Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Day in the Life of a Writer / Mum (Unedited)

I wake. Is it dawn? The sky looks as if it could be. I check my mobile. 4.45 am. I feel wide awake. Voices arguing in my head. They’re back. The characters are crying out to be made real. Their voices want to be heard. Should I get up and write?

The decision is made. But then I hear a thud. A door opens, then footsteps across a carpet. A sad face appears. “These chickenpox are getting more and more,” says a tiny voice. I lace some lemon squash with Piriton and hold a cup while he slowly sips through a straw. It takes minutes but I must be patient. He snuggles down in my bed. A few moments of fidgeting and moaning, then he is still. His breathing slows. The house is peaceful again. He is sleeping, yet I still feel guilty when I sneak out of the room.

I creep to the kitchen. The kettle sounds like a steam engine. It’s a toss up between running caffeine-free and risking the kettle waking another sleeper. I open up my laptop. Voices calling louder now, more incessantly. The huge Whittard mug is empty before I have time to think. As I sip I check my Facebook and e-mail and finally settle on Twitter. I refill my cup and it’s time.

I arrange the paper in front of me. Familiar now, having been no more than a meter away for the past forty-eight hours. My manuscript and I should be joined by an umbilical cord. I’m trying to give life to it. Desperately trying. When I can.

I transfer changes from paper to laptop. Smiling, I feel the flow. Small changes, then entire paragraph rewrites. My pace quickens. Then I hear it. Another door. Thud, thud, thud down the stairs. It’s 6.10am. I close my laptop.

Through the day I glance at the closed computer. I work on the paper, which is easier to do in stolen moments. Red on white. Red for improvement. Willing the marks to transfer themselves to the screen. The stolen moments are few and far between.

A time comes, all the children are playing nicely in the garden. Peace. I gently lift my screen. I open the file but before I can find the right place to start, two people are standing by my side. “Mum, I need to ask you something.” “Mum, I need you.” These voices are more incessant, more demanding, more unforgiving than the others. I give up, again. I troubleshoot. It’s currently the top item on my job description.

It’s nearly noon by the time I take my first trip to the bathroom. It shouldn’t be, but it is as there has been no time, no peace. I consider combining the trip… I glance at my papers… but no, that would be taking it one step too far.

The day continues. The voices whisper at me constantly, but are drowned out by the here and now. Food is made, I am not even hungry. I just feel frustrated as my papers gather dust.

Bedtime comes. Settling three is a full time job in itself. By the time they are all in bed I reach for my manuscript. A few red marks then I give in to reality. I have to sleep as I will be up at five again.

I get into bed. The house is silent but all I can think of is my stories. Should they do this, would she say that? When I wake in the night I never know if the voices that wake me will be my children or those of my characters.  Then suddenly, it is dawn again.

You can see how I cope with the following school summer holiday in my new post: Writer/Mum Part 2.


  1. Love this, Rebecca - that insidious voice tickling the back of the mind, prompting you to write, to defy what's going on around you ... I'm not as focussed and am as lazy as anything writing wise - well done x

  2. Excellent post. We must be leading parallel lives on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

  3. I was full of admiration for you juggling being a writer and a mother before reading this. Having now had an insight into your day, I don't think I'll ever complain about my writing day again.

    I love that penultimate line: "When I wake in the night I never know if the voices that wake me will be my children or those of my characters." I don't have children but I so know the feeling of how characters can become as real or as important a part of my life as the very real people in it.

  4. THis is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read. I am with you every step of the way, every interuption, every yearning glance at the PC and paper. I don't yet wake with characters in my head but stories are everywhere throughout the day and late at night and I scribble phrases or can't and lose whole stories. I wish you so much success in your writing and peace and happiness in your life. X

  5. I can SO relate to this post, Rebecca.
    Keep on trying - the kids will get older, things will get easier. I promise.

  6. Rebecca, this is a very beautiful account of a writer/mum's life. I do not have children at home any longer and I suffer for time to write, because there are still things that need doing. Finding time to write is a very hard thing to do, but please don't give up. You are a beautiful writer!

  7. I could feel your frustration, and admire you so much.

    Seems that parenting is full of frustration of one sort of another, maybe children, maybe husbands, maybe work or money or isolation or sadness or fears.

    Keep it up my friend! Great job despite it all. A true writer methinks is emerging!

    Didn't want to choose a 'personality', but I think you'll know :)


  8. Those last two sentences tell the whole story beautifully.

  9. My children are all grown so I know the only voices waking me up these days are those of my characters. But I miss the voices of my children. I guess some of us are never happy.

  10. Again, nicely done, Rebecca. You have the talent of suggestive imagery to your readers; by reading your writings, people can live it, feel it and understand the whole situation you are describing. Just the fact that this is an unedited writing and the reactions above prove my point I have made have "it" :-)

  11. With my three I never stood a chance either. It gets better as they get older, but so frustrating at the time. I feel for you.

  12. Boy can I relate to this! It's amazing us moms get any writing accomplished at all. But, we're driven, as you so aptly demonstrate. We have no choice... ;)

  13. Wow. I am only just starting to write now and it is a permanent voice in my head. Yet another thing i just MUST DO. But working and looking after small children become the priority. The here and now as you rightly say. I have some time off soon, with some childcare so I can hopefully concentrate on getting a few chapters down. Rewarding but frustrating! You sum it up expertly.

  14. knowing it is the same for us really helps, I am mum to three smalls and one big and I watch the laptop fade from me every day, it is a battle to make time and you make it worth the battle.
    Wonderful writing

  15. I can completely relate to this - in fact, it could have been me writing this! It's so difficult - but that's what makes it all the more important to keep trying. Good luck.