I am a master procrastinator. Always have been. Before having a kid, I wanted to do many things, especially write, and yet I wouldn’t do it. I would write only if I felt like writing. Only if somehow inspiration struck me. Sure, I was busy. I was working and studying psychology online. But if I consider the number of TV Shows I’ve watched on Netflix, I can assure you that I still had more than enough time to write. But I didn’t do it. In the span of a year, I might have put 10K words down. In that same year, I got pregnant. I stopped working three months before my daughter was born. I was at home with not much to do, and I still didn’t write. Then, Kara was born, and that changed everything.
I want to share my own experience and tell you how having this baby in my life helped me write three novels, one novella, and two short stories in less than two years. I cannot promise it will help you. I realize it’s not a one size fits all solution. What worked for me might not work for you. The things I could do might not be the things you can do. I have only one kid; maybe you have two or three or four.
So, what happened for me to become this productive? Postpartum depression, maybe, as insane as it might sound. We had wanted this baby really badly, and now that she was here, her arrival crashed over us like a tsunami, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I thought—in my own baby blues messed up brain—that I would never be able to do anything for myself again. I remember sitting in bed with my baby against me and looking at the shelves full of books on the opposite wall. I was an emotional wreck, crying and sobbing and telling my husband that I would never get to read all those books. Since then, I’ve read fifty-five books, so I was also wrong there, but it took a little while for me to get back in the groove. To make matters worse, both our families live in France, so it’s not like we got much help there.
By the time Kara was four months old, I still had postpartum depression, of course, and she was taking four to five twenty minute naps a day. Yes, twenty minutes. And at night she rarely fell asleep for the night before 11:00 pm. I was losing my mind. I was so tired, and I craved time alone. I craved writing again. I inwardly kicked myself for not being productive before having a baby. I knew that if I couldn’t get a few hours to myself to write, I would explode. And so, even if I didn’t work, even if daycare is expensive, I asked my husband if we could put Kara there for a few hours each week. I realize not everyone can afford it. I’m lucky we could. She started by going twice a week for five hours. Although I left the daycare crying the first time I put her there, it was so liberating. I was finally alone. I could finally write.
I would drop her off, go to the nearest Starbucks with my computer, and write. Finally I could keep working on that novel that only had 10K words. Since Kara still took very short naps, my only writing times were these two half days per week. They enabled me to finish the first draft of that 90K novel in five months. I was so happy!
But then, boom, covid hit. Schools closed. Baby at home all the time. The good thing was that by then, Kara took only one nap a day, but a long one. At least an hour and a half, two hours if I was lucky. I also understood that if I wanted to write, if I needed to write, I couldn’t afford to just wait until I felt like it, because feeling like it didn’t mean I could do it right at the minute. Not with a clingy one-year-old to take care of. I had to plan times to write. I knew I wanted to publish someday, so even though I didn’t make any money—and still don’t—I had to treat it like a job. And that’s what made all the difference. Treating it like a job. Not a hobby, but something I had to do and had to find time to do.
The first six weeks of the lockdown, I wrote my second novel. 95K words. I wrote every day, during each of Kara’s naps, and every evening after she was in bed. Sometimes I would even naturally wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 am like a psycho and get up before everyone to put a few words down, a big cup of coffee sitting beside me.
Today, I still treat writing as my job, even if it’s unpaid work for now. I know this is how I’ll succeed. Having a child helped me make a habit of writing. It helped me become organized to plan specific times to do it. More than anything, having a kid helped me realize how much I need this time to write, this time that is just for myself and myself only, when I’m not a mother nor a wife. I’m just me, putting these crazy stories on paper. And I owe my new-found determination and diligence to my baby. She rocked my world upside down and makes me happier than I’ve ever been in more ways than one.
So, if I had to give some advice, not that anyone has to listen to these advice, it would be to treat your writing as a job, as an obligation even. The more you do it, the more momentum you gain and then you just can’t stop. But I will also say this as a second advice: be gentle and patient with yourself. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. Sometimes the kid wakes up after thirty minutes and won’t go back to sleep, and all you had time to do is take a bathroom break, make coffee, and sit down in front of your computer before you could actually write anything. Sometimes you get those precious hours to yourself, but you had a terrible night, and you decide to use this alone time to take a nap instead of writing. Being a parent is hard enough, you can’t beat yourself up for these moments of writing you missed. Just focus on what you can do at your level.
Keep on writing and being awesome mommies.
About the Writer: Amélia Cognet is a suspense and horror writer who loves books, tattoos, rainy days, and fluffy sweaters. She lives in sunny California with her husband Christophe and her two-year-old daughter Kara.