This year we’ve welcomed two tiny new board members to Lake Superior
Writers. They’ve got me thinking about writing with my own babies, who are now
no longer babies, but not so far away that I’ve forgotten the exhilaration and
stress of trying to write while ushering a new person into the world.
After my youngest was born, our babysitter would come to the house to watch
my two older kids, who were two and four at the time, so I could write. Anton was
only a few weeks old, so he would come with me to my unofficial office: the
minivan. Parked with a lakefront view, I would venture into the back seat, brush
off the cracker crumbs and itinerant M&Ms, arrange myself in a nest of blankets,
tuck him into me, prop up the laptop, and voila! Work could be done.
I had written in cafes, bars, libraries, in waiting rooms and on subway trains. For
a while I thought I liked having other people around. I was conscious of them, but
then I became conscious of trying to keep them out – not allowing their
conversations or their faces or their smells to interfere in the inner world I was
trying to cultivate. Even worse – they might want to interact with me.
As writers, do we want solitude? Interaction? The best of both?
So much of a fiction writer’s creative energy comes from the tension between
inner and outer worlds; the melding of these – bringing our inner reality into the
world for others to experience – can be one of the most satisfying and thrilling
parts of writing.
Our perinatal writing sessions that fall – the expanse of the big lake rolling and
crashing with great grey crests, the narrative arc that happened somewhere on
the page – created a shared experience in a way writing with others had not.
Anton was quiet, he slept, he ate. He became part of my process, writing a novel
about a mountain climber who was trying to figure out how to keep climbing after
she had kids.
Five years on, I can write at home, since my three kids all go to school. I can
settle into my place – wow, a real desk! – without having to brush off too many
cracker crumbs. My kids are invited into my creative process in different ways: if
they get up early enough (and my nine year old does), they sit with me, watching the dialogue I spew in fits and starts across the screen, periodically giving me
suggestions (which are pretty good, I gotta admit). But more often, they inspire
me in their own creative process. Anton completely immerses himself in Lego
worlds, building sets, then acting out scenarios with the little yellow people. His
immersion in his make-believe worlds, plus his propensity to tell outlandish
stories, makes me think he was a fiction writer from the get-go.
Felicia Schneiderhan is the author of the memoir Newlyweds Afloat: Married Bliss
and Mechanical Breakdowns While Living on a Trawler. Her work appears in Real Simple, Chicago Sun-Times, Great Lakes Review, Literary Mama, Lake Superior
Magazine, Sport Literate, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives on the
northern shore of Lake Superior, where she writes in whatever closet she thinks her
three tsunamis won’t find her.