Writer, with Fetus: Courtney Elizabeth Mauk

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Courtney Elizabeth Mauk, author of Orion’s Daughters and Spark

What is your writing schedule like now, and how do you anticipate it will change when the baby is born?

For years I’ve been very fortunate, teaching part-time with a lot of schedule flexibility and opportunity to write, especially in the summers. Usually I’ll wake up, read for a while, then write or revise for an hour or so. I’ll go to yoga or the gym, get my errands done, have lunch, and then write and/or do class work for three or four hours in the afternoon, either at home or at the library. I’m fairly disciplined and thrive under routine, which has made me productive over the last several years.

Once my son is born, I know routine is going to go out the window. I’m not expecting to get any writing done for a while–maybe I’ll squeeze in a bit here and there, but I’m giving myself permission to put other things (like sleep) first. Then it’s going to be about compressed time, writing while the baby naps, etc. I’m curious to see how the unpredictability and lack of routine impact my work, and me.

Have you and your partner talked about making sure you each get time for your work/creative pursuits after the baby is born? What’s the plan?

My husband, Eric, has a demanding career, and as the work-at-home parent, most of the childcare responsibility will fall to me. We’ve know this and planned for it all along. I think the trickiest part will be demanding and protecting my own creative time and space. We live in a Manhattan apartment; my “office” is a corner of the living room. Even now, I can easily let household responsibilities distract me from my work (there’s always laundry to do, groceries to buy, floors to clean, and all so pressing when the writing isn’t going well).

Eric’s schedule is fairly flexible, at least for his industry, so right now our plan is for me to do most of the night baby-duty, then hand the baby off to him for a couple hours in the morning, so I can get work done/take care of myself–whichever seems more pressing. Once our son is past the newborn phase, I’m hoping to hire a babysitter for a few hours a week, so I can get out of the apartment and focus on being a writer.

Has your writing been affected by impending parenthood? How about your reading preferences?

I’ve always been interested in family dynamics and the pregnancy has made me even more so. This summer I’ve been working on the first draft of a novel that I thought would begin at a different place, but when I sat down to write, what captured me most was the family drama that I’d planned as just a brief intro. One hundred pages later, it’s a main part of the story. As for my reading, I’m picking up a lot of novels that center on family, particularly the experience of mothers. And I’m doing my prep, reading books on birth and child development.

I feel pressure to take advantage of my time and write and read as much as possible now. I want to have a big chunk of this novel draft done so that when I return after having the baby, my sleep-deprived mind will have material to work with, as opposed to having to start from scratch. And who knows how much reading time I’ll get? I realize I’ve taken so much for granted.

Do you look at your published work differently now, knowing your child will read it one day?

I don’t really look at the work differently, but I have wondered when my child will become interested in reading it and at what age it would be appropriate for him to do so. I hope he wants to read my books at some point; I’d love to share that part of myself with him, but I also don’t want him to get weirded out by the darker aspects. I have some doubts that he’ll have a real interest before he’s an adult (what kid actually thinks–or wants to think–about his mom as a separate human being?), so I figure it’ll be okay.

Are you terrified? Admit it. You’re terrified. It’s okay to be terrified. What scares you most about this whole baby-on-the-way thing?

Being entirely responsible for the health and happiness of a little human. We’ve been doing our best to “educate” ourselves, but you can’t really prepare for what having a child will be like. I know Eric and I will make mistakes, even with the best intentions, but I hope we can be forgiving of ourselves and that ultimately our choices will lead to a happy kid and well-adjusted adult.

Also, technology. Eric and I have had a lot of discussions about cell phone and computer use. Who knows what the landscape will look like 5, 10, 15 years from now? It’s a social aspect we didn’t have to deal with until our late teens but which will surround our child from the get-go. When do you let your kids enter the technological sphere? When is it safe? (Is it ever really safe? Which leads to the bigger, most-terrifying question: How do you protect your child from heartache and pain? How do you accept that you can’t protect him?)

You can ask one question of those writers with kids who’ve gone before you. What do you want to know?

What have you done to make and protect your creative space?

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Writer, With Kids