For my friend Matticus, who is raising a young family and striving to write at the same time.
I have quite a few kids. Let’s say it’s a number that’s more than three, and they’re all young. I also have an executive-level job that keeps me ridiculously busy, but most importantly, pays the bills. I’ve heard it several times, that you cannot have kids and be a writer… such nonsense.
Soliloquies of Sandbars
Writers are dreamers. That’s all human beings are, in the end. Dreamers. Some dreams lead to dark places… others into the brightness, to light and beauty. My dreams are mixed, swirls of paint, the artistic skill akin to finger painting, but art nevertheless.
How do you write when you are raising kids and working a full-time job? Let me show you.
The Sounds of Fury
You write despite.
Yes, you do. You write despite how tired you get in the evenings. How desirous you are of sleeping-in even on the weekends, when you have time to yourself, or on holidays, when you could get so much writing done but inevitably don’t.
You write despite deep deep weariness and inability to summon the energy to create.
You write despite the mental exertion of dealing with an upset kid who is completely inconsolable. Won’t eat their dinner. Won’t go to school this morning. Won’t brush their teeth or wear a jacket even though it’s freezing outside.
You write despite Lego all over the place where you can step on it, or a step stool where your toe is going to hit it. You write despite rotting food under the couch, a crack in the tv screen, a long deep scratch in the dining room table. A smashed light fixture. Forty minutes strapping everyone into the van before you can even leave for the trip. Fifty-nine stops on the highway for half a gallon of urine.
You write despite grandparents coming over and staying for a week, because they should have time with their grandkids – and you can’t write a word, because it’s so busy taking care of a fuller house.
You write despite these things. You do.
Real Wooden Trees
Stories are ages old, and complex. They’re oft-repeated. Occasionally unique. Our children are the most profound stories we’ll ever be involved in. You are in a story. You’re living one. You’ve helped create new stories. They’re hard to fully describe, and often it’s tough to remember one year ago, when your children were a bit younger. The story a little less refined. You’re sure they were there, and different, but it’s hard to recall. The photos are surprising – were we like this? Yes we were. We were.
Elements of stories:
Unexpected hugs. A hand in yours.
The moment when they actually laugh at your jokes, or play a board game with you, or demonstrate an understanding of a complexity that you didn’t even know they’d thought about. The second they become quicker and better at math than you.
The first time you show them a movie that you loved as a kid; the first time you Star Wars. The initial Christmas when they’re old enough to wake up before you. Times when you could still pick them up. Pull them in a sled.
When they have friends of their own, or learn to ride bikes. When they get up despite that first fall. When they show a resilience that you aren’t sure you ever had. When they demonstrate an ease of interacting with others that you in your introverted existence can’t even fathom. When they exhibit kindness for others. When they show acceptance of the differences in people, and a pang of hope shoots through you, like the world is going to be fine, if these are the people who are going to shape it. When they show a clear understanding that they have one world in which they live, and they better care for it, better than we did.
When they read your latest book and think it’s great, worthy of being read, even though few others believe it. That they actually think you’re a fit, that you’re someone who has a story to tell.
These stories are immeasurable. But as much inspiration as you take from life, from the dark and the bright parts of it, how do you write about stories that you’re intimately a part of? I don’t. Because I can’t do them justice. This story I’m living with my kids is far too profound, too comical, too complicated, too emotional, for me to ever write about. Same with my wife, a person that is indescribable, the one human being that I don’t think I could ever fully describe in words. You’d have to meet her to understand.
My proposition is that the greatest story you live, is the one you’ll never be able to write about. And that gives you something to strive for. Feelings of glory and beauty to push for, in your words, because you’ve lived grace. Now sit down at your desk, or wherever. Stare at the screen if you must. Think on the incredible story you’re already a part of. Stretch your thoughts. Move your fingers. And just fight. Fight for your stories. Fight for your dreams.
In some future, your kids won’t be living with you anymore. For just a moment, you wonder in a speculative sense what that would be like, how much time you would have to yourself. But then comes this awful tang of guilt for even thinking it. Then afterwards, terror for what this means: that they won’t be with you. That the story is changing, a twist you saw coming but were never prepared for. That yes, you’re in a story yourself, with these other human beings who are intimately connected with you, and that this story is now going to change.
Looking through photos, amazed at where this all started, and realizing that you’re shaping a novel every day. Multiple novels, far more profound than anything you could write. Stories that make you weep, and make you tired, but elevate you into a state that you could never have expected. That make you proud and elated, and make you feel so so loved.
We write despite. And we write for. We write in the moments that we get. That we took for ourselves, even though it’s so hard, the moments so few. We write because stories need to be told, and those stories come from us, sometimes in ways that we don’t even understand. I don’t write about my children. But I take inspiration from them, and that inspiration is endless, a wellspring of enthusiasm and joy and heartache that fuels me no matter how tired I am, how lacking in time. My kids make me want to fight for a better world – a thought that makes me grit my teeth, to fight through what ails me, and to dream my hardest.