It took close around 18 month for me to come fully back to my writing after my son was born. As my agent–herself the mother of two small children–told me in an email, we should tell new mothers that there’s “back” and there’s “back.”
I was “back” a few weeks after giving birth. I had no choice, as I needed to get revisions on a novel (This Thing Called the Future) to my publisher, then finish collecting and editing the essays for a collection on children and war, which was just released on September 11 (That Mad Game: Growing Up in a Warzone.) But I wasn’t “back” until a few months ago.
Part of the problem was that I had lost my rhythm in writing and I needed to find a new one. I believe a pattern is essential for writers. Every writer needs to find a pattern that works for them, but if you’re working on a book, you need to show up to the table almost every day, even if the time you have is short. Otherwise, too much of the momentum is lost.
Mornings had been my writing time and these were now given over to the delights of mothering. It took a long time for me to give up on the habit of writing in the morning, to say, “That just isn’t going to happen, even if I hire a babysitter to write during those hours.” To be honest, this is because I had to find the mental head space to create a new pattern. Writing at night is far from perfect–it is not my ideal creative time–but I’ve learned that when the household is quiet, I can focus on my characters again. If I try during the day, even with childcare, my mind is whirring with other things on the to-do list. So I stay up late and when the house is quiet, I plug in the earphones, turn on the music, and try to lose myself in the novel I’m currently writing. When I find that I’m nodding off at the computer, I go to bed.
And I’m getting pages done again. So much so that, despite occasional bumps in the road, I sent a gleeful email off to my agent. I’m “back.”