Writer, with Kids: Amanda Miska

Amanda Miska, author of short stories and flash fiction in (or forthcoming from) Whiskey Paper, jmww, CHEAP POP, Buffalo Almanack, The Collapsar, Storychord, Five Quarterly, Cactus Heart, Cartridge Lit, Counterexample Poetics, Pea River Journal and elsewhere.

Age of kids: 4.5 years, 1 year

What was your writing schedule (ideal and actual) like before kids, and how has that changed?

Back in the day: write whenever I’m passionately inspired (or, in the MFA days, churn something out whenever I had a story due for workshop).

Currently: whenever I’m passionately inspired, I frantically input Notes onto iPhone, and I try to give myself deadlines so that I actually complete them. I used to have a goal to complete/submit one piece a month. Sometimes I do more and sometimes I absolutely can’t. I try to give myself grace–but not too much. Because then I’ll get lazy.

How do you remain present for your family even when you’re sunk deep into a current project?

I am terrible at this…but I’ve always been terrible at remaining present. I am a daydreamer, a past-dweller, a forward-thinker, but especially during the mundane day-to-day, I have trouble staying in the moment. I’m getting better at it after having my daughters because I know how fleeting everything is, how important it is to savor their smallness right now. My husband can tell when I’m really out of it and will basically kick me out of the house or banish me to my studio to work. Sidenote: I couldn’t do any of this without a supportive, understanding partner who truly shares the parenting duties.

How has parenthood changed the work itself, if at all?

I am more motivated–I actually didn’t publish my first story until I was six months pregnant with my second child! It was important to me that I keep creating and putting myself out there, not let motherhood become my only identity (even if it’s my primary one). I knew if I didn’t start scheduling time and making things happen, I might never find the time/energy.

Before having kids, I’m not sure I ever wrote any characters who were parents. I have written a few parent-characters since having the girls because I know what a transformative experience it is. I don’t think I could have written a believable parent until I actually lived it.

I also write a lot more flash because I can complete a draft in the span of a naptime.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a working artist and a parent?

Finances, especially living in a city-suburb where things like daycare and housing are cost-prohibitive. Paying work has to come first, even if it’s not the work I want to be doing, even if there’s a story stirring away inside of me. I’ve been lucky to be able to work from home and have a lot of creative projects and flexibility. Before kids, I used to work in offices or doing editing that would leave me completely drained–I can’t imagine doing that and also parenting and then expecting myself to write. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been able to cobble together, even if it’s a struggle/hustle most days.

Do you have any advice to other writers with kids or who plan to have them?

Your art is self-care. Self-care is an essential part of good parenting. It’s easy to lose yourself in parenthood–and for brief periods of time, especially in the newborn phase, that’s totally okay. But don’t forget that you existed as a person and artist before your kids came along and that working hard to do what you love is also a great example for them.

Also: don’t feel guilty. Do what you need to get by. Don’t compare. Your life/family/story is unique, so it will have its own unique journey finding its way out into the world.

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Writer, With Kids