Writing, Parenting, Careening


Just out of shot: three kids and a harrassed mother.

The title of this post arose from a Facebook discussion I had about balancing writing and parenting. Fellow writer Fiona McMillan said that “balancing” was possibly a bad choice of verb, as it indicated there was some kind of control in place. She’s right. That’s when “careening” came to mind.

The thing about parenting is it’s so unrelenting. Writing is also unrelenting, especially if you have deadlines, which I always do, and especially if your deadlines are very tight, which mine always are. I’ve been single-parenting these school holidays, while trying to write 30 000 words a month. I’ll be frank with you: if I don’t deliver on time, I don’t get paid on time, and so I need to write to feed the children whom I also need to parent.

So I careen, from one task to the other, doing a little here and a little there, arms wheeling wildly, trying to gain purchase with my feet. I am always certain that I am short-changing both tasks. I skim across sentences and dinner-times, I write in bed in the mornings while my children lie on either side of me asking me questions I don’t remember later; I play Lego distractedly while planning out scenes in my imagination. From time to time, when I offer up pre-packaged ravioli, my son (who is very interested in cooking) will say, “You know, we should make our own pasta from scratch”, and I want to laugh hysterically and perhaps even set my own kitchen on fire so that I never ever have to make pasta from scratch. Or ice cream. Or organic wholemeal omega-3 anti-oxidant treats that will make my children into a übermenschen. (Please note: any comment about how “easy” it is to make pasta or ice cream from scratch will be instantly deleted and possibly also set on fire). It got so nuts, that I went on a writing retreat with my kids. That’s right: I took my kids and was writing with one hand and making cheesy toast for morning tea with the other.

Fiona is right. This isn’t balancing anything. This is simply a constant struggle not to fall over. I am two-thirds finished this book. Don’t wish me luck, just wish me the ability to function on fewer hours of sleep.

The Hobbit: You Want Chicks With That?

So I saw The Hobbit. The LOTR movies are my favouritest movies ever, so of course I was so happy to be back in Middle Earth and this isn’t a review of the movie. This is about the chicks.

Or lack thereof.

There were so many ways that Jackson could have worked some more women into the film, and that’s what I’m going to write about. Now, before you say, “but it was an adaptation of Tolkien and he was being faithful as all good adapters should be” let me just offer you a pre-emptive BULLSHIT, MATE. Adaptations do not have to be faithful to be good. They have to be good to be good. Case in point, what Jackson did with the structure of The Two Towers. The book is boring; the movie had pace, plenty of narrative interest, a clever interweaving of multiple threads.

This is what I reckon he could have done:

* Kili and Fili could have been female dwarves. Think about how RAD that would have been. Female dwarves are awesome! They’d not be all slender and holy-looking like Arwen and Galadriel; they’d be dirty and nuggety and rough as a bear’s arse. Massive missed opportunity.


* Radagast could have been a woman. Birdshit hair-product and all. Imagine, a cool old forest witch character, a crone with a cackle and gnarled hands.

* Smaug could have been a female dragon. Like Onyxia in World of Warcraft (who my cat is named after). Female dragons are cool.

* The Goblin King could have been a Goblin Queen. Let’s face it, we were all thinking of David Bowie as the definitive screen goblin king anyway (“you remind me of the babe”); why not get Judi Dench to voice her and have her be a wormy piece of womanly nastiness instead?

Maybe I’m biased because these are my ideas (worked out in conversation with my terribly clever boyfriend), but I think if Jackson had done all of the above, The Hobbit would have kicked arse. It would have been a movie that truly thrilled me, and a great many other fantasy movie fans, on many levels.