Balancing Writing and Parenting

Oct. 13th, 2015 09:30
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

I’ve been asked on multiple occasions how to balance writing and family, and I’ve given a number of answers. “One day at a time.” “Prioritize and organize and schedule.” “Hell if I know!”

When you get down to it, the most honest answer I could give based on my life and experiences is, you can’t. Balance is a lie. An illusion that taunts us with its song. It’s freaking Shangri-La.

As a father, balance suggests to me a mystical state of equilibrium where I’m giving my children all of the time and attention they want and need, while at the same time devoting enough time to my writing and career. The trouble is, there’s no such thing as “enough.” There’s always more I could be doing with or for my kids, whether it’s quizzing my son on his multiplication tables or taking my teenage daughter out to start showing her how to drive, or just sitting down to play a three-way brawl on the Wii.

Then there’s the writing. I’ve got three short stories and three novels on my To Write list at this particular moment. Then there are the blog posts, the emails I’m chronically late in responding to, conventions I’d love to attend, anthologies I’d like to contribute to, at least one anthology I’d love to edit, and so much more.

The sad truth is that no matter what I do, I’ll never have enough time to write everything I want to. I’ll never have enough time for my children.

I quit my full-time day job a month and a half ago, and it’s helped some. I’m finding my writing groove and increasing my wordcount. I’ve also been able to do things like walk down to meet my son at the bus stop and pick up my daughter after school. On the other hand, I’m now the one who gets the phone call when something happens at school. I get the text messages when someone misses the bus. When the puppy horks up a big clump of half-digested grass — well, you get the idea. There are more interruptions and less stability and predictability in my day than I had before.

Just now, in the middle of writing this post, my son interrupted me to share some of his thoughts on pigs. It’s frustrating, because writing productivity is all about momentum. And it’s awesome, because I love him, and he has creative, often surreal thoughts about things.

Sometimes I resent the writing for taking time away from my kids. And yes, sometimes I resent my kids for taking time away from my writing. And I feel guilty about all of it.

Writing isn’t unique in this. I watched my coworkers struggling to find good day care for their kids, and I listened to their struggles to balance the need for a career with their role as a parent. But it never seemed quite the same. Maybe because writing still doesn’t feel like a legitimate career. I mean, we all recognize the need to work and support the family, but we don’t tend to recognize writing as real work.

I’m relatively successful as a writer, and it’s my primary source of income to help support my family. It still feels harder to justify spending hours focusing on the writing than it did spending hours sitting in a cubicle. Both take time away from my family and kids, but one is a “real” job. The other feels like a luxury. It feels selfish. This is something I want to do.

The guilt was exponentially worse when I was struggling to break in. When I couldn’t point to advances and royalty checks to justify the time spent in fictional worlds, away from my wife and children.

Part of the quest for healthy balance means getting that guilt under control. As parents, we can’t devote 100% of our time and energy to our children. Sometimes it feels like that’s what we’re supposed to to, but it’s not healthy for anyone. We need time to take care of ourselves, and as they grow up, kids need time to become their own people. It’s okay to take time to focus on writing. And it’s okay to step away from the computer to spend time with my family.

The Quest for Balance has no end point. No Big Boss you can defeat. It’s a daily struggle, and it changes from day to day. Do I have a deadline coming up? Did my son have a rough day at school? Is there a writing project I’m super-passionate about? How long has it been since I got to do something fun with my daughter? Is my email at critical mass? Is my son giving me puppy-dog eyes and asking me to play Mario with him?

How do you balance being a writer with being a parent? You keep trying. You accept that you’re never going to get it perfect. You listen to your kid(s), your editor, your partner(s) if you have them. You listen to yourself. You communicate. Sometimes I have to say no, I can’t play Mario until after dinner. When I talk to my editor and agent about deadlines, I talk about and factor in not only the time I need to write the book, but the time I need to spend with my family.

Balance is a process. Learn to set boundaries. Expect disruption.

In my case, I keep reminding myself that writing is my career, and damn right it’s legitimate. I remind myself that taking time to do something I love isn’t necessarily selfish or awful. I also try to recognize that spending too much time on myself can be neglectful, and I try to monitor that from day to day.

I love my children. I love writing. And it’s okay to love both.

Other posts from the Parenting and Writing/Editing Blog Tour.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

The Big Idea: David Barnett

Oct. 13th, 2015 12:28
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

In today’s Big Idea for Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper, author David Barnett admits to some of the things he doesn’t know… or didn’t, until he started writing this book.


