The question I’m asked most often these days (after being asked how the baby is, and how much he weighs, and Oh-my-god-what-have-you-been-FEEDING-him?) is, “So, what are you working on now?”

It’s a valid question, but I can’t help feeling some anxiety about it, and my response. The truth is, I had a tough time with writing over the past year, as all the pregnancy hormones turned my brain to mush. The stuff I did manage to write never really went anywhere, both figuratively (some stories never hitting their stride) and literally (other stories meeting rejection from editors). And then, after the baby was born, I gave myself three months of “maternity leave,” and I wasn’t much for intelligent thought or being able to put a coherent sentence together during that time, anyway. But since the beginning of September, my home life has finally and thankfully stabilized, so I’ve officially been back to work. And it’s been hard. Really hard.

I spent the first week reviewing the projects I was developing before I got pregnant. The most involved one (a novel) seemed daunting — I’d been so immersed in it a year ago, and it all seems so foreign to me now, like a language I used to speak fluently. And then there was a new idea rolling around in my brain, based on a dream I’d had. (Since pregnancy, my dreams have become more vivid and compelling, like little movies.) I played with that idea for a day or two, but decided it was just distracting me from the daunting novel. It’s a really, really bad habit I have — succumbing to the new and shiny when an older idea has not yet flourished.

Then I got REALLY off-track and had to put everything aside to write my speech for the Cancer Survivors Day event I told you about. It should have taken me a couple of days to draft, but I have this little thing called a baby who now likes to BABBLE and WHINE to himself and needs comforting and burping and assorted forms of engagement at random intervals throughout the day, aside from the scheduled feedings and naps and diaper changes. This is not a complaint; he’s a total distraction in the best possible way. (But as long as we’re on the subject, I could do with a little less of the whining.) And then my husband gets home from work, and I have my half hour to work out (and decompress) and another hour to make and eat dinner, and then I’m just too tired to do anything else, aside from taking a shower, putting the baby to bed, and blearily catching up on whatever premium cable TV drama I missed earlier in the week (Masters of Sex is excellent, by the way). I’m in bed by 9:30 these days, a fact that the night owl me of just a year ago would find both sad and hilarious.

None of this leaves much, if any, thoughtful creative time. So as of two weeks ago, the situation seemed impossible. I was supposed to deliver work to my critique group for our monthly meeting, and all I had were four measly pages and no forward momentum. We talked a little bit about time management at that meeting, and it was comforting to hear that everyone else felt similarly, about not having room in our days for everything we’d like to accomplish (including chores) and needing to rethink routine. I’m always inspired after my crit group, but this time, I wasn’t just inspired to write. I was inspired to make the time to write. Instead of whining (like a certain baby) about not having the time for my work, I realized I just needed to give that time to myself. The solution was there the whole time, but I just wasn’t allowing myself to see it.

Now, instead of getting up at 7:45 each morning, I get up at 6:00 and write for a pretty solid ninety minutes, aside from the few minutes at the beginning where I need to get my bearings. It’s only slightly earlier for me, so it’s not TOO painful. And it’s not a lot of time. But it’s something. It’s time I’ve carved out for myself, when the house is quiet and everyone else is still sleeping (except for the cats, but they pretty much keep their distance) and I can drink my coffee and put in my headphones and focus on whatever I want to be doing. For me, for now, it’s a gift.

Do YOU give yourself the time? (If you don’t, you should. You’re worth it.)