Author Hazel Gaynor on Writing, Kids and Deadlines!
At Villa Pia we’re known not only for our exceptional family friendly service, but also for our Italian writing holidays through Ways with Words, attracting dozens of aspiring and published novelists each year.
Today on the blog we’re delighted to host author and freelance writer Hazel Gaynor whose debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic is an Irish Times, USA Today and New York Times bestseller. Her second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in February 2015 in the USA and March 2015 in the UK and Ireland.
Hazel wrote the popular parenting blog Hot Cross Mum and lives in County Kildare, Ireland with her husband and two children. Here she writes about the joys and perils of balancing a creative life with raising young kids.
Writing and children and deadlines – oh my!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that balancing the job of writing with the job of parenting is a challenge. As I sit in my ‘office’ (aka, the attic) surrounded by mountains of Lego and small green soldiers hiding in the imaginary trenches of the carpet, I cannot help but think how Jane Austen never had to write in such difficult conditions.
Is it any wonder that I struggle to craft a masterpiece like Pride and Prejudice when I’m being held captive by two pirates and a Hobbit right in the middle of chapter ten? And I suspect Emily Bronte never had to prise apart stubborn plastic bricks while she was developing a key scene between Cathy and Heathcliff.
But this is my normal. I am a mother who writes, and the reality of my dual roles means that, quite often, a moment of sublime creation will be interrupted by play dates and scraped knees and complaints about the lack of ice lollies in the freezer. It is just how it is.
While I might listen with envy as I hear John Boyne talk about the time he travelled to St. Petersburg to stay in the Winter Palace for a month while he write his novel set in that location, the fact of the matter is that I am not him. I am not in his writing space and cannot avail of such writing indulgence. I do not have set writing hours of 9-5. I do not have a sweeping ocean view upon which to ponder and muse.
I have a messy desk, cluttered with mugs of unfinished coffee and a collection of loom bands. I have the neighbour’s house alarm and a cat who cannot decide whether to stay in or go out. While I might yearn for the life of a lady novelist with her children raised and her writing days soaring gloriously ahead of her towards gin o’clock, I know that this is not mine for the taking. Not yet. And that’s OK.
When people find out I’m a writer, they often ask how I find time to write with young children. When I was starting out a few years ago I often wondered myself. But as the years pass, I find myself gradually gaining a little more time so that now, with the boys in school, I have a blissful six hours of uninterrupted writing time each day. SIX HOURS! This is fabulous. I can get a lot done in six hours (if I stop faffing about on Twitter and Facebook and actually write, that is).
But although my writing time is relatively plentiful now, I’m conscious that it is still limited. So I make those writing hours work. They are sacrosanct and will not be given up lightly. I focus. I concentrate. I skip coffee with friends. I make those hours work to the best of my ability. And when the boys come home, I switch roles and become mummy once again.
Sometimes I have a day of terrible writing and great parenting and sometimes it is the other way around. Sometimes, I am dreadful at everything I am supposed to be doing, but that’s OK too. We are not perfect. Sometimes we fail. And just like parenting, writing isn’t something you can stop and start. Once you’re in, it is with you all the time. While I’m writing, I’m still a mum, worrying and planning and organizing. While I’m with my children, part of me is still in my manuscript, nurturing my characters.
In the end, what matters most is that we somehow make it work. I get my books written. The children are loved and well-fed. I’m there to help with homework and to patch up sore knees and give cuddles, and I’m more fulfilled and happier with my place in life than at any other stage.
While the children are too young to fully understand why it takes mummy so long to write a book (“are you still writing that one?”), and while I often feel guilty about not giving them my undivided attention 100% of the time, when I get a little picture on my desk wishing me good luck, or when my son runs to show me that the book he is reading is published by my publisher, I sense a glimmer of understanding that I truly love what I do – as a mother and as a writer. Above all else, I hope that is what my children see when I emerge from the attic to burn their dinner and that perhaps, when they are older, they will be inspired to chase their own dreams too.
To book your own writing holiday in Italy for an individual or a group, or to find out about other retreat-style holidays we offer, please visit our Retreats page.