One of the first things you get told as a writer is “write what you know”.

Which is a fine idea, out of which you will probably get precisely one book.

First novels are wonderful things, into which we pour everything, all our heartbreak and joy and love and hate and intimate knowledge of the internal combustion engine and the 1969 Football Association Challenge Cup Final.

They can be a cathartic experience. Sometimes they can actually be good novels. And on occasion, they can actually be published. But they’re a necessary step on the road to becoming a novelist, and once they’re done they free up the writer to do the stuff that’s really fun about writing books, and which no-one really tells you about.

I’m talking about writing what you don’t know.

The third book in my Gideon Smith series of alternate-history Victorian fantasies (oh, go on, then, call it steampunk if you want to – I’m feeling in expansive mood) is published today, via Tor in the US and Snowbooks in the UK. It’s called Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper and it’s absolutely stuffed to the gunwales with things I don’t know – or at least, I didn’t know before I started writing it.

If there’s one big idea in Mask of the Ripper, I suppose it would be identity, and whether we really are what we think ourselves to be and what other people tell us we should or shouldn’t be. This is explored in various ways – the (nominal) protagonist Gideon is stripped of his memory and set adrift in a riot-torn London of Christmas 1890; a major character is charged with murder and their identity which we have come to accept is revealed to be a carefully constructed fiction. Then there is Maria, the mechanical girl introduced in the first book, who is seeking some answers concerning her own place in the world.

But dancing around the big idea are lots and lots of little ideas, and these zephyrs which keep the main theme aloft are largely composed of things of which I knew nothing before writing the book, or at least knew very little.

It can be quite exciting. It’s pointing your airship at the bit of the map marked terra incognita, here be dragons, do not cross. It’s stretching your writerly muscles, rather than just chucking in the same old same old.

Thus, for Mask of the Ripper, I found myself learning all about the early days of research into DNA. It was quite important for me that the trial of the character on a murder charge featured this timeline’s first usage in criminal proceedings of DNA evidence. Only problem was, 1890 was a little early for this in reality.

So I had to find out when it all happened, fit it into my own alternate-history, and spend long hours chewing over often impenetrable essays so I could work out whether or not I could have what I wanted: a device or machine that would allow DNA samples to be tested in front of a Crown Court jury with rather dramatic results.

(The scientists among you will be throwing up their hands in horror; relax. This is fantasy. I got all of the science together, gave it a bit of a stir, then made some stuff up. It happens).

For another character, I needed some motivation that would put him in London’s sewers with a team of Thuggee assassins. I came up with the Great Famine of 1876-78 in India. The sub-continent at that time was, of course, under the control of the British Empire, both in reality and in Gideon Smith’s world. The British were building a great canal, a show of strength, a Victorian architectural and engineering marvel – but ultimately a folly. Hundreds of thousands of Indians died in the famine, and the British made it worse by putting them to work on the canal that would ultimately carry their rice and grain away from the starving masses and on to British dinner tables. So, yeah, motivation there.

And finally, I had Gloria Monday. Gloria is just a supporting character in the book, and I wish I could have made more of her. Gloria is a trans woman, another concept I had to bend to my steampunk will to make it fit into my timeline. I’m indebted to Cheryl Morgan, a writer an publisher who looked at my Gloria chapters and deemed them to be, if not wonderful, at least not as offensive as they could be.

Because as a white dude from the north of England, the chances are I’m going to have screwed that one up substantially. And fear of that almost made me not write Gloria.

But… write what you don’t know.

Why? Well, a writer who repeatedly dashes off novels that require no research or stretching of imagination and knowledge would, eventually, be doing their readers a disservice, I think.

Certainly, I would. If I wrote only what I know, or was comfortable with writing, it would make for very boring books in the long run, safe books, books that take no chances.

There’s always a risk with taking chances that you will offend, upset, just plain get it all wrong wrong wrong and piss everyone off.

Or you may get it completely right and be the toast of book-land.

Or, which is more likely, you may get it both right and wrong, but with a bit of a tailwind you might get it more right than wrong, have learned something in the process, and planted your flag in a tiny little bit of terra incognita… at least for you.


Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s|Amazon UK

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Since the first alien world was discovered orbiting a Sun-like star in 1995, we’ve found thousands more. The vast majority have been detected using the transit method, where the planet passes directly in front of its host star, dimming the light just a wee bit. But other methods have yielded results, too, and I think the most exciting is direct imaging: Literally taking a picture of the planet next to its star.

