Writing while pregnant

pregnancy, writing

That’s no moon.

At eight months pregnant, I’m a little nervous about my writing career. Mostly because writing while pregnant has not been easy for me. In fact, it’s been really difficult.

I’ve held off on writing this post because of the inevitable comments of those who will say things like “You think <insert activity> is hard now. What until you have <an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, etc.>” but then I realized that those one-uppers will always rear their heads, no matter how old my child is or what stage of life I’m in.

So screw it. I’m writing this now, because I wish I’d known it earlier and maybe someone else needs to read it: writing while pregnant has been a struggle for me. I truly hope that other writers don’t have as rough a time with it as I have, but just in case another pregnant writer is out there, reading this and beating herself up for her lack of productivity, let me say this to you: You’re not alone, lady.

I’ve always assumed I could write no matter what. In fact, I figured that if I ever did get pregnant, I’d go into literary nesting mode, write daily and finish churning out my novel and probably other projects as well. I thought I’d be super-creative.

That didn’t exactly happen. Every pregnancy is different, but a host of physical symptoms kept me from my desk: fatigue, nausea, pain, and now, in the last weeks of my pregnancy, an inability to get myself or my laptop comfortably positioned long enough to write a meaningful sentence. Seriously. I need a floaty Minority Report keyboard and maybe some anti-gravity for an hour or so a day.

The strangest side-effect for me as a writer was probably this: my brain hasn’t worked in quite the same way for the past 30-something weeks.

Let me try to explain what I mean by this: I can do my paid job without a problem. I can edit and revise, and I can outline and organize my projects, and I can even write articles. The problem is creativity:  sitting down to make art became all of a sudden, extremely difficult. (They don’t list that under symptoms in What to Expect When You’re Expecting.)

This is new to me, because I’ve never had trouble being creative. I was the kid who spent second grade staring outside the window daydreaming, and I’ve been the writer who can’t always knuckle down because she’s always distracted by new ideas. My new lack of creativity was a big, unpleasant surprise. Creativity became work, and I started to beat myself up about it: What’s wrong with me that I can’t produce 500 words a day? Why is everything I write awful?

Now that I’ve been living with this change for a while, I do wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself about it — I imagine that any person who undergoes any major physical shift, like injury or illness or chronic pain or a huge lifestyle shift — must go through similar issues. Our brain chemistry is delicate; any change can cause a shift in how we experience life.

It took me months to figure out how to work around the issue effectively, but eventually, (and later in my pregnancy than I like) I started to repeat something I’d heard from Nalini Jones, an MFA teacher I once had a workshop with: “If you can’t create, you can work.”

So now I’m editing a backlog of old work, both for my novel and for my new serial fiction project. I’m also forcing myself to write a little bit of a flash-fiction every week, because I’ve discovered that I can still be creative — it’s just hard now, the way that math was hard for me in grade school. I need to build that muscle just in case things don’t immediately improve when the baby is born.

And I take naps when my schedule allows. I still feel guilty about it, but I do it anyhow.

18 thoughts on “Writing while pregnant

  1. Good for you, this post will probably help another pregnant lady. It always helps to know that you are not alone. Take is easy & this special time.

  2. A friend of mine used to run an art gallery for women’s art: No Man’s Hand (clever, huh?) She told me once that when her artists were pregnant they couldn’t produce a thing. “But of course,” she added, “they were creating a new life. ” Worth remembering. ..

    • Thank you for sharing that story. It makes me feel a little better to know that this is a common issue. Hopefully creativity comes back after delivery.

  3. Naps are good for you. They rejuvenate creativity, I think. So nap away!

    I’m excited for you. Writing with children can be hard, but it’s as good for them as it is for you. Your creativity will rub off on them in surprising ways. And your creativity will come back. Usually at inconvenient times, but you’ll find a way to manage it. 🙂

    Good luck!

    • Thank you, Gwen, for telling me that the creativity will come back, and for reassuring me that writing with children is something to look forward. I think I’ve always been a little nervous about writing and being a mom at the same time.

  4. What a great post. I mean, I’m sorry that writing while pregnant has been difficult (and that being pregnant has been difficult) but I’m glad that you remembered that sometimes being creative takes some…creativity.

    • It does, doesn’t it? Up until this summer, I had hard and fast writing rules like “write 500 words a day during a certain time of day, log wordcount, email certain people for accountability.” I think at this point, I’m just subscribing to the “Whatever Works” school of thought.

    • I wish I’d known about this issue before I got pregnant. Not that it would have kept us from starting a pregnancy, but I might have been nicer to myself from the beginning if I were aware of it. Thank you for the nomination!

  5. So great that you wrote this! I wish I had this to read when I was pregnant, too. Who knows? A completely fresh, new and creative book may be in all our futures. I don’t recall any book on this subject. How fantastic. In the meantime, I remember Tom Jenks of Narrative Mag telling me, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be so hard on your characters.”
    Thank you for this completely creative post and for all the many hats you wear.

  6. Pingback: Writing and Pregnancy: What Happened to My Creativity? | Tomorrow's Tale

  7. Hi! Just stumbled upon this post and was so relieved to find I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I’m 20 weeks and finding it almost impossible to write anything at all. Hope your little one is thriving and that you’re enjoying motherhood!

    • Congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope you’re feeling well.
      You’re definitely not alone. Friends from my MFA program who were expecting also had the same problem with writing. I can tell you that the creativity does come back. I don’t have as much writing time now, but when I do get a writing day, I probably produce two or three times the work I did before pregnancy.

  8. Just came across this after reading an article about how many women had completed marvellous novels while pregnant. I have to say, yours made me feel a lot better! I’ve had a lot of time to write over the last few weeks and have found it so difficult. There’s been lots of staring at the screen feeling useless. Very glad to know it’s not just me!

    • Hi Sarah and congrats on your pregnancy! Definitely don’t beat yourself up for having a hard time with writing.Those posts about prolifically-writing pregnant women made me so jealous back when I was pregnant. I really could not write a word. Weirdly, that changed after the baby came. I wasn’t super productive (because baby) but I was able to write creatively again which was a relief.

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