I was 23 when I had my first Pledge of Conjugal Affection and weathered the usual storm of parenting advice. Don't put Baby to sleep on his tummy. Don't use binkies. Do use binkies. Sometimes use a bottle. Never use a bottle.
It was a confusing time. I rarely knew the right thing to do and was sure that what I did end up doing was going to ruin my baby. (Spoiler: He is not ruined.) One piece of advice I knew was crap right away was the breezily delivered, “You should sleep when the baby sleeps.”
There were a million things I had to do instead of sleep. Things like brush my teeth or stare lovingly at him (First baby. This happened a lot.), or feed myself something that didn't take four minutes and fifteen seconds in the microwave to prepare. (Dear Ramen noodles, you've always been there for me...)
Self Care was important but there were other things too.
Which brings me to crap book advice. I've just finished my first manuscript, found a publisher and am working through my rounds of edits. (If anyone has a genius title suggestion for a Regency romance with supernatural elements, I am all ears.) The collective wisdom of YouTube writers suggests that now, while I am wrapping up book one and beginning to turn my thoughts to marketing, I should be working on book two.
Okay. Not quite rubbish. I think that once I find my feet and these edits are in the can, I will have a bit more discretionary time. But I have a line—a long, long line—of things I have pushed to the back burner just so I could have the head space to write a book. That back burner is starting to look like an episode of Hoarders. So let's list the Things I've Been Meaning to Do:
*I haven't watched TV in three years and season two of The Good Place just went up on Netflix. I am strong, America, but not that strong.
*Braces. One of my kids needs braces. I really ought to see to that.
*Mopping and other funky housecleaning items I would rather not detail. My housekeeping, never an A+, has, at moments, slid to a C-. (And not the kind of C- you can be proud of, like in AP Biology from that teacher who never gives out 'A's anyway, but the kind of C- like you might get in Choir. It's a C- with teeth.)
*Children. There are four more Pledges behind the first one and I'm sure they miss me. *Reading. You know that thing that ignited the love of books in the first place? My TBR pile is long and my guilt has grown and, now that I'm an actual writer (I told a Dude-Bro running the jet ski platform off the coast of Maui that I am an author so there's no takesies-backsies now.) it's all research anyway.
I know I'll have to start plotting book two in earnest (not just while I'm in the waiting room at the pediatric dentist, scratching it out in pencil on the back of an envelope) but, in the words of Prince Humperdinck, “I have my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I'm swamped.”
So let's get back to advice—the best advice I ever got. It was advice that acknowledged the struggle and gave me hope for my ability to conquer it. It gave me space to make mistakes and work out what works for me. It was from my mother on the morning after I brought Pledge One home from the hospital: Stupider people than you have raised babies.
Dear Writers of the World, Stupider people than you have written books. You are not going to ruin anything if you don't do things the 'right' way. There is lots of genuinely good advice that you will have to pass on for one reason or another. But you will find a way. You got this.