Monday, 12 January 2009

While You Were Scribbling...

Anyone who has tried to fit writing around full-time parenting of pre-schoolers will know that feeling of craving 'just five more minutes' to finish a sentence, or to seal the deal on a new plot twist you've been mind-coddling while grilling the fish fingers. It's all very well to suggest that writing comes post-bedtime, but after a full-on day of tidying up tiny bits of Lego, changing nappies, making nutritious meals for fuss-pots, explaining Evolution in terms a four-year-old can grasp, shouting "Don't do that to your brother!" thirty-three times...etcetera, it's not uncommon to find that The Muse has put on its pyjamas and turned in as well. Sometimes a quick run or an even quicker glass of wine will shake it awake, but often your dear Muse is comatose, knocked out by the (sometimes mundane, let's face it) events of the day.

Now that my children are aged 2 and 4, I find I can squeeze in odd bits of work while they play. I don't normally attempt actual novel-writing, but jotting down ideas or doing a bit of research are not impossible these days - you just have to be prepared to stop at a moment's notice to catch one dangling off the banister, or sweep up the glitter, or wipe a bum (or a bizarre and dangerous combination of all three). The children range from being incredibly patient, to trying to lie on my arms so I can't do anything or getting close up and saying "Have you finished yet?" every five seconds. Being so young, they of course win hands-down when it comes to time for them versus time for the novel, but occasionally I go into Faraway Author Zone and they could be hanging off my hair and I wouldn't notice.

This happened the other day. My editor had emailed to urge me to write my dedication and acknowledgments, as they're about to proof the book. I went into traditional panic-mode, and googled 'bestest ever dedication' and the like to make sure I wasn't about to commit some huge blunder (there are some good stories about married authors changing dedications post-divorce, for example, as well as various places telling you not to gush like Gwyneth, or conversely not to leave anyone important out and thank everyone from your agent to your goldfish). I sweated over it all morning. It was too mushy, or too normal, or too left-field; I didn't know whether to write it as if it were my first and last book, or to let myself feel a little more optimistic. The house could have burned down around me and I'd have still been sitting at the kitchen table (or not, as it's made of wood) umm'ing and ahh'ing.

And then from the playroom I heard the delicious sound of my daughter telling my son to hold still so she could put the final hairclip in, and his acquiescent, serious 'Ok, Mallin' (his version of Madeleine). Well, there was my answer, keeping themselves busy in the wendy house all that time. So it will read "To Madeleine and Jonah, who are much better at waiting than I am."

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12 comments:

Emmanuella Dekonor said...

What a delicious writing moment

Nik's Blog said...

That's one lovely dedication.

Nik

Claire said...

Love it!
Also totally relate to the 4 year old lying on your arms to stop you writing!

Sapph said...

Cool. That has inspired me. When I have pre-school children, I shall copy your dedication, but I shall change the 'a' in 'waiting' to an 'r'.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Oh, Emily, that brought a lump to my throat!

Emily Gale said...

Thanks for stopping by, folks. I should add that I did make up for ignoring them with more than a measly dedication :)

CarolineG said...

Oh what a brill post, Emily. That's right lovely, that is.

Lucy Diamond said...

Awwww.... That's a perfect dedication. And I know exactly where you're coming from on the trying to write/being Mum juggling act.
Hope your son looked good after the hair-clipping... I remember my eldest daughter prettying up my son when they were similiar ages. He came clip-clopping down the stairs wearing a pink skirt and fluffy mules with sparkly clips wedged into his (very short) hair. "Ooh, look at Tom," I said, trying not to laugh.
"I not Tom now. I Mabel," he replied.
The poor boy's never going to live that one down!

Emily Gale said...

Thanks, C!

Lucy D - my brother, now a strapping 6ft landscape gardener, still has to put up with stories about how I used to dress him up and make him call himself "Olivia".

Anonymous said...

Great dedication:)

Sam x

Emily Gale said...

Thanks, Sam!

Sasch said...

Love it - utterly perfect xx