Wendy C. Ortiz, author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, July 2014) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, late 2014)
Age of kid: 3.5
What was your writing schedule (ideal and actual) like before kids, and how has that changed?
My writing schedule, up until the time my kid was about 3 months old, was some haphazard mishmash that bears no resemblance to an actual schedule. This “schedule” also changed according to life circumstances, so, like when I saved enough money to quit my cushy job at a university so I could write for 2-3 months, I instead let life swallow up my writing time. The ideal schedule has always been something like, I will wake up, and I will hike, and then I will shower and write for four hours straight, with a break for lunch, and two more hours before a cocktail.” NOPE. More like, “I feel like writing so I will write.” If I felt like writing and there was no time, then it was a string of expletives and maybe some acting out on loved ones to give me space to write again.
I’m one of the mothers who’s experienced the excellent, enforced writing schedule that an easy, mellow baby with good napping tendencies can bring. It’s really weird to say, “I never wrote as much as I do now, with a kid,” but it’s the truth. The two naps a day stretch of time gave me space. When it turned into one nap a day, I adapted. No nap days are not the ideal. In the next month things will shift yet again because she’ll go from twelve hours per week of preschool to 24-30 hours a week of summer camp and eventually the same into the school year.
How do you remain present for your family even when you’re sunk deep into a current project?
I don’t always remain present. I’ve missed two camping trips, taken a few one to two night trips away from home just so I could keep going deep into a current project. When I’m really deep and they’re around (and it’s a weekend day), I sometimes just remove myself (to a library or coffee shop) and use the act of driving home to clear my head and get back into the present (yes, I recognize how L.A. this sounds. But it works.)
How has parenthood changed the work itself, if at all?
I’m not sure yet if its parenthood that’s changed the work, or if it’s aging that’s changed the work, but I feel much more than I ever have like I have no fucks to give and believe that the writing benefits from that.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a working artist and a parent?
Juggling finances and time.
Do you have any advice to other writers with kids or who plan to have them?
Take seriously all offers of childcare from your friends and family. It’s what keeps me alive, anyway.