My Little Complication

  The reason I can't pee on my own. 

 The reason I can't pee on my own. 

I was never more productive as a writer than the year we moved to Ohio. My husband was in grad-school, the economy was so depressed that jobs were near impossible to find. I had no children and a plethora of time. I would write for eight or ten hours a day. Kailen would come home to me scribbling madly and no supper to be found. On the days I didn't write I could usually be found laying on the futon staring at the wall. On a good day I would cry. On a bad day I wished I could quietly pop out of existence. I was the embodiment of the tortured artist, pinging from wild creativity to mind-numbing depression.

After a solid eleven months of awfulness, we moved to Wisconsin. Closer proximity to my family lifted my spirits, and I was able to sort out the cause of my depression: seriously messed up hormones combined with homesickness. I stopped taking brith control and started using FAM (yes, it works). I focused on eating well, and stopped consuming dairy when I discovered I was allergic to it. I started taking copious amounts of vitamin D.

I was lucky. My depression had a definite, easy-to-solve cause. I wasn't dealing with a hard-to-pin down illness. I have never experienced anything which might cause me lasting mental anguish. Other than our usual artistic poverty, in our new Wisconsin home I was under very little stress.

As my depression cleared, my productivity as a writer slowed. I was interested in other things. I had a job. My husband was still in grad school but his schedule was comparatively free, and we were eager to spend time together. I had friends. Writing was no longer the only place where I was relieved of the heaviness of existence. My writing output slowed, but the quality increased. I ended up cutting most of the writing I had done. It was as moody and dark as the time in my life it came from. I was no longer writing to escape, and I was able to focus on plot structure and figure out where my story was going.

Then we had a child. Thaddeus, or as we call him, Tad. Happily I didn't experience postpartum depression, though I found the onset of feral protective instincts disconcerting. I was also occasionally subject to sleep deprivation-induced hysteria. Tad was (and still is) a terrible sleeper. My writing output became a trickle. Even so, I finished my novel (mostly) and discovered I could edit one-handed while breastfeeding or jiggling my little fuss-nugget.

I'm of the usual artistic temperament when it comes to organization: What organization? Before baby, writing fit into my life easily. I often had free time that coincided with a desire to write. After baby, on the rare occasion free time presented itself, I was usually too tired to form a coherent sentence.

I don't think I would have developed organization or discipline in my writing if it weren't for the fact that I can't really function without it. Writing exercises some demon which runs in circles in my head scrambling my thoughts and unsettling my soul. If I could stay sane without writing it would undoubtably have gone by the wayside, replaced by hobbies that were easier to do while watching a child.

I needed my writing and the only way I was going to get to write was to make time for it, and to write during that time whether I was feeling it or not. I found my time-management mojo. (Guys, it is not much of a mojo. Motherhood does not play to my strengths.) Tad grew up enough to be able to play on his own. His sleep habits got marginally less torturous. I stuff writing into the cracks and corners of my life. It's not much, but it will do for now.

From the prospective of artistic productivity, if I were serious about writing I shouldn't have had a child. It's not like I didn't know kid-having would take away my time. I have many artistic friends and acquaintances who wouldn't ever consider having a child for just that reason. Or they're putting it off until they've established themselves in their field. Some of that is because women have a hard time in any field after they've had children. The onus of childcare inevitably falls on them. A great deal of it is the script of the artistic life. We are constantly told that in order to be successful, in order to be "real" artists we must make the rest of our lives a slave to it's demands.

It's true, Tad complicates things. Showering is impossible unless I have someone else to watch him. Having time for farther down the list than showering. And eating. And sleeping. And having a marginally clean house. And spending time alone with Kailen. I spend most of my life trying to get through all those more important things so I can write.

I write less. But, I write with more insight now. I have a slew of feelings and experiences I could never have begun to understand before. Those feelings connect with the feelings and experiences of most of humanity through the ages. My scope is larger, my priorities are clearer. I have more focus, more idea of where the heart of things lies. My writing is richer because of our little complication and better for the discipline I've developed.

If anyone suggested that they were going to have a child in order to make themselves a better artist I would tell them they were nuts. Because that would be nuts. Children should be had because children are good, if not always pleasant, fun, or easy. However, people, and especially artists refuse to have children because they believe having children would hurt their career. Whether or not this is true, it's immaterial.

Children should be not-had for much better reasons. Infertility. Realizing you'd make terrible parents. Because you aren't emotionally mature enough yet. Because you really deeply do not like kids. Things like that. My point isn't that more artists should have kids, my point is that artists are encouraged to make all the decisions in their life based on their artistic career. Letting your artistic career determine your life is like letting a three year old pick out your clothes.

It's supposed to be the other way around.