Writer, with Kids: Levi Weinhagen

Levi Weinhagen, author of dozens of stage productions over the past 15 years
Age of kid: 7

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

Before I became a parent I didn’t have a writing schedule. I had jobs and projects that had deadlines and then I had my own passion projects with no clear funding behind or even in front of them. I would do the most urgent work first except when I didn’t feel like it and then I would procrastinate and sometimes work on the project I was just the most interested. I would also go on long runs or go to movies during my “writing time.”

I became a freelance writer when my daughter was born thinking I could be a full-time stay at home dad and a productive/successful freelance writer. That was a stupid idea.

Once I became a parent I quickly realized my choices were I could either never get anything done or I could know when I had writing time and actually make sure I was productive during that time. I now have a full time day job that is very creative but is also very consuming of my energy. My writing time is primarily between 9pm and 1am. My best writing time would be 10am until 2pm. However, since becoming a dad I’ve become considerably more productive and successful as a creative writer. I think that’s because I lost waste-able time so I stopped wasting so much time. I often wonder how I got so little done before my daughter showed up.

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

Sometimes I don’t. In reality, I try to stay focused on whatever I’m doing when I’m doing it but I also do plenty of processing whatever I’m working on with my wife and, when appropriate, with my daughter. They are generally always aware of what I’m working on and occasionally they aren’t tired of me talking about an idea that I’m trying to solve or have just solved for some character or some story point or some joke I’m trying to make work.

Luckily, I met my wife writing comedy so that has become the language of our house. This means our daughter is pretty acclimated to dinner table conversations about the best word to use for a joke or the funniest way to stage a scene.

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

Parenthood has changed my work in quite visible ways. Before becoming a dad I was writing very adult sketch comedy and the occasional short fiction piece. I now write for and run an all-ages theater company. My daughter was three when it popped into my head that she wouldn’t get to see any of the work that meant so much to me. So I got together with another dad who had been dealing with the same realization and we wrote something our kids could watch but that adults would still enjoy. It was my best creative work up to that point in pretty much all ways: collaboration, audience engagement, profitability, critical reception, creative fulfillment.

I now write mostly for all-ages audiences while still finding bits of time to do work more like I did prior to fatherhood. I also launched a podcast, Pratfalls of Parenting, that features conversations with people who do creative work who are also parents. The podcast has become a significant exploration of parenthood and creativity for me while also being another approach to making something.

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

I think most of the challenges, for me, come from the time demands. There are times when I feel guilty about spending so much of my time working on a project when I could be hanging out with my lovely little miss and there are times when I’m watching her play at the park and I wish I could be working. Possibly most significantly, I never get enough sleep because rather than spending less time working on financially motivated work, or working on purely creativity driven work, or on time with the kid, I just cut short the amount of time I spend sleeping each day. Which probably does a disservice to all of those other things.

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

My core piece of advice for parents or potential parents who do any creative work is that they shouldn’t take advice. Unless they want to. Helpful, right? My other piece of advice would be that there is no right way to be a writer and parent. We are all doing it wrong. So just find the wrong way that works best for you and do that.

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Writer, With Kids