toddlers and writing and making it work

image courtesy of (

I normally* get up at 5:30am so I can get 1-1.5 hours to myself purely for writing.

*It invariably doesn't work out at all. Squawk will wake at the same time and set up such a hollering that no writing gets done; or she'll have woken up so many times overnight I'll sleep through my alarm and still emerge sleep-deprived and shambling.

But I continue to at least try to make it work. About 20% of the time, I just have to prioritise sleep and let the writing go, much as I hate it. On about 30% of nights, I'll get up as planned and write as planned. On the nights she wakes me mid-slumber — and yes, this is one of them! — I'll settle her and then creep off to my study to write. I'll still have far too little sleep, and broken besides, but at least I'll have written. (The quality of it … well, I'm trying not to think of that part so much. I'm working on a first draft these days, anyway.)

Yesterday morning proved a little harder. I slept through my alarm because Squawk woke me at 2:30 and re-settling myself took just long enough for 5:30 to hit me right in the deepest part of the sleep cycle.

When I did wake at 6:20, and realised how little time I had left to myself, I nearly gave up. But I got the heck up anyway, because I've been giving up too often of late, and I'm sick of myself.

Squawk, however, was already awake and, seeing me slink down the corridor towards the study, she immediately begged to come and sleep in my bed.

I nearly gave up again. But instead, I dragged my laptop with me into her bed, and told her quite firmly she had to keep her eyes closed and try to sleep until “the sun came out” (she has a gro-clock) at 7, and if she could do that then I'd sit with her. (Yay for the king single mattress I bought her just the other day which means I now have the actual room to do this without cracking my spine in 3 different places.)

She duly promised — and duly failed to keep it. Of course. But she was quiet and cuddled up to me for a good ten minutes before she started to speak, so I didn't nag her about closing her eyes. I just wrote, and let her watch. I don't think she's ever seen me type at full speed before; I just let it blast out of me because I only had 40 tiny minutes before she was allowed to get up, and far less before she started to chat.

And Squawk, bless her supportive little heart, with her head snuggled into my left elbow, started to chant very softly under her breath as I typed: "Go! Go, go, go! Keep going, mummy … keep going, keep going … "

Turns out even writing is better with cheerleaders.1

  1. For mums who write and want to know: she’s three. I’ve not tried this before, and I don’t think it will be a routine, but as an emergency for those days when I really want to write and she really can’t sleep, it might work. Although I find the first try at something works fine, and then there’s a whole string of frustrating failures because those next times she’s bored and cranky and just won’t shut the eff up. []