‘How quickly can you write four books?’ asked my prospective publisher, Affirm Press.
‘Um… A year,’ I said with blind confidence.
Fast-forward a few months and I was sheepishly calling my editor explaining that my brain had fallen out and there was no way I could write four books in a year. They’d signed my kids’ book series, Starring Olive Black, when my son George was five-months-old and I was totally naïve about this new motherhood gig. Luckily, I had the best editor (thanks Clair Hume) who was a new mum herself and between us, we found a way.
I ended up writing not four but five books in just 21 months – from the time George was seven-months-old, through two winters of childcare colds and another pregnancy, finishing just days before my second son, Freddy, was born. It was wild. Wild but wonderful, and I made a tonne of mistakes as I figured out how my dream career could work around family life. While I’m enjoying the baby bubble these days (which Freddy made a cute book trailer to explain), these are some of the things I’ve learnt about getting your creative game on, post baby.
FREDDY’S #BOOKTRAILER I finished writing this #bookbaby just a few days before I got to meet my actual baby last November. Hooley dooley, what a wild ride that was – writing five books in 21 months from the time George was seven months old through to being pregnant with number two. This time around though I absolutely embraced the #fourthtrimester and fell into the nappy-changing, nipple-aching, midnight-googling, heat-wave-cluster-feeding, Peppa-Pig-negotiating, toilet-training delirium that is having a newborn and a toddler. . Oh yeah, and then my book came out! . As Fred said, I’ve loved this time with the boys and am so glad I took a break. But to keep this kids-book-writing dream of mine alive, it’s time to spread the word about Olive’s latest blockbuster movie, THE PYRAMID PUZZLE. It’s an absolute privilege writing for young people and creating a character who’s feisty, funny, flawed and full of heart. . So if, like Freddy, you’d like to help a new mum out, please share his message with the kids, parents and teachers in your life. I hope they fall in love with Olive as much as I have. . Happy reading. And thank you to all those around me who made this possible, especially Fred, my squishy, adorable mohawk man, and your besotted big bro George. Alex.
1. Forget work-life ‘balance’.
Balance? Shmalance. It’s chaos once kids are in your life. So instead of striving for this unattainable equilibrium, someone told me to think about it in terms of seasons. There’ll be different times of the day, week or year when you should throw yourself head-first into the roles of mother, writer, head chef, bestie. Between 5pm – 8pm, don’t talk to me, I’m being a mum. In Book Week I’m a writer – chatting to kids in schools and admiring their home-made Harry Potter costumes – but the week following, the boys and I double-down on babychinos and park hangs. Instead of feeling like you’re always failing in certain parts of your life, give yourself a break and let the seasons unfold.
2. Rethink your work schedule.
Gone were the afternoons of cultivating an idea (read ‘faffing’). This new working-mum schedule involved fitting things in. You know, between feed times, grandparent babysitting, seventeen loads of washing. My thinking/faffing time moved to the night feeds, with the Notes section of my phone getting a work out in the dark. Editorial calls were taken walking George to sleep around the park. I learnt not to bother attacking a first draft unless I had three to four uninterrupted hours. And my first drafts were now peppered with ‘[insert gag here]’ or ‘[research to come]’ notes. This allowed me to finish a chapter without losing momentum, then fill in the gaps later. It’s trial and error, but you know your brain best. Work out which tasks suit which pockets of time. And be flexible if you’ve been up all night – some things you can manage when tired, others you can’t. You might be better off sacrificing work time for a nap, rather than powering through unproductively.