Finding White Space With Children

Day two of this blogging every day thing. It’s Wednesday, which this term means no kindy, and this week, no swimming. So Moo and I went to the movies – Ballerina, which is a cute animated film about a girl who wants to become a student at an elite school in Paris. Moo seemed to like it, and I, ahem, got a little emotional at the end. (Damn you, emotionally-manipulative child’s movie!)

I’m such a softie, seriously I cry at the drop of a hat at movies. It’s fine when you’re watching something by yourself, but when you’re with another person you have to surrpetitiously go for the eye wipe, and then hope you’re not looking too disheveled by the time they look over at you. Even worse is when you’re at the movies, and you have to walk out of the darkened cinema into the bright lights of the foyer, with people all queueing to get into the next screening. And you with your wet eyes coming out of Ice Age 5. Cringe.

Because there’s no kindy, there’s also no writing during the day for me. I wish I was one of those “writing while I do dishes” sort of people, but the only time I really do find myself writing away from the desk is when I’m taking a shower, or going for a walk. All the other stuff is too prone to little interruptions, distractions, and also my brain just wanders off to that funny little white room when I go into autopilot on things.

Even so, I’m fascinated by stories of people who manage to write (and enjoy a writing career) with rugrats around. But, you know, with the gory details. It’s pretty rare that people talk much about shoving the kid in front of the TV (though I did read somewhere an acknowledgement where a specific TV show was thanked by an author, though for the life of me I can’t remember who, or what). Others write with fondness about children sitting at a desk beside the parent at their own child-size setups – but seriously, how long can you expect a child to sit there and focus and let you write? Ten minutes? It’s not exactly the foundation for a writing career.

I’m not complaining – seriously, I signed up for this stay-at-home gig – but note there’s a real lack of warts-and-all talk about keeping it all going. I think many people just either work early mornings or late nights, or have a supportive spouse who can take the kids while the artiste is allowed the luxury of a room with the door closed. Or, they just struggle. Forget about an empty room, with just silence (or soft classical music) and your own thoughts. No, expect to try and write your magnum opus with the strains of Doc McStuffins blaring in the background.

It all depends on outlook, I guess. Look at Andy Warhol. He could only create when he had the radio and the TV on at the same time. Plus he had a house full of cats and didn’t he have his mother also living on one floor? He thrived on the chaos, could somehow find that white space when the noise drove out all other surface thoughts.

I guess that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it – what you can do to get yourself into that mindset, as quickly as possible. Rituals would help. Sit down, put on headphones, listen to something that helps you tune out. Or crank up the cartoons, open the doors and let the sounds of the neighbourhood pour in.

Roger Zelazny spoke about writing during the day in snippets – three or four or five times a day. Keep a notepad lying around and when you get the chance to scribble, jump on it. Of course you might find your notepad being used for someone else’s latest artwork, but you never know, you could find inspiration there too.

Just one other note – despite the desire (and need) to create in a private space, it’s also important for kids to see you actually writing and reading. Both on the computer and on paper. Last year I went to a Literacy for Preschoolers class, and one of the main things that can help to get kids interested in doing these things is when they see you do it. So maybe there’s something to the whole “crank up the toons and do it” approach.

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