look after your germ-infested, dripping, feverish, sneezing, snotting, wailing darling child. Quite reasonably.

Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare
Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare

Add to this the extra effort required with washing, sterilising and disinfecting, trips to the doctor, late-night runs to the pharmacy, the emotional stress of watching your little darling crying with fever or pain, or simply because they can’t breathe well enough to actually get any sleep, their rabid wrestling when you try to administer medication five times a day, and their likely constant need for affection and comfort, and you’ve got yourself a pretty intense time, and not a lot of mental space.

And then there’s the stress that your work is falling way behind.

So here’s what I’ve learnt to do: act like a squirrel. Be singled-minded about preparing for the future. Give up any idea of getting any serious work done and simply nest. Shop for food. Cook food. Freeze food. Plan meals. Do tidying and cleaning where possible. Wash clothes. Order supplies. Pay bills. Make phone calls. Send emails. Essentially, pretend you are leaving home soon to go away for a two-week holiday. You can do these things in little snatches of time between nursing, and they don’t take much mental power. And then the very second that the crisis has passed, you are set to go. Leave all that domestic chaos behind and sink blissfully into the newfound time and freedom you have so efficiently created while nesting alongside your sick child (or sick dog, or couch-surfing nephew, or whatever else turned up unexpectedly at your door). Right now, my freezer is filling and I’m on top of the washing. I’m just waiting for the season to pass so I can dive back into my book and enjoy all those nuts I squirrelled away during the storm of relentless ills.

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