Thursday, December 9, 2010

Squeezing Writing In

IMG_3846edTwice in the last week, I’ve read posts by parents who want to write more, but have real obstacles in their way.

These lovable obstacles are their children. :)

As my children have gotten older, my approach has definitely changed.

And I want to say that squeezing writing in isn’t for everyone. It’s not particularly enjoyable to write that way. But it was something I felt really driven to do (before I was published), and then deadlines made it necessary after I was published.

For what it’s worth, here’s how I do it…and my children don’t seem too warped (yet) by my approach. And, yes, I was at home. Moms who work out of the home will have to scrunch their time in even more. Some ideas: write during your commute (using a voice recorder if you drive or use a pocket notebook if you’re on public transportation), write more on weekends, write really early in the morning, write late at night.

We’re talking about 10-30 minutes a day. You can write a book in just minutes a day—I promise. I’ve done it. It helps if you know what you’re going to write that day.

(This plan was built when my daughter was a baby—I didn’t write regularly when my son was that little.)

When I had an infant: Naptime was writing time. Was this relaxing for me? Probably not. :) Maybe I should have been napping or vacuuming or something, instead. But I was able to write then.

When I had a cruiser/young toddler: I put board books within her reach so that after naptime, she could “read” to herself for an extra 10 minutes. Yes, she ate the books half the time and threw them against the wall the other half—but I had those extra 10 minutes. So then I could do housework/rest and write.

When I had an older toddler: Well…there was Teletubbies or Sesame Street. I know what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about little ones and TV. But I haven’t yet noticed any permanent damage from the 20-25 minutes that she watched TV while I wrote.

When I had a preschooler: Some of those preschool hours were spent writing. Sometimes I’d do all my writing on preschool days, keeping the non-preschool days writing-free (and all about her.)

I also made little deals with my preschooler. If she would give me 25 minutes with no interruptions, then I’d play Old Maid with her (or any game of her choice.) I’d set a timer and I’d keep my promise. I told her that she only needed to interrupt me if it was an emergency (and we talked a long time about what constituted an emergency. Spilled yogurt? Not an emergency. Feeling sick? That’s an emergency.)

School-age: This is where I am now. :) I plan my writing the day before (not an outline, but some bullet points as far as what I plan on writing.) I have notebooks in my car for dead time in the carpool line.

I’m flexible with my writing—but I’ll plan on writing early to make sure I get it in. Because sometimes life gets in the way of writing—I’ll get a bunch of phone calls or I need to get promo done, or the plumber needs to make a house call, or one of the children ends up sick. Instead of writing off the writing day, I’ll flip my schedule around so that I’m writing at night, instead.

A special note about the after-school hours and summer vacation: Playdates. Lots of playdates. If each child has a friend over, everything goes wonderfully. And I’m happy to take the children and their friends on activities. I’ve taken kids skating, bowling, swimming, and to free summer movies with my notebook and pencil and laptop in hand. Usually it goes really well and no one gets bored.

One thing that I’ve tried to do…and haven’t always accomplished, but have tried really hard to do…is to be fully present with my children when I’m with them and it’s not my writing time. I don’t think about my story when they’re talking to me. I don’t check my emails or look at my Facebook or Twitter if they’re telling me about something that happened at school, etc.

And it’s always my plan to get everything done while they’re at school. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s my goal.

As I mentioned, if you’re really missing writing and feel like you really need to write—this plan works well. If it makes you feel stressed out (and I had my days) or if squeezing in writing makes you dislike the writing, then don’t do it. Children get older and time frees up!

But if you’re frustrated by not being able to write or can’t see how to fit it in…give it a go.

Oh, and one more point—please set attainable goals. Maybe start out with 10 minutes of writing/brainstorming time each day. Then move up to a page a day (double-spaced). My personal writing goal was a page a day for a long time—a target I knew I could hit if I wrote a few minutes every morning and a few more minutes each evening.

What are your time management challenges and your tips for how to work around them?