Scott Stuart on Redefining Masculinity, Parenting and Writing
When Scott became a father, he discovered two things: his ideas around masculinity were too rigid and he was a great writer. Scott chats about his journey as a parent, becoming a writer and TikTok star, and his latest book, Bedtime Stories for Hard Days.
When did you write your first book and why?
I have always wanted to be an author (at least since I was 8 years old). But, I've always been far better at procrastinating than actually writing. Then, when my son was born, I wasn't able to stay in the hospital with my wife after she gave birth. While I was lying in bed getting absolutely zero sleep, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if I wrote a book about my son." So I wrote a very bad draft of a book called "A Pickle in the Post", and I absolutely fell in love with the process of writing. I haven't stopped since!
Tell us about your Tik Tok following. Why do you think it resonates?
I really only started online in early 2020 after a conversation with my wife. She said something like, "There are probably a lot of people out there who would love to see a Dad, like you, who accepts that his kid is breaking stereotypes."
I think the reason I have resonated with a lot of people is because many people have had a father/parent figure who hasn't been accepting of them—whether that's because of their interests or their identity. To have a Dad show up online, spreading the message of acceptance, provides a healing and loving space for them to be part of.
Tell us about your journey as a kid and what you learnt around masculinity?
I grew up with a very rigid definition of masculinity, and a lot of internalised fear and shame. My entire environment was structured around men looking and acting a certain way. I remember sitting with my Dad on a train and him pointing out a man who had an earring, as though it was the wildest thing on Earth!
In some ways, I thrived in that environment. I excelled in sports and school and "fitting in." But in another way, almost all of my sense of self came from avoiding the things I "should avoid", rather than discovering the things that I actually loved.
Then what happened when your son came along? How did this change you?
My son being born was a huge catalyst for asking the question: what do I actually enjoy in my life, and what do I want to share with my son?
As he was growing up, I was getting to share things with him that I would usually avoid, and finding joy in those things really started to shift my mindset around my own identity. Then, my son fell in love with Queen Elsa and wanted to wear her costumes and get all her toys. It really led me to challenge all the lessons around masculinity that I had grown up with.
I remember the first time I said yes to him wearing the Elsa dress, and the discomfort that I was feeling. And then how that discomfort was transformed into pure joy as we had one of the best days ever. It has completely changed my entire perspective on masculinity specifically, but also on how we live our lives.
Why did you write Bedtime Stories for Hard Days?
This project had been sitting in the back of my brain for a long time. After my son had a really challenging day, I wrote a little poem that was just designed to be read to him, to help turn that day around.
Not long after, someone on my social media asked if I had a bedtime story for their child who was going through a hard day as well. I decided to share that poem online and the response was phenomenal. That really gave me the catalyst to start playing with these poems as a way of dealing with all kinds of hard days. That very quickly turned into creating the collection which became this book.
Where does your inspiration come from?
A lot of inspiration comes from real experiences that I have had. Things that challenge me or make me think very often end up in some kind of story. But mostly, if I'm having fun, I'm getting inspired. So a huge part of my daily routine is finding ways to inject fun into everything I'm doing.
How much do your reader requests influence what you write?
For Bedtime Stories for Hard Days, I would say at least half of them came from requests from readers. I get requests for poems to help get through all sorts of days. Sometimes the kinds of days that are hard to imagine.
But, there is also a trap of following requests exclusively. The magic lies somewhere in the middle between my brain and the brains of my readers, so I'm constantly playing and experimenting with new kinds of stories and new ways to share my messages.
What does your son think of your books?
He is my harshest critic (the reviews I get on my first drafts are brutal!), and at the same time he and my wife are my biggest supporters. I have a card he wrote me, thanking me for writing my books—keep that on my desk always.
How do you handle any negative comments around your family?
Negative comments are just a part of sharing your art or your message online. But, that doesn't mean they don't sometimes hurt. I am incredibly fast to block people and delete comments. I have absolutely zero tolerance for people spreading hate on my page. But, when thinking about them, I try to lead with empathy. I can't imagine leaving hateful comments on anything online, so I always imagine that the people doing it must be having a pretty rough day.
What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I do have something to say, and I can actually make an impact in the world. But on a day to day level, creating something that is designed to be shared really helps me. It helps me work through the struggles I have around being afraid of what others might think of me. It is such a vulnerable act, to put your art out there to the world, and I have found enormous joy in doing so.
What do you hope your son remembers from this period of time?
I hope that he remembers how much joy and love there is in his family, and that we always tried to make everything magical. From dressing up together to go to movies, to putting on family musicals. I hope he remembers how much he is loved and how much fun we have had being his parents.
Looking back, what message would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to just start. Whatever it was that I was wanting to do, just start. After a childhood where fear and shame led such a large part, I stopped myself from doing an enormous amount of things that I wanted to do, simply out of fear of what others might say. Just get started.
What’s some advice for kids having hard days?
That hard days always end. When I was a kid, I felt like every experience, good or bad, was going to last forever. A lot of the kids I speak to in schools have that same sense or permanence. No matter how hard the day, a great day is just around the corner.