neurodiversity / Parenting / Spoonie Challenges / Writing journey

The Three H’s: Hormones, Hyperfixation, and Homeschooling

2021 has been unusual for me, to put it mildly. My husband Éric and I had made a plan at the end of 2020 to write a book together, starting on the first of the new year.

You probably don’t know me very well, but I’ll give you a hint; I’ve never written a book before.

With a nebulous plan in place, I finished off all my previous obligations and prepared for the winter semester of my daughter’s homeschooling.

Oh yeah, that’s right, I was also going to be homeschooling my daughter four days a week while she attended virtual school one day a week. She was in junior kindergarten, French public board. Her teachers were amazing to let us do that unusual schedule.

On top of that, our son had decided to give up naps that Fall, at just over a year old.

Just to give you an idea of the physical challenges we had to overcome.

Mentally was a different story.

I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, but I was worried that it would hit hard this year, especially with lockdown.

I’ve also never been diagnosed with executive function disorder, but I certainly associate with it. Same goes for ADHD.

I also definitely manage spoons.

Needless to say, we were a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage writing a book.

Our goal was to write at least half the book throughout the year, amounting to at least 40,000 words total.

On January 1st, we sat down together, gave the kids a complex Christmas toy that would entertain them for a while (or put on a movie, to be honest, I forget), and we wrote detailed jot notes for the first third of the book in Google docs.

And then, because I was so excited to start, I did.

I was very hesitant at first, constantly asking for verification that I had the characters down right. I’m sure Éric got quite sick of it, but he was always very patient.

I finished the first chapter within a couple days and passed it over to Éric for a quick edit. Once he finished with that, I made the brilliant decision to read the chapter aloud to our four-year-old daughter. She had listened to us talk about the chapter at mealtimes, so she really enjoyed listening to the completed work. Her enthusiasm was catching. Éric finished the second chapter by the end of the week and we repeated the process.

School started up again and the amount of time we had for writing decreased drastically.

And then I figured out I could write on my phone in Google docs. So whenever our son nursed and I was pinned, I would pull out my phone and thumb swipe a couple hundred words. Or more. His bedtime feedings took over an hour, and I’d regularly churn out a thousand words at that time.

ID: Author Jen Desmarais, holding her son as they sit on a black couch while she writes her stories on her phone. She is a white woman with long brown hair who is wearing a black t-shirt with the title of her and her husband’s upcoming book: Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers

Our daughter’s virtual school days also gave me several hours in the middle of one day to write. I’d keep half an ear open in case I was needed during her class, but I’d pop in an earbud and write on my laptop.

I guess you’re probably wondering, but what about the seasonal depression?

That didn’t hit me this year. Writing this book gave me a huge boost of happy hormones. So that was great.

What about executive function and ADHD?

I put these together because they’ve got the same answer; I was very fixated on this book.

And spoons?

Ah. Now this is where it gets a little embarrassing. Obviously, the kids require a certain number of spoons, but that’s pretty fixed. I can allocate for that. And taking care of myself. But everything else just kinda… didn’t happen? At least, not as regularly as it should have.

We finished our book in mid-March, at almost 100k words. It went through betas and was submitted to Renaissance by June and accepted for publishing by August. It’ll be out in Fall 2022, the first book in The Gates of Westmeath series.

A bit of a whirlwind, eh?

And then what?

This is where things got interesting.

No more happy hormones. No fixation. Extra spoons.

So, I started writing again.

Just a couple short stories centered around the main characters. What would happen if they went home for Thanksgiving? Christmas? Got engaged? Oh, and there’s that movie date, and she promised him a massage, and, and, and…

Éric got sucked into my enthusiasm as well, wrote a couple novellas, and all of a sudden, we had enough content for another book of short stories. Oops?

One of those short stories of mine blossomed into a novella, set over the March Break, and centered on the younger brother of one of the main characters of our book. And this summer, I was complaining that I wanted to write more about him. Well, why shouldn’t I? He’s my character.

I started writing a little fluffy piece and about two hundred words in, I got an idea. A giant plot-type idea. I told Éric, who encouraged me, and suddenly I had a whole book plotted out and a whole new cast of characters. I wrote that this summer. It was 78,000 words, including the March Break novella, which got removed from the short story collection. I wrote the entire thing on my phone at night while nursing my son, now two years old. I submitted it to my publisher on September 19, 2021.

Apparently my brain works well at night.

I think I managed my spoons a little bit better with the second two books. Not homeschooling or preparing worksheets and activities definitely helped with that.

Éric and I started writing book 2 (of The Gates of Westmeath series) on October 3. Let’s see if I can finish four books in one year, shall we?

Picture of Jen Desmarais in front of bookcases. She is holding her game Blush and the crocheted TARDIS. She is 3 days overdue, but the bump is hidden by the objects.

Jen Desmarais is the creator of the sex education game Blush, and co-author of the upcoming Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (Fall 2022), also to be published by Renaissance.

Co-founder of JenEric Designs, she creates unique geeky crocheted items. Her blog, The Travelling TARDIS, was nominated for the Prix Aurora Awards for four years in a row (and counting!).

She lives in Ottawa with her author husband, daughter (Sept 2016), son (June 2019), and their library of over 3000 books.

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