Writer, with Kids: Rob Yardumian

Rob Yardumian, author of The Sound of Songs Across the Water

Rob will be reading (and playing songs) from The Sound of Songs Across the Water on Tuesday, November 12, at 7:00pm at Annie Bloom’s in Multnomah Village.

Age of kid: 8

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

I’ve always been pretty good at sitting in the chair, staring at the screen. I had a schedule set up before my son Dashiell was born where I’d work from 7-9 am, Monday-Friday. Once he was born, of course, time becomes more precious—and you feel more selfish for hoarding your share of it.

But writers have to write, right? So I made a deal with my (then) wife, who was also (then) a writer. I said I’ll continue to write in the mornings during the week. You get the boy up, give him breakfast, etc. Then on the weekends, I’ll take him for big blocks of time both days, up to and including lunch. So my ten hours during the week would even out with her ten hours on the weekends.

Once I got divorced, it became both easier and harder to find that time. I try to use as much time as I can when Dashiell is at his mom’s to write. I hoard that time like a jealous miser. But on days when he is here? No way. I don’t even bother to try. So it’s a trade-off.

How do you remain present for your family even when you’re sunk deeply into a current project—say in the sticky middle of a novel’s first draft?

That’s exactly where I am right now—deep in a first draft. But I feel like any time you can carve out—one hour, three hours, whatever—is worth it. So I grab that time and don’t let go, on days when Dashiell is not here. Sometimes that’s at the expense of everything else in my life. But that’s OK. Because writing is the most important thing, after the health and well-being of your family.

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

I find myself more befuddled and bedazzled by sentimental crap on TV than I ever was before. High art or low. Commercials or lyric drama. Doesn’t matter. I’m weeping if there’s a kid involved.

In terms of my work? Not so much. I do hope and expect that if I write something in the future that involves the point of view of a child or a parent, my experiences as a father will inform that. Will make the character more rounded, deeper, smarter. I have not done that in either novel since my son was born. But I do believe that there is a fundamental wisdom that comes with being a parent that simply was not activated before. I don’t mean I feel any wiser. I just mean I know a little more about the world than I did before. And that’s got to count for something in the work.

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

I don’t know that being a parent has much to do with this, but I’d say the most challenging part of being a working artist is that most people Just Don’t Get It.

I was dating a woman, after my divorce, who is, in very many respects, a fine person. We shared a lot of things in common and had fun together, with ourselves and our respective kids. But I just could not make her understand how important it was to me to have this time to write. How this meant so much more than my day job. And why that meant I had to get up at 7:00 in the morning and come home, leaving her alone.

She actually said once, “Why don’t you just take the summer off from writing? We could have more time together, do fun stuff. Then in the fall you could start up again.”

I feel like having a “thing,” whatever your thing is, is critical to happiness and fulfillment. For me, and I suspect for many who read this blog, that thing is our writing. And if I don’t do it regularly—not every day, but regularly—my life is not complete.

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

Charlie Baxter once said something along the lines of, “Having kids means you will write fewer books.” I believe that is true.

I also believe it’s worth it. But not by a lot.

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Writer, With Kids