C is for CHILDREN: WRITING WITH KIDS IN THE HOUSE
I love, love, love my kids. But kids have a way of eating up time and leaving precious few hours (or minutes) for writing. I think this is true whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom or working outside the home. I’ve done it both ways and it’s a challenge to find writing time either way.
The most challenging time is when they’re infants because then you’re adding sleep deprivation to the list of reasons why you can’t write. But even teenagers invade writing time in their own special, irritating way.
So, how can you write a novel with kids in the house? Here are some things that have worked for me:
Use a voice recorder
My Olympus digital voice recorder has been a godsend for me. I wrote most of my last novel this way. These days I use my smart phone because I can go hands-free. The beauty of the voice recorder is that you can use time that might otherwise be wasted. You can write during your commute or while driving the kids to and from their various activities. You can take it on walks and write while you work out. This works especially well when you have young ones strapped into a stroller! You can write while cleaning – which is my favorite part because cleaning always feels like a giant time suck. I’ll admit, in the beginning, I felt like a complete fool but give it a try. If you can get past that initial awkwardness, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish with this tool. Just be careful on the road!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you can afford it, hire a babysitter and head for the nearest library or coffee shop to write. We never could afford sitters when the kids were little, so I leaned on friends and my always supportive husband. There were days when he came home from work and I was waiting at the door, computer and coffee in hand. If you have friends or family that offer to watch the kids, don’t be afraid to accept the offer. It’s hard not to feel bad about this, but there are ways to reciprocate. Bake a pie, buy flowers, or offer to exchange sitting services with a fellow Mom. She may not be a writer, but every Mom can use a free hour here and there – even if it’s just to take a much needed nap!
Skip TV time
Or reduce it. At the end of a long day, a couple hours in front of mindless television can act as a drug on your frayed nerves, so I’m not saying quit cold turkey. Even if you reduce TV time by half an hour, you’ll get at least a page written during that time.
Take advantage of nap time
Here is another segment of time that can be filled with writing. I think the most daunting thing about writing with kids is the realization that you don’t have the luxury of huge blocks of time. This slowed me down for years. The idea that to write well, to really get into a story, I needed hours and hours of time. Here’s a tip – even if you have hours and hours of time, you probably won’t use it all for writing. I don’t. My kids are in school from 9 AM until 4 PM, and I can’t write the entire time. There are still errands, cleaning, laundry and countless other tasks to complete. I’ve also discovered that my creativity engine has about a four hour battery. After four hours of writing, the words start to blur and my characters shut down. So don’t be afraid to use small chunks of time. When the kids were little, I needed nap time as much as they did (if not more). If you need a nap, take one, but think about taking a short nap and then writing for half an hour or fifteen minutes.
Keep track of word counts
The downside to working in small time segments is the feeling that you aren’t getting ‘enough’ done, so keep track of every word you write. I do a lot of journaling to get my initial thoughts down on paper. I ramble on about characters, what they might look like, want, need, etc. Count these words, especially if you’re just starting out. At the end of the week, add them all up and see how you did. This shows how much work you’re getting done and what goals you might want to shoot for the following week. Some weeks are better than others. My husband and son were home sick this week and it definitely affected my productivity. Don’t worry if you have a bad week and be sure to count every word. Even if you write six words, you’re still writing. And that’s the goal. Any writing time is better than no writing time.
Give yourself a break
If you have a bad day, week, month or even year, don’t beat yourself up about it. Mothering is a full time job. I think it’s the hardest job and that Moms are superheroes. Trying to do anything else, to accomplish the huge task of writing a complete story and being a mother is an enormous undertaking. So take baby steps. If you write at all, you are a writer. I’ve been writing novels for fourteen years now. It took me five years to complete my first. I had two kids during that time. Looking back, it’s not hard to figure out why it took me five years! The good news is, writing gets easier as you go. Finding time to write gets much easier when the kids go to elementary school….so if you manage to write anything while they’re toddlers, you’re way, way, way ahead of the game!