Here in Brooklyn, which vies with Portland, Oregon as the capital of Do It Yourself-dom, this seems especially relevant. I know people who construct furniture in their living rooms on the weekends, who work themselves to the bone for half the year and then globe trot the other half, who spend late nights tending bars so that they can spend their afternoons writing novels. Some Brooklynites are passionate about brunch, others about pre-prohibition era cocktails. (No joke.) Via a not-safe-for work article on BKLYNR (which I’ll leave you to look up on your own) I’ve become aware of an amateur adult movie industry — hot hipsters who come home from their day jobs to make dirty movies and write erotica. It is difficult to imagine doing a lot of these things with a baby or toddler on the scene, or film set, as the case may be.
Humans have the tendency to see the world in extremes – be a parent, or pursue a passion? This dichotomy comes up in Orange Is the New Black, which, like many, I’ve been obsessively watching. In one of the later episodes, Alex Vause, former globe-trotter and exporter for an international drug cartel, asks protagonist Piper Chapman what she wants out of life. Would she rather do ecstasy on a beach in Cambodia with drag queens, or stay home and remodel the bathroom with her husband? Well, neither sound that appealing to me, and yet each hold some appeal. Can’t she do a bit of both?
So it’s with great interest that I read Cari Luna‘s excellent blog Writer, with Kids. Luna is a novelist— her debut, The Revolution of Every Day comes out this October from Tin House Books— and a mother of two in, aptly enough, Portland. Her blog captures advice from writers at all different stages of their careers discussing their creative and parenting life, and focuses on how a person can do both with satisfaction. (Because yes, happily, one can do both. It’s just not easy.)
Over email, Luna told me that the blog was born out of frustration. “I was struggling with finding the balance between parenting and writing and wanted to talk to other writers in the same boat, to find out how they were handling it. I thought it could be useful to other parents as well, and decided to make it a public conversation.”
You can glean advice from a wide variety of writers, including Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jane Smiley, who discusses how parenting can provide a welcome distraction from creative obsessions, and vice versa. You’ll find concrete examples of when writers who are parents do their work, both the actual writing and the thinking, planning, and daydreaming that writing involves, while still managing to be engaged in their family lives. It’s inspiring, I think, hearing how other people stay passionate and productive while raising kids, and helps me feel less alone knowing that most artists (if not most people period) struggle with the same challenges I face — how to find a balance between creative time and family time.
I’m happy to be featured on Writer, with Kids, with an essay about how my journey to writing and fatherhood are synchronous. As my piece explains, I don’t know if I would be a writer if I hadn’t also had the courage to move past my fears about fatherhood and become a parent. Sometimes, a child can be the impetus a person needs to dig deeper, to actualize a transformation and fully realize their non-parenting dreams. I’ve touched on this before, writing about how writing can help you be a better parent.
Taken together, I hope that the two essays present a picture of how one can be both a parent and a passionate artist, if the situation is right and if one allows for some give and take between the two. I always imagined these identities were exclusive, and at odds with one another, but I now find them intricately connected.