Parenting & Playwriting
When do you write?
This post is the second column of a regular series on Parenting & Playwriting. Find the first column here.
Here’s what my advice column will offer you: a place to ask questions and share grievances about juggling life as theatre artists and as parents. Here’s what my advice column will not offer you: much actual advice you can use. For those of you masochists longing for some truly crappy advice, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I had a good thing going for a couple of months. Laura's daily nap aligned with Lizzie's pre-school, and for two hours every day, I could sit in blissful silence and write, or at least think about writing, or barring that, read about other people writing. Then some alien force invaded my baby and instead of napping at the appointed time, she commenced with the screaming. Despite my every effort, my good thing has gone with the wind. Laura still naps, mind you, but only after Lizzie has returned from pre-school, effectively ending my precious-beyond-price writing time.
With Laura's delicately timed nap gone, I had two options: write in the morning before the children wake-up or in the nighttime after they've gone to bed.
Clearly, writing in the morning is by far the preferable option, when you have one foot in dreamland and your mind is unsullied by the day's worries and cares. I have long had a vision of myself as a writer who rises at 5am and after a quick shower, sits down with her decaf herbal tea and writes steadily until 8am, when the children awake and the day breaks wide open. I am also ten pounds lighter, better toned, and sporting if not an actual coif, something resembling a bonafide hairstyle. What this has to do with writing, I cannot say, but trust me when I tell you, the Catherine who rises at 5am to write pays much more for her haircuts.
I had a good thing going for a couple of months. Laura's daily nap aligned with Lizzie's pre-school, and for two hours every day, I could sit in blissful silence and write, or at least think about writing, or barring that, read about other people writing. Then some alien force invaded my baby and instead of napping at the appointed time, she commenced with the screaming.
In order to actualize this vision, I set my alarm clock for 5am and placed it on the dresser on the other side of the bedroom to force myself out from underneath the warm covers. I live in a hundred-year-old house on the prairie, and the converted attic where we all sleep is ten degrees lower than the rest of the house in winter (in summer, of course, it's stifling). I was banking on the shock of the cold to wake me up properly. The next morning, however, I awoke at 8am. The morning after that, I awoke at 8am as well. This went on for a full week, before my spouse (who I'll call "the Professor" for the purposes of this blog) vetoed my self-actualization for good. The Professor had grown weary of getting out of bed at 5am to turn off the alarm before it woke the children. I, apparently, never budged.
Suffice it to say, I have since become a nighttime writer.
Writing at night has its challenges; namely, you're tired as shit. It's also the only time of day you can watch grown-up television—you know, research for the pilot you're never going to write but keep telling your agent you're keen on doing. Then there's all the unanswered email and facebook messages to respond to, not to mention reading all the latest on Whedonesque.com. What—you're not familiar with Whedonesque? It links to all news pertaining to Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Very important reading. There's also all those Harry Dresden novels to get to, but for argument's sake, let's pretend you don't have addiction issues with the more fantastical of the genres.
Anyway, writing in the evening requires its own arsenal of tools. First, it should go without saying: turn off the internet. Just shut that baby down. So what if your router is persnickety and won't always boot back up properly? Just do it. And for the love of all that is holy and good, don't even pretend you're going to stick to that sugar/gluten/dairy-free nonsense you read about on Goop.com. Stock up on dark chocolate, salt and vinegar chips, and coffee. Strong, black, beautiful coffee that gets your heart pounding and hands shaking. Slurp that sludge up like you're going to be up all night, because you know what—that's the idea.
Then light a candle on the dining room table, place your mug to the right of your laptop, chocolate to the left, and sit down and write for as long as you possibly can.
Around 1am, you'll run out of creative steam, but you won't be ready to sleep, of course, due to all the coffee. Break out a bottle of red wine instead. Turn on Downton Abbey. Around 3am, you'll be sufficiently dozy, your head filled with lush British landscapes, and ready to dream. Don't worry about setting your alarm clock; the children will wake you in a couple of hours.
The next day, when your children want to know why you're so cranky and tired, put on your best Dowager Countess voice and tell them: "Are you a Lady or Toad of Toad Hall? Go to your room to play."
When do you write? Tell me in the comments!