October 5, 2011

Finding Time to Write and Being Mom

Apparently the quest to find writing time never disappears.  As I learned on a recent Writing Excuses podcast, even full-time writers are pinched looking for an extra hour.  It's a topic I've seen pop up a lot, often with stay at home moms asking "how do I do this, too?"  Many conventional answers -- lunch breaks! -- don't apply.  Lunch is the thing that gets cold on the counter while I change diapers, fill sippy cups, and kiss ouchies all better.

But I'm still managing to write -- more than before I had two small children bouncing off the walls. I know everyone's situation is different, but here's how I manage:

1. Set goals.  I talked once about setting goals, but if you don't know where you want to go, you'll never get there.  This affected my writing output more than anything else.

2. Proactively evaluate goals.  If I miss my writing goals, I don't tell myself I just didn't have time.  That makes writing time seem like the weather: completely out of my control.  Instead, I fill in the blank: "I didn't meet my writing goal because I decided ___ was more important."  Then it's my fault.  And if it's my fault, I can fix it.  This also alleviates my guilt and frustration if I missed my goals for a good reason, like "I decided taking care of my sick child was more important."  I can exhale and assure myself I spent my time well. 

3. Get everything else done early. Once upon a time, I waited to fold laundry, load the dishwasher, and mix bread until the children were all asleep -- as if there's time to do those things, let alone write, before sleep deprivation makes my head spin.  Sometimes it's not easy, and sometimes it's frustrating, but I fold clothes with my kids (okay, they jump in the pile of laundry).  I mix dough with my kids (yes, it gets in their hair).  But we have fun, they learn things, and when (if?) they go to bed, I'm free to type. 

4. Plot all day. Bwhahaha...Okay, what I really mean is that often-rote mom work lets the brain wander.  I outline scenes in my head all day, or gnaw over a revision problem.  If I manage a quiet afternoon minute, I let the keyboard fly.  I also keep a notebook handy during the day, and if I can, jot down a few quick notes.

5. Keep your eyes open.  Maybe I like writing too much, but the last time a child vomited on me, I thought, "This sensory experience will come in handy in a scene one day."  As I cleaned him up, I tried to list words and phrases that described warm vomit best.  By the time I managed to clean myself up, I'd moved on to describing being soaked in cold vomit.  I don't know how much narrating my life helps, but it makes me feel like I'm always writing, even if I can't sit at a computer.

6. Enlist support.  Every time I hear someone talk about finding time to write, family support invariably comes up.  I'm exceedingly thankful to have a husband who tells me I can do this writing thing, even when I'm banging my head against the desk.  Making writing group every week isn't just my priority -- it's his, too.  Which is awesome in ten thousand ways.

Humans, from architects to entrepreneurs to teachers, are creative problem solvers.  Writers aren't any different.  When I first started writing, I thought I'd only pour creativity onto the page, but as it turns out, it takes creativity to find time to write, too.


  1. I love this post and it makes me want to see you and your boys so badly. Also, it makes me want to read your writing. I mean, besides your blog writing.

  2. I wished we lived closer, too. I think our boys would have a great time playing together (or, you know, teaching each other new tricks).

    I do have a novel I'm getting ready to submit soon, if you're interested.

  3. These are fabulous ways to fit in writing with being a mom! I try to do chores while my son is awake and can help me, too. (Well, sort of help. He's only 2.) It's good for both of us!