Writer, with Kids: Nathan Deuel

nathan deuel

Nathan Deuel, author of: Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East

Age of kid: Loretta, 5

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

I wasn’t much of a writer before I had a kid, honestly. Sure, I wrote a few things here and there. But mostly, I was a turbo Manhattan media professional, self-obsessed and self-destructive, so one night I quit my job — at Rolling Stone — packed a bag, and started walking. Five months later, I’d made it from New York City all the way to New Orleans. Miraculously, my marriage survived, and with the two of us reunited, we ate good food and drank too much and listened to loud music and thought we might stay in Louisiana forever. Under a slow-moving fan one day, however, Kelly told me she wanted to move to Riyadh — about as far away from New Orleans as you could get. So in 2008, we found ourselves in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was a profoundly unfamiliar place. Needing to make a living, I really started writing, mostly journalism and essays. Our daughter was born in June 2009 and, for me, the life of the writer and the life of a parent have pretty much always been intertwined.

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

It’s enormously difficult to be a decent husband, father, friend, and son when big writing is wanting to be done. I suppose most people who know me (and people like me) have more or less become accustomed to the fact that being near us is to be near a cranky bear who needs to hibernate. I wish it were different, but I can’t avoid needing vast swaths of time alone.

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

I write about my family all the time. The real question is how much will it change as Loretta gets old enough to understand I’ve written about her.

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

Time management, for now. But I do think that, as a personal essayist, the question of what’s off limits and what’s worth exposing will remain a huge one, especially when my daughter is old enough to toss me into a lake, which she has every right to do.

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

Get your financial house in order as well as you can. If you’re partnered, have some big conversations with your other half about how the two of you will be good parents, make time for solitary work, and leave enough room to be together as adults. It’s perhaps important — even crucial — to be realistic about what one’s art might accomplish, financially and otherwise. Have a backup plan, anticipate failure, be real — but, if possible, try to remain slightly insane and delusional and dream big.

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Writer, With Kids