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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Editing is Hard, Water is Wet

June 28th, 2010 at 9:23

My big change to my writing/working routine that I made this year was actually taking weekends – which is to say, not heaping up lists of things I needed to get done on the weekend only to discover on Sunday night that I had failed to do so.

The current edits of Book Two are kicking my arse well and truly – I’m getting the work done, but it’s gone painfully slowly for the first nearly two weeks, and I only have 9 days now before they’re due. You know that thing where people keep asking me how on earth I write with a 5 year old and a baby and I wave my hand airily and say things like ‘oh, I just snatch moments where I can, somehow it all works out?’

Screw that! Obviously I have completely lost whatever knack I used to have for finding time. It doesn’t help that the baby has just moved into the developmental stage which means she needs a person interacting with her pretty much all the time she is awake. I could work in the evenings if I wasn’t already falling asleep by the time Masterchef ends (which coincidentally is about the time I find myself child-free for most of the rest of the evening, except when I don’t). Sometimes Jem will take up to 4 times being put down, screaming, got up again, etc. before she settles down for her night’s sleep, and by the end of it, I’m shattered.

The first week was mostly warming up, and getting to grips with what I had to do. The second was about pushing into a routine and writing new chapters. Now I’m stuck with having to edit 5 chapters a day minimum, no breaks, to get this done. And that means working weekends. No skipping days.

Sometimes it takes me 2 uninterrupted hours to get 5 chapters edited. Sometimes it’s closer to 4. Even that is a mythical number because in my life, there are no uninterrupted hours.

Add to that the general expectation by my children that weekends are times for fun, family, reading, playing, and Mummy not being cranky at them when they ask for things, and the weekend was very, very hard work. It also means I’ve had almost no time to myself – normally the hours snatched from my children on weekends are used to relax and regroup so I can face the week ahead without turning into a gorgon-like creature who tells her 10 month old to make her own damn toast.

I did manage, in the earliest and latest hours of the weekend, to finish my book, the awesome The Privilege of the Sword, which I shall discuss more when I get a chance to do some recreational blogging, and I also finished the Guild comics as iApps which I loved. And there was a bit of socialising, including me getting to cook my own osso bucco recipe which I am very proud of. But, yeah. I am basically going to have to burn myself to a crisp this week. I am kind of shocked that when Raeli claimed sniffles and the need of a sick day today, I didn’t burst into tears.

But yes, I really hope that next time someone asks how on earth I do it, I actually do have the presence of mind to say ‘well it’s really hard’ as opposed to ‘oh, I manage.’ I love this work and I feel enormously privileged to be in this position, but it doesn’t help anyone – least of all me – to pretend that it’s easy to balance writing with motherhood. Writing requires bursts of steady work and bursts of super high energy Get Shit Done work, and I really do forget far too often that the steady work I do is actually at the top, not the middle, of my current work capacity.

My only comfort is that I am a better writer and editor than I was back when I was a childless twenty-something! And, you know, my family is very forgiving…

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4 Responses to “Editing is Hard, Water is Wet”

  1. Penni Says:

    Oh. You know I am with you. It enters the books too. There is all this dark, lonely night time stuff in Breathe, written when Fred was a terrible sleeper. And Drift is all about the fragmenting of the self, and anger between mothers and daughters and threats to identity. (it is also about the absolute power of familial love and the overwhelming protective love between adult and child). I can’t believe, just as I am sending number two to school I am committing myself to another five years of intensive parenting. And yet there is something about that hard fought for writing time that ignites me. Another good writer friend of mine fell to pieces a bit this year – the first year she had two at school full time. Anyway, well done and I will join you, no more breezy ‘I just manage.’ Something gets lost in the mix every time, usually one’s sanity.

  2. tansyrr Says:

    Looking back, I am so surprised at how much I got done this last year with Jem, considering that with Raeli I just collapsed for at least 6 months and then was having to finish my thesis, but doing it in fits & starts. It was a long time before I wrote fiction after my first daughter, and then I had to retrain myself to do it.

    This year has been extraordinary and I really need to stop and acknowledge it as extraordinary instead of brushing it off.

    The trouble is I feel so embarrassed when people – especially other mums – marvel at what I do. It feels like I’m showing off or something. I always want to go:”No, really, I’m very neglectful and messy, and not very good”. It feels like if I acknowledge what I do it might sound like I’m judging them for not also writing novels while they change nappies, which is crazysauce. Who would WANT to do that?

    I remember feeling so resentful that I was giving up a chunk of Raeli’s babyhood to a dead end thesis I hated (by that point) and an unsupportive university, and am much happier at sharing what is a larger part of Jem’s babyhood with the development of a career I love. I do really appreciate that I am less precious about my writing – that I can work swiftly and precisely in the moments I have between chaotic explosions – but there are days when the seams between work and family are so close to just splitting.

  3. Dave Says:

    Working and childcare at the same time – a huge challenge. A colleague once said, after his first child was born, “You know all that spare time you never used to have – well its gone now”. I have experienced your frustrations too and still do to a lesser extent as it is a bit easier now our two are older. Why do our bodies need to sleep so long, surely a quick hours kip (for adults only of course) should be enough refreshment for the next day! There seems to be only a certain amount of battery in the body and by the time it comes to being able to work in the evening, the day has drained it already. I hope you’ve got the kids in childcare for some of the week to give you quiet to concentrate and a few moments to pretend you’re a childless twenty something again.

  4. tansyrr Says:

    My 5 year old is in school – I have from 8:30 until I need to leave to pick her up at 2:30 most days. The baby has two afternoons daycare, and if someone other than me picks up the 5 years old on those days I can have up to 4 hours to myself. Believe that I make use of them!

    The frustrating thing is finding limits I didn’t know I had, even as I push my own boundaries to make more space for work. I hate that I get cranky when I work too hard, as that makes it incredibly hard to deal with anything the kids have to hurl at me.

    Also at some point it would be nice to catch up on the housework. Maybe in 2011.

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