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Seven Things Parents Who Are Also Writers Will Understand

22/10/2014 12:24 BST | Updated 21/12/2014 10:59 GMT

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Credit: DonnieRayJones via Creative Commons licence

That saying about waiting ages for a bus then two come along? Yep, that's me.

I set myself two goals after my husband and I got married back in 2007: have a baby and get a UK book deal. But a few years down the line, neither had happened.

Then guess what? It all happened at once. Within a few weeks of giving birth to my little girl, I got a two-book deal with HarperCollins for my novel The Atlas of Us, hurtling me headfirst into the deep-end of parenting and publishing.

Here's what I discovered...

1. Procrastination reaches new levels thanks to Play-Doh

I honestly believed once I had my little girl, I'd no longer be the Queen of Procrastination. Oh, how wrong I was. Having a baby just brings new excuses for distraction. My usual 'how to write a bestseller' Google frenzies are simply accompanied by new searches now, such as 'how to deal with toddler tantrums' or 'how to get jam out of DVD players'.

Time on Facebook doubles as I do the very thing I promised myself I'd never do: upload endless photos of my daughter to my timeline. Ebay has become my new Amazon as I seek out clothing bargains, my daughter growing out of her clothes in what seems like a nano-second.

And Play-Doh, oh Play-Doh, that heady creative putty that forces me to spend hours manipulating it into beautiful shapes. A week until the deadline for my second book and what do I do as my daughter naps? That's right, spend an hour creating a small model library out of Play-Doh.

2. You turn to picture books for inspiration

Who knew books aimed at babies could be such plot-tastic creative fodder? The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the Odyssey of picture books, its main character's endless search for that foody high a true inspiration.

And what about the inspiring father / son relationship in Guess How Much I Love You (though the bit where Big Nutbrown Hair swings Little Nutbrown Hair over his ears is a tad worrisome)? Or the enduring patience of Spot's Mum when searching for him before dinner in Where's Spot?

Suddenly bedtime stories open a whole new world in 'creating emotional connection with readers' as I sob quietly in joy when the narrator in Dear Zoo finally gets the puppy they so wanted.

3. Promotional bookmarks make good toys

 

I got a bunch of bookmarks printed off for some book signings a few months back, and my daughter is fascinated by them. At first, she was captivated by the way they flick about if she rapidly moves her chubby little hand back and forth.

Now the new game is: 'how many ways can I destroy Mummy's bookmarks?'. They've been thrown into a full bath, down the toilet, in the dog's food. They've been chewed, slipped under the sofa in a hilarious game of 'hide and seek with Mummy's bookmarks an hour before a talk at the library'. They've been crayoned over; squelched into mud; even used as a pillow.

And let's not even get started on the advance copies of my novel that my publisher sent me. One was 'donated' to my little girl's bookshelves after she grabbed my arm while I was signing copies for family, meaning I signed it 'I hope you enjoy my booB' instead of 'I hope you enjoy my booK'.

 

4. Children theme tunes find their way onto playlists

 

I've noticed a change in author playlists when they have kids: suddenly, tunes from children TV show and films, especially Disney films, start creeping on.

I'm not just talking about 'Let it Go' from Frozen either. When you're stuck on the sofa with a sickly child whose only source of comfort is curling your hair between their finger and thumb as they watch TV, you begin to find inspiration from all sorts of places.

Have you heard the wistful tinkling lilts of the Cloudbabies theme, ideal for love scenes? What about the Postman Pat song for those moments when your characters are seeing the good in life? For darker moments, try The Trap Door, ideal when your serial killer character embarks on his or her latest kill.

 

5. Your proof-reading skills go into twitch mode in nurseries

 

When I was given a tour of a local nursery, there was a banner around one of the rooms depicting the different seasons... and they spelt autumn without the 'n'. As I passed, I couldn't help getting out my pen, discreetly adding that errant 'n'. Sure, it wasn't in glitter-pink like the other letters, but at least it was spelt right!

A Facebook update from a local playgroup advertising its nearly new sale drove me to despair, written like a doctor's prescription. Where was the flair; the enticement?!

It seems to me that the world of childcare opens up brand new possibilities for the grammar drill sergeant inside.  

 

6. Writing spaces become playrooms

 

I like to write in my conservatory. Or at least, I used to. What was once a bohemian little den with a cushion to sprawl on, a low table for wine / coffee, shelves with books and DVDs for inspiration, it's now a playroom for my toddler.

Toys are flung all over, children's books line the shelves and a mini table and chair now dominate the room so my daughter can hold tea parties with her stuffed animal friends.

Somewhere in there, you'll find my laptop which I dig out in the evenings, weaving stories with an audience of goggle-eyed frogs and multi-coloured puppies for company.

 

7. Watching your child batter your laptop fills you pride (and horror)

Occasionally, when my little girl's distracted with, oh I don't know, pulling my bank cards out of my purse or sticking her fingers into plug holes, I'll grab the chance to open up my laptop and make some quick notes for my next novel.

Of course, the sound of my tapping fingers invariably draws her attention back to me and it isn't long before she's standing on tiptoes, smashing her sticky little fists onto my keyboard.

While half of me is filled with terror ('did I really save that last draft?!'), the other half is filled with pride. Maybe my little girl will be a writer one day like me (and in turn, get a little payback for all the books she pulped and bookmarks she drowned if she has kids too!)

And this is what makes it all worth it, doesn't it? Knowing your little one is watching you do something you love... and hoping one day they'll be lucky enough to be able to do the same too.