Photo credit: the fantastic Brook Andreoli Photography (click here for more info)
So here’s how these conversations will work. I’ll post about the topic with my opinion/ideas. Then we’ll talk in the comments. And please bear in mind, that I always know that I’m just sharing one person’s ideas. I know these things won’t work for everyone, that lives change, that I could be writing a completely different post myself in one year’s time. It’s just about getting the conversation started. 🙂
I started writing seriously at about the same time I became a mom. Which was nice because I’ve always built the writing around the kids–but also challenging in its way too. I’ve been doing this for 7.5 years now. And here is the only secret I have learned: things change.
I used to write during naptime, then during naptime/preschool overlap, and then when I had my third son, I realized that three schedules very seldom overlap. But it’s still very important to me to write every day–I’m a somewhat slow writer, in that I complete about one book per year–and that’s the way I get it done.
So what to do?
In the past few months, I’ve been able to hire my adorable and lovely college-age cousin Caitlin to help out with the kids for six hours a week. It is sort of stunning how much you can get done with an extra six hours per week. But that isn’t something I had during the first seven years I was writing.
Here are a few ways that I make writing work with small children:
*I cannot do two things well at once. I can’t write when the kids are awake or when they need me. Answer an e-mail or take a phone call here and there, yes. But really write? Really create? That needs my full-time attention–and, even more so than that, so do my kids. They are crazy and cute and the reason I quit teaching was to be at home with them because I knew it was the right choice for our family. (Definitely not trying to tell anyone else what to do!) So I have to find/make the time to write at other times.
* This means evenings and weekends, for the most part. My husband’s job is such that he works every day after he gets home once the kids are in bed. So we work side by side at our computers almost every evening. Such is life in the Nerdery. And then, on Saturdays, I always get in a good block of time–say 4-8 hours. This is very, very important to me because it’s when I can do lots of drafting and really dig in.
*I write a little every day no matter what. The hardest time to write was when I had two small children and was the house mom in a sorority of forty girls. I lived in the sorority and was in charge of running the house, the staff, looking after the girls, etc. While parenting. And writing. My writing was definitely the slowest then, just 300 words a day sometimes. I did get discouraged. But I tried to be very disciplined and at the end of the year I had a book. Not a great book. But a book, and I had gotten better at writing.
*I don’t write on Sundays. This is for religious reasons, and I’ve found that a side benefit is that it is so good to have that day off, to let go of the manuscript and just live.
*I keep notebooks everywhere to jot down ideas that come to me so that I can get back to them when it’s time to write.
*I accept (some times more gracefully than others) that this is a situation that requires constant calibration and balance. What works now will not work later. No solution is permanent.
*I accept (some times more gracefully than others) that I’m not as active online as I feel I should be. When I sit down at the computer, I usually know that I don’t even have enough time to write, let alone do all the other stuff I feel like I should be doing (like blogging more, being a better commenter on other people’s posts, etc.).
*I accept (some times more gracefully than others) that–for me–being a good mom/wife and writing are the only two things that I can really do right now. It’s like letting go of a bunch of very bright, very beautiful balloons that represent different lovely or good things. (And I have to admit that maybe I’m sort of gleefully popping some of these balloons, like the one about having a clean house. Really, was that ever going to happen anyway?) But some are harder to let go. Goodbye, training for a marathon. Goodbye, television shows I once loved. Goodbye, all hopes of my children having updated photo albums. Goodbye, making homemade bread. Goodbye, learning how to ballroom dance, doing a great job of keeping in touch with old friends, taking that economics class at the university, etc., etc.
But here’s why it’s okay. Because those other two balloons–the ones I hold to very, very tightly–are the ones that lift me up and make me feel like flying.
Let’s discuss in the comments: what questions do we have for each other about writing with small kids (or making time to write in any situation)? What tips do we have?