That’s hard to do, since the star can outshine the planet by a billion times. But new tech is making it easier. The Gemini Planet Imager is a camera on the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile, and astronomers have been using it to survey young, nearby stars. Planets that are young glow in the infrared, making them easier to see (stars are fainter in IR than in visible light).

One of their first targets was the star 51 Eridani, a hot star that’s about 20 million years old and 100 light years away. Guess what they found?

Well, you don’t have to guess! The picture above shows it: 51 Eri b, a planet somewhere between 2 and 12 times the mass of Jupiter, roughly the same physical size as Jupiter, and orbiting the star about 2 billion km out (roughly twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun). The planet is clearly seen in the infrared once the star’s light is subtracted off. The observations were made in late 2014 and early 2015, so no orbital motion of the planet has (yet) been seen*. Still, the chance of it being some random background object are extraordinarily low.

The astronomers were also able to get spectra of 51 Eri b, breaking its light up into individual colors. This allowed them to look at the atmospheric composition of the planet, and they found strong indicators of the presence of water vapor and methane. That’s interesting! Other exoplanets observed in this way have not shown much in the way of those two molecules.

This may be in part because 51 Eri b is cooler than many others observed this way; looking in the infrared selects for hotter planets, which are brighter. Most of the other directly imaged planets have wider orbits and are more massive, as well. This planet is midway between those planets and ones more like Jupiter; exoplanets that are Jupiter-sized are very difficult to photograph indeed.

But tech gets better all the time. When we first discovered exoplanets their numbers came in as dribs and drabs, then a trickle, then a roar. The Gemini Planet Imager is cutting-edge today, but in ten years, who knows? We’ve got direct photographs of a score of exoplanets now (see the gallery of them… and hmmm, it may be time to update it!) but that number will go up by leaps and bounds. Count on it.

Want to know more about exoplanets? Here’s my Crash Course Astronomy episode on them!

* A planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris has been incontrovertibly seen to orbit the star, as a counterexample. This sort of motion is difficult to detect for most exoplanets due to their slow orbital motion.

vass: Warning sign of man in water with an octopus (Accidentally)
[personal profile] vass
I mean, what is the use case where people look at the iTunes "about" page?

Perhaps the designers who made it are imagining that the use case is "it's the end of the performance and the users are applauding while we take a bow and a victory lap to celebrate shipping our awesome product." In which case a scrolling marquee would be okay, if unnecessary.

But that's a minority use case. The actual most likely scenario is "I need to know (and preferably copy and paste) what version this application is so I can look for accurate troubleshooting information." We're not watching the credits, we're trying to fix a problem.

Under which circumstance we are unlikely to applaud the geniuses in Cupertino who made this necessary.

(no subject)

Oct. 13th, 2015 12:17
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
I feel all steamrollered. Exhausted.

I think I saved teh world repeatedly last night.

I remember the one with MacGyver, there was me and me mum and me brother running around a department store attic where instead of seasonal displays there was old furniture, taxidermy and death traps. I figured out one trap that was about to kill Pete on account of me being shorter than everyone else and it being easy to see from down there. Then my brother disappeared, last seen playing with a taxidermy snake, and the death trap maker started yelling at everyone to return their amulet before a very precise deadline or regret the consequences. I was just real sleepy and kept trying to find a corner to curl up in, and ended up with my head on Mac's knees where he was kneeling on the floor while he fiddled with some wires thing and kept a look out. Then someone came up to talk to him and he talked like he trusted them, but me and my ground level view saw shoes and wheels on a shopping trolley busted up in patterns that I recognised from the previous death trap, and I had to communicate this by tapping Mac where I could reach him.

Once I woke up I decided that clearly the death trap maker was out to prove we were all very stupid, by making us trap ourselves, with things that were obvious from their point of view, ie very short. And the boots on the person Mac trusted were big clunky things that could easily have lifts in. So the threat was from a secretly short person who really didn't like Pete. Which didn't narrow it down much.

The missing medallion was obvious though, my brother had fed it to the taxidermy snake. I just needed to figure out how to use said knowledge to get my brother back.

So there was that, and there was the one with the house where the upstairs was rented out to people who didn't seem to grasp that the downstairs was my flat so they kept on turning up in the living room and kitchen. And there was another one with much more running around and something about energy based powers? But that one has pretty much faded.

But I am so wiped now. I slept, or at least lay down with my eyes closed, for about 12 hours. Clearly an alternate universe has been using all my energy to save their worlds with.

