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We who are about to breed: Ben Tanzer.

September 2, 2011 \am\30 8:00 am

[In which WWAATD asks writers and other artist types about life as breeders/parents/kid-keepers.]

Name: Ben Tanzer 

1. What are your kids’ names, ages? 

Myles age 9 1/2 and Noah age 5 1/2, and those halves are very important to them, so if you have to edit this to a more manageable size please don’t leave that out, they’ll kick my ass. Not that they’re in charge or anything. But just to be safe.

2. How do you balance your time between parenting and writing?

It’s funny, for me the balance isn’t between parenting and writing, as much as, parenting and writing and work, with work and parenting dominating my time and writing being folded and squeezed around those priorities. Because of this, there really isn’t any balance, writing is something I continually try to slot into the open spaces between the other two, constantly trying to find time and hold on to it. Sometimes, that’s early in the morning, or late at night, especially when there was only one child, and fewer demands, but also during lunch, on trains, in hotels, wherever, whenever. In many ways having time to write is like having a mistress. I will do anything to have it, and when I do, I am desperate and sweaty and briefly full of joy, yet still somewhat guilt-ridden that the time I am using to write has on some level been stolen from something else. It mostly works, though, it definitely doesn’t leave time for an actual mistress, which is kind of a drag, though given how tired I am most of the time, I can live with it.

3. What is the best piece of advice about being a parent and a writer?

I have two comments here, which may be one, let’s see how that goes. My primary rule as a parent and a writer is, was, my primary rule starting off as a new writer, don’t be precious, can’t be precious, no shooting for the perfect place or writing tools, the right song, or time of day, a full or empty stomach or a great cup of coffee, a desk or the kitchen table, whether I’ve had the chance to run, or will. If there is space to write, you write, all of which is somewhat analog to parents of newborns, you sleep when you can sleep, regardless of when that opportunity presents itself. Tied into that then, and look, this ends-up being one comment after all, sweet, is that part of removing the precious from your writing, is embracing flexibility, which maybe is what I was trying to say all along. Recently for example, I made some changes to my work schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I no work two shifts, with a late afternoon break until my kids’ bedtime, which has meant more time with the boys, which has been really fun, but has also hindered my ability to write on those days. I now have fewer slots to choose from, more frustrations and a new found need to somehow roll with that.

4. How has your writing changed since becoming a parent?

In my case, I had barely started to try and write before we had our first kid, so in lot of ways the two have gone hand in hand. What has changed in both cases I suppose, is that I have settled into what I want my style or voice to sound and look like. I’ve made up both as I’ve gone a long, no real classes or training, no immediate models or mentors, a lot of trial and error, and a ton of poor writing and very, very poor parenting, but always evolving as well. I think. I hope. And in that way, those ways, I probably have changed a lot, thematically and aesthetically, as a parent and writer. It’s all tighter, and some of it is easier and what I want to do is more clear to me. Sometimes anyway. Other times, I am still a poor writer, and a very, very poor parent, and I don’t have to question this, the latter certainly, because my kids are only all too happy to tell me just how sucky I am.

5. Tell us something we don’t know about you and being a writer-slash-parent.

I don’t know if this interesting, but for a long time, much of my early life into early adulthood I don’t recall being interested in being or doing anything beyond maybe being a good athlete and definitely trying to get laid. That took up much of the time and the space in my brain, though I did make room for insomnia, compulsively reading and running, and then later consuming massive amounts of alcohol and drugs as well. As that space cleared in my head, however, and as the drug and alcohol use lessened, I realized just how much I really wanted to write, that I had been sort of thinking about it for a long time, and getting started took awhile, years, but I got less scared and I got started, and just after I got started, my wife and I decided to have children, and that didn’t take any time really, but in both cases, I ultimately went from nothing to something, quickly, and in both cases the experience and feelings related to the acts of writing and parenting and parenting and writing have been transformative. It’s a new and different life, and that other life, had been pretty good, mostly, and happy, mostly, but this, this is better, better than better maybe, okay, much better, and just as cheesy as it sounds.

  1. September 2, 2011 \pm\30 12:36 pm 12:36 pm

    Hilarious. Thanks for the commentary, Ben!

  2. September 3, 2011 \pm\30 3:11 pm 3:11 pm

    Tanzer! It’s gonna rain.

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