If you’ve been struggling to find time to be creative, and have also been following my website, you’ll know that I’ve written a series of blog posts full of advice from my creative friends. This week I’m thrilled to share with you a few insights from the incredibly prolific award winning author Aliette de Bodard.
Aliette de Bodard writes science fiction and fantasy: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award.
In addition to her impressive bibliography, Aliette also works full time as a System Engineer, is a wife and mother of two children under five and is a fantastic cook!
Currently it’s a bit of an atypical day, as I’m on maternity leave and writing/childcaring full time. I get up, run the eldest to school, and then get about 2-3 hours for my own appointments, cooking lunch, and writing in whatever cracks are left? Then, shortly before lunch I pick up eldest from school, get him to eat lunch and settle in for his nap. In the meantime I deal with the youngest who’s still a baby, which means feedings at odd times (generally not the most convenient ones). And in the afternoon I play with both kids before dinnertime comes around. By the time my husband comes home I’m generally headed for total collapse and netflix videos!
My biggest challenge at the moment is not finding enough time to write–I genuinely have very little of it that’s not taken up. I’m trying to write in the morning before the day has completely exhausted me, and also on weekends when my husband is around and can take on some of the burden of childcaring for me. I usually get a good chunk in on Sunday morning when he and the eldest are at the market shopping for food.
3. Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I used to, but for some reason Freedom won’t start up on my laptop anymore, and I haven’t found anything that really satisfies me? I haven’t found it really effective–I tend to research things on the internet for details and cutting it off wholesale didn’t work out for me. I know there’s finer tools out there but I haven’t really convinced myself to try any of them. And the internet and social media are contributing to keeping me functional at the moment (because getting out of the house isn’t always easy), so I have to admit I’m not that motivated to cut off the internet, even to write!
4. How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I’ve become very good at writing in snatches of free time, though I still need large chunks for first drafts–for everything else I do checklists and run through them and it’s actually worked surprisingly well, better than binge writing. I basically went through two rounds of edits on my novel while being the primary caretaker for my eldest (though I admit naps are very useful in that respect and I don’t know how I’ll cope when they don’t happen anymore!).
5. What tip(s) would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
I think the hardest thing is to pace yourself–when becoming a parent I still expected to write on the same rhythm and production schedule as before, and of course that wasn’t going to happen! I know I find it very hard to forgive myself when I’ve not written because someone is sick, or because stuff happened that required extra laundry or cleaning the house or something–and a big part of this, for me, has been accepting that I can still write, but that it’s totally ok not to write or to write more slowly if that’s how it works for me.
6. Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I’ve found the two best ways to deal with plot problems that have me stuck are going for a walk, and drawing a mind map on paper (it has to be on paper for some weird reason, it doesn’t work when it’s on a computer, though I do love Scapple as a piece of software).
7. Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Not that I can think of? I think the most helpful was finding parents in similar circumstances, either young parents or people who remembered what it had been like to be parents–it’s very helpful to be able to chat and share, and also to set aside time to write together.
8. Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I would love to involve my children in my writing, but right now they’re a bit young! I have no doubt that as they grow up they’ll feel free to give me their opinions of my plots and characters, though I’m not sure how much of it will make it into the final book…
9. What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Green tea. I buy sencha from the local Japanese shop, and it’s basically my one treat of the day (well, my six treats of the day as I consume rather a lot of it).
10. Final words of wisdom?
I think there’s this great pressure when you’re a parent (and especially a mother) to dedicate yourself to your child, and to feel terrible guilt when you fail to? And if you want to do it that’s totally fine, but if you don’t it can become stifling very quickly. I know that for me I needed to strike a balance between time for others and time for myself, and I had to teach myself not to feel guilty about taking time to write.