Sadly Mac can't call me over that long a distance. Otherwise I'm sure I impressed him greatly.
vass: Warning sign of man in water with an octopus (Accidentally)
[personal profile] vass
I just don't want the user interface to suddenly change completely while I am in the act of using it, as I find this stressful. #actuallyautistic

Also, who the fuck thought it would be a good idea for the version number to SCROLL? Did they think finding out which version number to google to find out how to hide all the cloud songs should be an EXCITING HUNTING GAME? Whoever it is, I want to beat them to death with the still-warm corpse of whoever invented the marquee element in HTML.

But that is nothing to how it feels when I'm playing a song and the next one autoplays and I try to press pause and instead of pausing it MINIMISES and when I double-click on the icon I get the mini-player, and if I resize that it goes to a rectangle, and apparently the correct way to reopen the main iTunes window is to press the X button in the corner, you know, the element that CLOSES the miniplayer, how am I supposed to guess that closing it will OPEN the main iTunes or unminimise it, DUDE DO YOU EVEN UI?

Edit: and it turns out that my alternatives for hiding cloud songs are to hide them all within the store too (i.e. the same maneuver required to refuse Apple's kind offer of a fucking U2 album) or else to sign out of iTunes and only sign in when you're buying music or syncing your device.

Because iTunes is BOUND AND DETERMINED to make Apple Music happen, and I don't want it, I was born in 1980, I don't like streaming everything, I have a tiny data plan (which Telstra just tripled in price today without changing the data allowance at all) and even if they didn't, I dislike the idea of using network resources to re-download every song every time I listen to it, I want to own my music and listen to it offline, that is what I want from iTunes, and they don't want me to do that, they want to shoehorn everybody into this shitty radio-based, no-user-rights model, and FUCK. THEM. ALL.

Off-Topic Tuesday!

Oct. 13th, 2015 11:50
icon_uk: Mod Squad icon (Mod Squad)
[personal profile] icon_uk posting in [community profile] scans_daily
It's "Off-Topic Tuesday" time!

In the comments to these weekly posts (and only these posts), it's your chance to go as off topic as you like.

Talk about non-comics stuff, thread derail, and just generally chat amongst yourselves.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day!

Yes, that was Peter Capaldi playing the guitar riffs on the Doctor Who theme tune this week and it sounded so much better than the current arrangement!

And away you go!

(no subject)

Oct. 13th, 2015 12:51
hagar_972: dean winchester, gaze downcast, with coffee (Dean/Coffee)
[personal profile] hagar_972
* Country: still a mess

* The 13yr old attacker from yesterday is alive; he got hit by a car during the foot chase - it's the 17yr old who were shot

* Today's adult attackers are legally employed. That's rare: usually the ones who snap are the illegals. On the other hand, those are East Jerusalemites, so residents, and not dependent on the Shin-Beit's favor for work permits.

* After a few wonder, wonderful days of temps 25C and under and rain, we're back to just-under-30C. Israeli autumn ugh.

Daily Happiness

Oct. 13th, 2015 01:35
torachan: arale from dr slump with a huge grin on her face (arale)
[personal profile] torachan
1. It was a few degrees cooler today than yesterday, at least.

2. I gave the kittens bowls of ice water to drink and while they drank some, mostly they played around in it and made a huge mess. They were super cute, though, and I bet the cold water felt good on their little paws.

3. We got a couple bottles of a new Mountain Dew flavor last night at 7/11. It's berry lime and smells and tastes like Skittles, but not nearly as cloyingly sweet as I first thought it was going to be. It's actually pretty tasty!

4. I'm over halfway through Professor Layton and the Lost Future (I played a lot today).

5. Although it was hot and I didn't feel like doing much, I did get some translating done today.

Black day.

Oct. 13th, 2015 10:51
ernads: Lie low, a hungry dragon's hunting (dragon)
[personal profile] ernads
So far, we have:

Two terror attacks in Rannana.

Two terror attacks in J-M

Two persons died of their injuries.

I've lost count, I'm afraid, of the number of sever injuries.

And it's not even 11.

I say that the third Intifada is in high gear.
benedict: (yuletide)
[personal profile] benedict posting in [community profile] yuletide
The tagset is open! If you have challenges or corrections to make, please go here on Dreamwidth or here on Livejournal!

Now that you know if your fandoms got in or not, or you're browsing for what to request or offer, I encourage you to take a look at the in-progress Fandom Promo Posts!

