Posted by: oneyearbook | June 18, 2009

The Writing Life: “Don’t join Facebook”


Helen, a writer and mother who lives in Australia, has kindly agreed to be one of my first targets for The Writing Life, the interview series looking at the intersection between life and art. She tells me that she’s always wanted to write but began to take it seriously when she went off to university; she now holds a Masters of Arts in writing and literature, which she did part-time while working, a feat of time management which bodes well for her ability to balance life and writing. She writes in the romance and fantasy fields; she describes her long-term goal as “To be able to stay home and do it as a job, even if I only earn a token amount.”

You can follow Helen’s efforts at her blog, Bright Purple Polka Dots.

OYOB: So, writing and children. What’s been the biggest challenge of combining the two thus far?

H: Time! My baby is now seven months old and I’ve finally on top of things enough with him to grab a few hours regularly for writing (it has to be when he’s asleep). Sleep deprivation is also another problem – it’s hard to feel motivated to do anything remotely like thinking when you’ve been functioning on five hours sleep a night for a week straight.

OYOB: Have you found, since you had kids, that your writing habits have changed? In what way?

H: I can no longer sit up until after midnight following my muse because I won’t be able to catch that sleep up in the morning. Children are brutal and unforgiving when it comes to sleep time. Also it’s a slower process because I can’t get back to my story as often as I’d like and so have to spend a bit of the time I do have re-reading and getting back into the flow again.

OYOB: What does your child think about your writing?

H: He doesn’t take kindly to attention being focused on anything other than him, so I’d say his feelings about my writing are fairly negative…

OYOB: What would you say is the best thing about your current writing lifestyle?

H: Since I’m not working anymore I don’t have serious work stuff I have to think about instead of my story, so unlike when I was at work, I can spend those times when I’m not writing at least thinking about my story.

OYOB: Time management is the bane of many creative types. What tips do you have from your own experience on how to fit creative time into the rest of your life?

H: Don’t join Facebook. Seriously though, try to limit faffing around on the computer to set time periods otherwise, if you’re like me, you’ll suddenly find that forty minutes you had to write was spent updating your status. I can only write when my baby’s asleep, so I try to get all the other chores I have to do done while he’s awake so I can focus on writing during those precious downtimes. The best advice I read was to prioritise your art – make the time to write, even if it’s fifteen minutes, try to write something at least once a day to keep the story fresh in your mind.

OYOB: In an ideal world, what would your ‘writing situation’ look like (i.e. a shack at the beach, an office downtown with a secretary …)?

H: Ooh a beach shack sounds nice…something I’d see in those American movies, lots of bleached driftwood and sand blowing across the dunes… What I’d really like though is to be in a cottage in the country on a sunny verandah looking out at trees and mountains.

OYOB: What if there was just one thing you could change about your current lifestyle, in order to facilitate your writing – what would it be?

H: Ha, hire a nanny. Seriously though, having someone to mind my baby for two hours a day would be bliss. As much as I love writing, the most important thing for me is being the one to watch my baby grow, so I wouldn’t want to put him in care all day, but a couple of hours in house a few times a week would be ideal. Getting him to sleep 7 to 7 would work too. More realistically I’ve got to cut out my online time-wasting.

Thanks, Helen!



  1. Thanks for the interview! 🙂 Looking forward to reading the rest of your The Writing Life series.

  2. […] 20 June, 2009 by hellyamber The lovely Cat at One Year One Book has started a project to interview writers – both published and unpublished – about their writing process and she’s interviewed yours truly as an example of a SAHM who’s trying to write. How exciting! Check it out. […]

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