I suspect some people may be questioning my sanity at signing up for a PhD with a baby and a small child (I certainly do in my darker moments). With enrolment day rapidly approaching, I’ve been thinking about why it seems to make sense. It makes sense because I have to fight to write.
I started writing poetry when I was in my teens. Dark stuff it was, mostly inspired by Sylvia Plath and written listening to The Cure and The Smiths. By the time I was twenty one or so I had gotten some work published and won a couple of things. I come from a family of (mad) writers and was headed that way myself. I thought that it had to be hard, this business of writing. Melancholic. Filled with pain. I also thought that I needed the perfect environment to write in, and the perfect writing practice. I wrote The Artist Way’s morning pages for a number of years in my early twenties. I would set myself up at my desk with my view and my music (more melancholic mix tapes), with my favourite pen and notebook, with Champion Ruby, a zippo and an ashtray. I would smoke and ponder and write. But I never really wrote. I wrote about wanting to write, I dreamt about being a writer, I sometimes talked about wanting to be a writer, but what was I writing? Beyond morning pages, not very much.
I’m writing more with a baby and a small child than I’ve written in a very long time. Sparrow still has bronchialitis and has been dripping snot and tears all day. He usually settles in about two minutes and sleeps pretty well. Tonight we put him into his cot at 6.30. It’s 8.10 and we’re still settling. In twenty minute shifts. So in the twenty minutes that my partner’s in with a very sad Sparrow patting and shushing and picking up and putting down, I’m writing this post. When lines of poetry enter my head (and I’m blessed that they often do) at the park, on a pram walk, in the supermarket, pushing a swing, I grab my iPhone and speak them into the voice recorder, then transcribe those lines at night. If Sparrow falls asleep in the car, I write in the driveway. It is never the perfect time, I will never have the perfect practice, but I’m actually writing. And for the first time in my life, I’m happy to call myself a writer. When people ask me what I do, it’s one of the things I say (without a smirk crossing my lips or a twitch of embarrassment running through my torso).
My children have not driven me away from writing, they have turned me towards it. Every day I fight to write. I can’t afford to sit and ponder, to scribble and fiddle. I am forced to write in snatches and snippets, to be efficient, to value every spare minute, and that’s why I think a PhD and kids go together. Ok, so I’ll probably read this in a year and cringe at my naivety and optimism, but I’m willing to give this academia thing a bloody good try.
- Writing quote of the day…just write (westernthm.wordpress.com)