Here on Dreamwidth


Here on Livejournal

They're fun to browse and you can tell other people why they should get into your favourite thing.

Minority Report 1.04 "Fredi"

Oct. 12th, 2015 22:31
alethia: (NYC 22 Licking Lips)
[personal profile] alethia
Minority Report 1.04 Fredi )

It's a shame this show will be canceled because Stark does look so very pretty in it.

Midnighter #4

Oct. 13th, 2015 13:02
laughing_tree: (Default)
[personal profile] laughing_tree posting in [community profile] scans_daily

"He's a guy where if he sees balls, he's going to bust them. So when it comes to someone like Grayson, Midnighter thinks he's hilarious. That's what's great about their interactions. And Grayson is going to fit great into Midnighter's book because while Midnighter is a guy who pushes buttons, few people are as sure about who they are and what they're doing as Dick Grayson. As the counterpoint, he has very few buttons to push, and that pisses Midnighter off." -- Steve Orlando

Read more... )

Creators Revealed & Wrap Up

Oct. 13th, 2015 01:00
sirvalkyrie: by lexy567 (Default)
[personal profile] sirvalkyrie posting in [community profile] tagyourit
Creators have been revealed.

Well, this has certainly been a bumpy exchange. Though I am happy with the final output. It looks like most people seem to have liked their gifts, so I’d call this a win.

I’d like to thank all the pinch hitters for their help.

Read more... )


Oct. 13th, 2015 00:37
lightbird: (#1 Gators gonna gait)
[personal profile] lightbird
Went to the gym today and somewhere on my way out the door my pouch with my cards and cash fell out of my bag. I realized it when I got home, called the front desk and they had it there. All the cards were there but every last dollar I had was gone of course. It might've been the person who turned it in that took it, or it might've been one of the staff, who knows. But things have already been really tight, I don't have enough in my bank account to make a withdrawal until I get paid at the end of this week so I'm currently flat broke. Literally. I can't use my credit cards either because I had to cancel them -- the person who took the cash may have written down the numbers or whatever, so I didn't want to take any chances. People can really suck.

My mom said she'd spot me, but things are tight for her too. Bleh, really down about this.

Roaring to the finish line!

Oct. 13th, 2015 00:39
iddybangmod: (Default)
[personal profile] iddybangmod posting in [community profile] iddyiddybangbang
*trumpets sound* :D

We're nearing the end of Iddy Iddy Bang Bang, and the time has come to reveal your glorious iddy-work to the world! The posting schedule is as follows:

Thursday, Oct 15 )
Friday, Oct 16: )
Saturday, Oct 17 )
Sun, Oct 18 )
Monday Oct 19 )
Tuesday, Oct 20 )
Wed, Oct 21 )

On your assigned day, please make a post to the this community containing your completed story -- or a link to it. You may also put the main text of the fic on your personal journal or AO3. As long as the full text can be reached from your DW post, you're golden!

Posting template! Amazing! )

If you would like us to post for you because you don't have a DW account or would like to remain completely anonymous, please email with the text of your story in the body of the email or as an attachment with any necessary HTML markup!

If you are unable to post on your assigned date or have other questions, including the asking of last-minute extensions, please let us know! Good luck and happy posting!

High Time

Oct. 13th, 2015 00:00
[syndicated profile] ng_photooftheday_feed

Posted by

From the south tower, Your Shot member Tina Sullivan captured this photo of cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Though shot from above, Sullivan’s image still manages to show a recognizable portion of the bridge’s iconic profile—in the shadow it casts on the waters of Golden Gate Strait.

Sullivan’s shot was recently featured in the Daily Dozen.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our storytelling community where members can take part in photo assignments, get expert feedback, be published, and more. Join now >>

Russell, Meet Belle

Oct. 13th, 2015 04:00
[syndicated profile] cuteoverload_feed

Posted by Brinke

ATT_1444682126185_IMG_20151012_132617Say hello to Russell the desert tortoise and Belle the Wah Wah Mix! (Russell coming in for a quick kiss.) Submitted by Ron and Carol P. of Phoenix, AZ. (Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android.)

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: BFFs, I Shall Kees You, tortoise, Wah Wah

As near as I can tell,

Oct. 13th, 2015 00:08
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The image of KW the Great Canadian Cookbook has decided to present is a handful of (farm houses) separated by snowblown fields. And there is absolutely no hint of Kitchener-Waterloo's diversity because apparently we are all Mennonites. Feels like bad research by a Torontonian.

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