Last week I discussed how having a kid sort of disrupted my writing cycle, and this week I’m going to continue in a similar vein: how getting pregnant forced me to grow up a bit, and how growing up informed my writing.
Before my son was born, I sort of did this party thing. There was a lot of drinking and poor life choices and loud music and it was all a blast. I even, sometimes, miss it. But given the narrow focus of my hobbies (video games, alcohol, and sex), my writing sort of reflected my immaturity. I wrote a lot of what I thought was some really deep, vaguely self-righteous, adult stuff about relationships and life that’s shallow in retrospect. It’s no wonder it never went anywhere.
I’m not saying that kids don’t occasionally bust out wisdom and fantastic stories, but I, at least, was not one of them.
For us, having a kid wasn’t just something that had to be done, like adding a second job — it’s this whole encompassing lifestyle change. It’s not always pleasant or fun; for a while having a newborn and being obsessed alienated us from friends who were graduating from college the same year. Sometimes, depressed and broke and exhausted, I wondered if not finding our son a better, more stable home was a mistake.
And I don’t mean to act like having a three-year-old has made me the epitome of maturity — I’m 26 and I have half a pan of jello shots in my freezer. Or that my life has been terribly hard. On the scale of hard lives, I’m poor but otherwise rather blessed. I am not fully mature (who is?), but I have added a few points to my maturity score a bit faster than I may have otherwise. A lot of that came from dealing with things that suck: stamping down pride and applying for aid because there was a kid involved, or selling off everything we could to get grocery money.
So, that all sounds terrible, but it’s not, really, all as bad as I make it sound. The terrible jumps out. As a writer, the terrible adds drama and flair and honesty to a character.
The good things are more brilliant. While I tried to generally think of other people’s feelings, being a mother has forced me into a role where I am always considering someone else’s feelings (sometimes to a fault). Having a kid changed how I viewed relationships, family, and love. Having a kid meant there was less money for drinking, and more time for hobbies. I realized my half-explored interest in computers was something I was actually passionate about — that culminating in the first time I wrote sci-fi, which lead to, “Hey, I really like sci-fi. Who knew?” Not I.
There’s also such a bigger premium on time when you have to devote a certain amount of it to raising small people into becoming socially responsible big people — and despite this, I’ve written more in the last few years than I did in the three before I got pregnant. I’ve also cultivated friendships with more care, and really connected with more people. (And drank too much with them, yes. I often wonder but for the grace of circumstances, if I might have been a spectacularly depressing alcoholic in another future.) I’ve also taken time to notice the way people utterly hate and hurt each other; the way people fall apart not with a bang, but with slowly growing apathy and distance.
And that’s the thing. Being a parent, for me, meant that I wasn’t just waking up and working for my money and goofing off, but really more paying attention to the nuance of the world around me. The way the world and people connect, the way the good and bad balance out. Is my writing still sometimes shallow and weak? Absolutely. But compared to how freshly-minted adult Ashley saw the world, it’s practically philosophical.