Guest Blogger: Writing on the Toilet by Michael Reilly

Michael ReillyWriting on the Toilet

by Michael Reilly

My recently published novel, Fresh Heir, is about parenting. More specifically, the book explores the often overlooked paradox that our children have as much to teach us as we have to teach them. This theme can be assessed from a broad symbolic perspective, but it can also be extended into a discussion about practical, day-to-day matters.

Many parents would agree that one practical lesson we can learn as a father or mother is how to better manage our time. Without this skill, we’d be overwhelmed. Some of us learn it better than others, I suppose. My advice to any parent who wants to write (particularly one with small children) is you better learn it.

Perhaps more than managing your time (which sounds so “corporate”), is learning to “go with the flow.” (No, I’m not ready to talk about toilets yet.) Unless you learn to go with the flow, weeks…months…years will pass you by and your page will still be blank…your story left untold.

It’s tempting to dream about devising the perfect conditions that will inspire you and ignite all your creative juices. But for busy parents, the word “juice” more likely ignites only thoughts of having to go to the grocery store for the fourth time in a week, or of those nasty stains on the ceiling from when your son’s bratty little friend intentionally squeezed a Juicy Juice box and it shot through the straw all over the room.

Fresh HeirAs much as we refuse to admit it, a sinister voice deep in our head longs for those days when the kids are gone, and we can perhaps convert one of their bedrooms into a cozy little sanctuary to pursue our artistic ambitions. Go ahead, admit it right now. Say out loud: “I sometimes (maybe lots of times) can’t wait until they’re gone.” Alrighty, now that you’ve got that out of your system, it’s time to get real. What follows is some advice for those people who want to write and still remain parents. For those of you who’d no longer prefer to remain parents, I have no use for you here. Just stay out of jail.

This is not going to be a “list” of things you can do, like ten tips or something like that. It’s just one thing. And here it is: Don’t wait for a good time to write. There will never be one. Write wherever you are. Write no matter what you’re doing. And write all the time. Fine, that could qualify as three tips.

When I was writing Fresh Heir, I remember composing bits and pieces of it all over the place. I was constantly playing the story out in my head, reworking characters, and coming up with new ideas no matter where I was. I’d scribble down notes on tiny pieces of paper while in line at the store; I’d peck out emails to myself at red lights; or I’d record memos on my phone while coaching lacrosse practice. One time I even wrote some ideas on the rim of our toilet with a Sharpie.

OK, I didn’t actually do that, but there were several times I’d “write” things in my head while I was in the bathroom. Let’s be honest, parents, there is no better refuge from the bedlam of family life than the bathroom, right? I mean, it’s one place where you can escape and tell the kids to leave you alone for a few minutes, and they just might listen (applicable only for children ages 3 and up, of course).

Ultimately, you will need to sit at a computer. I realize that. At some point you’ve got to execute the mechanics of writing. But that process will be so much more effective if you’ve already composed what you are about to type.  You can’t just expect to sit down, start fresh, and have all the time in the world to become inspired. As it is, you’re likely going to have to get up very early or stay up very late to get in your computer time. Trust me, that coveted opportunity will be much more productive if you have already done the work some time and some place else. Otherwise, you might just waste the opportunity staring bleary-eyed at the screen, while you whiff your keyboard trying to deduce the flavor of the sticky prints all over it.

I would love to hear from other parents about any advice they have on mixing parenting and writing. Maybe we can turn this into “ten tips.”

Michael Reilly is a writer and entrepreneur. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. His first published novel, Fresh Heir, was released in May 2011. He is also founder and chief executive officer of FitDivs Inc, a company that promotes and rewards healthy living. Michael resides with his wife and four children in Charlottesville, VA.

More information on Fresh Heir can be found on the book’s website at FreshHeirNovel.com

Michael Reilly is a writer and entrepreneur. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. His first published novel, Fresh Heir, was released in May 2011. He is also founder and chief executive officer of FitDivs Inc, a company that promotes and rewards healthy living. Michael resides with his wife and four children in Charlottesville, VA.

You can visit his website at www.freshheirnovel.com or connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Heir/168240473246308.

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