By LAURIE STEED
[bctt tweet=”There is an awful lot of toss written about writing.” username=”MoniqueMulligan”]
You know the type of thing. You can feel the authors going glassy-eyed, wowed by their magnificence, as God, Oprah, or Gwyneth Paltrow gives express-permission for these women to transcend mere mortal pursuits; as if Kerouac, Bukowski, or Ginsberg has French-kissed those stubbled, misunderstood men into penning their onanistic masterpieces of self-delusion.
I am not at all like these types of writers. I’m Laurie Steed: an author, father, and IT professional who writes stories of flawed but familiar families.
It’s hard to say which of my roles is most challenging. On a given day, one takes priority over the other. On a different day, my eldest son, Oscar, wants me to do Roly-polys when I can barely touch my toes. And, on a non-existent day, each version of me blends effortlessly together until I am super Laurie, conqueror of any and all task-based activity.
Today is that other, more problematic type of day, where Oscar shouts ‘Daddy!’ at 5 a.m. from behind his gate (long story). It’s a day where baby Jake has been up all night because he’s teething (tough gig for him more than anyone else), and so I’ve done this ‘sit with eyes-closed holding him while desperately trying not to sleep’ thing. A day where by 7 a.m., the authors of Instagram have shared brekkies and sipped Lattes on the warm white sands of Cottesloe, and I’ve not yet gotten dressed.
Writing is not hard. But being a writer when you’re many other things is hard.
All I want is to write, but I have a workplace that needs me, wants me wearing trousers and a button-up shirt. They’re committed to me saying things like, ‘our site has a tree-based architecture whereas the new sites are designed predominantly on Drupal. It’s a core-based collaboratively built code-base whose extended functionality relies on module integration.’
How does my day job feed into my writing? It doesn’t, really, but it helps put nappies on Jake’s tush, and it buys Oscar the fresh raspberries that are so near and dear to his heart. Working with site-based architecture can, admittedly, help one envision different narrative structures, so there’s that, and also, a day’s work on a multitude of websites takes little toll on a writer’s mental space, that precious womb one must call upon to be emotionally authentic on the page.
As jobs go, it’s as advertised, a paid position, and not a bad one to have when one needs to work, and to write.
How does my parenting feed into my writing? Again, it doesn’t. Oh, it feeds my soul, for you’ve not truly lived until you’ve played, ‘1, 2, buckle my shoe,’ with your child in a car, but it’s not as though your kids write your stories. It is not as if, having devoured series one to three of Grandpa in my Pocket you have done much more than watch an old man be a plonker in both miniature and regular size.
What wisdom, then, can a dorky dad and online communications professional share about writing, as opposed to the changing of nappies, the hosting of sites, or the drying of soaked-through fabric dolls? I’m not sure…but here are some thoughts on a sleep-deprived day while still nursing my second coffee:
- Writers write, whatever their conditions … because with all the home-made biscuits, all the freshly ground Arabica beans and scented candles in the world, the act remains the same. You can train yourself to write at any moment, under any conditions. During your workday at lunchtime. In the moments between your wife and son going to pick up a parcel, and their return from said adventure. On a bus, or in a park.
- Working a day job in no way makes you less of a writer. It makes you a parent or someone with a mortgage. Someone who doesn’t have shitloads of cash, a wealthy spouse, or financially savvy parents to enable their full-time writing pursuits. In laymen’s terms, your ‘job’ is insignificant data; your incapacity to write day-in and day-out should in no way discourage you from clawing, scratching for that hard-earned time to write.
- Parenting and writing will always battle in regards to which is more important to the writer. It’s OK to feel that pull; to make both essential to your well-being. Taking time to write does not make you a bad parent. Putting your kids first whenever you can is also no small thing, particularly if you don’t want your kid to become a writer, penning their instant classic, ‘My Father, The Arsehole,’ at the age of twenty-five.
As for my journey? It’s hard to have so many roles but humbling too, and saves me getting high on a perceived ‘amazingness,’ this otherworld ethereal quality sometimes ascribed to writers. My take is that we don’t need more tosswallas, brag-bags, and dick wads in our literary sphere. We need people in the trenches; those living their lives and still writing, sharing worlds, fears and wants, as only they can.
Because really, I am looking for balance. And sometimes, I just want to read a book by a fellow human being. Someone who’s striving but more often surviving, like me, and like anyone else who has ever had to work for the opportunity to write.
Laurie Steed is the author of You Belong Here, published by Margaret River Press in March 2018. His fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, The Age, Meanjin, Westerly, Island, and elsewhere.
He is a recipient of fellowships from The University of Iowa, The Baltic Writing Residency, The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation, The Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation and The Fellowship of Writers (Western Australia). He currently teaches Advanced Fiction for Writers Victoria, and lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and two sons.