by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
I’ve had sort of a double-whammy (triple whammy?) recently. During the past week, school was out, I was traveling out of town with my family, and I’ve been working on a book that’s due to my editor in about a week and a half.
Summers are challenging for parent writers who are used to a schedule. Although it’s tempting to just chuck the writing for the summer, I’ve usually got a book due during the summer months…and I’ve found it’s just not a good idea for me to take a break from writing. It makes it that much harder to jump back into.
During the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen tweets and blog post comments from parents…wondering how to make their writing happen over the summer.
I think you have to try different approaches. I can tell you what’s worked for me—and different things have worked when my children were different ages. What I didn’t want was for them to see my writing as something that was keeping us from doing fun things together—but I still needed to get it done. I think it’s gone well and that they’ve respected me for carving out time for something that’s important to me. This is how I’ve worked it:
I won’t say it’s not tough. But this was how I wrote a book with a toddler in the house (and, yes, it’s been a while.)
1. Quiet time (not naptime) for both of you. They “read” books or baby magazines (keep running by the library to get different board books and magazines like Baby Bug.) You write at the same time. Shoot for a page, if you can.
2. Naptime. This is not my favorite option because there is so much else to do during naptime. But sometimes I didn’t have another option.
3. TV (if you’re a TV family.) I’m not proud of this, but TV was honestly the most consistently successful method I had for writing each day. And the 20 minutes of daily TV hasn’t seemed to scar or developmentally-delay my now-10 year old. Every toddler has a favorite show—for mine it was old Teletubby tapes and Sesame Street. In those 20 minutes, I could write a page. It might not have been award-winning writing, but it was a page. And I could fix it after I finished the draft.
4. The timer. Now, you have to work up to this with toddlers and some days it will be a total disaster. Start with 2-3 minutes. Keep your door cracked. See how far you can work your way up. When I was done with my writing, I played a game with my kids.
5. Remember—some days will be better than others. Take advantage of the good days. Don’t let the bad ones bother you.
This seems like it should be easier than dealing with toddlers, but I’ve found it can be tougher. That’s because older children can make you feel guilty.
1. Timer. I lived by it. And I explained when they could interrupt me.
2. Kid boredom can totally derail your day. Sometimes it’s better to have a friend over at your house. Choose the friend wisely.
3. Bunch errands together or try to schedule a day just to do errands. Or do errands when your partner comes home at night, if you have that luxury. Doing one or two errands every single day can really put a dent in your writing time.
4. Learn to write on location. If you have kids who need a little less supervision, you can write at the skating rink, the bowling alley, or the swimming pool. Again, sometimes this is easier if your child invites a friend.
5. Write early. Or write after everyone turns in.
6. Bring the kids onboard with your writing. Tell them what you’re working on. Sometimes it just looks like you’re on the computer and they don’t really understand what you’re doing.
7. Have the kids help you out. There’s an age when they really want to help you with housework (unfortunately, this blissful era has passed at my house.) You can have more time if you’re not spending as much time cleaning. For some reason, mine especially liked doing laundry. I had a stool in the laundry room so they could reach the washer and a reminder note taped on the wall that explained what went into warm loads and cold ones.
8. Unless you’re under deadline—don’t try to catch up. It’s incredibly frustrating to not only write your goal for that day, but to also try to write the missed goal for a previous day. Just pick up where you left off.
Okay, that’s what’s worked for me, for what it’s worth! Does anyone else have any tips for writing around children/grandchildren? Or, for non-parents, how to fit writing into a chaotic schedule, in general?
I'm also on the Chistled in Rock blog today, with a short interview along with two other authors. Hope you'll pop over: http://bit.ly/MLwvIe .
Image: Girl on a Red Carpet—Felice Casorati (1883—1963)