I often get asked how I manage to make any writing time at all, what with everything else I have going on. Although doing so is challenging, to say the least, I get so much from my writing and it’s vital for my well being that I create the time any way I can.
This means staying up in the middle of the night when I’ve got one of the kids back to sleep, which happens at least once a week. I wrote the first draft of Become the Best You between the hours of 4-6am when my little man was a teeny bub. If the kids are busy playing and/or hubby is around I take extra long trips to the loo (sorry, tmi). Most recently I’ve been writing while I work out on my exercise bike.
Essentially I grab any and all opportunities I can to create writing time, and make the very most of them. As my simple advice doesn’t make much of an article, I’ve enlisted the help of some other wonderful writers who also happen to be mums (including no less than THREE BEST SELLING AUTHORS!) Here are their pearls of wisdom, I hope you find them useful.
“Appreciate the little wins. As much as I’d like to be Sophie Kinsella RIGHT THIS MINUTE it takes time. Every day I appreciate the chance to write, the lovely people on social media who have told me they’ve read and enjoyed my book, reviews and peaks in sales ranks. They’re massive wins for me!
Write what you love, not what you think the industry wants. If you write something that isn’t what you really want to, it will never be really engaging.
Be brave. Showing your work to people is hard, it’s scary, and often confidence sapping. But you never know what might happen…”
“The most helpful thing I’ve tried to keep in mind is that not every day can be a great writing day, but putting something on the page, however rubbish you think it is in that moment, at least gives you something you can go back and edit, which is greater progress than a blank page…”
“When my eldest was a baby I used to write all the time – I remember walking round the park to get him to drop off in his buggy, and the second I knew he was asleep I’d sit on a bench and scribble in my notebook. I wrote most of the first draft of Baby X this way.
I wrote my second novel He, She, It and Sealskin (and later drafts of Baby X) after my kids started school: most of it got written between making sure everyone was ready to leave the house (8.10 am) and actually leaving the house (8.30am) – the kids are allowed to watch telly during this time, so there’s an incentive for them to get ready quickly.
As my kids have got older, it’s become harder to carve out time. I’d expected to have more time, but in fact paid work encroaches on my week, and my commitments to the children’s activities and social lives are in many ways more demanding than ever. I get round this by holding on to a few short sessions during my week – during the hours when the kids are at school – when I won’t let work intrude on my time. There’s constant pressure to give this time over to work – I’m always being asked to squeeze in a meeting on a Tuesday morning, or finish something up for a client, but I’m learning to be assertive.
I’ve tried to find other hours in the day: I already get up at 6.15 to meditate and I know this helps me function so want to stick with this. I’m not sure I could get up any earlier. Respect to anyone who manages to write in the evening, but my brain doesn’t seem to work this way!”
“Snatch time to plan whenever you can: it doesn’t matter if your planning time’s a bit disjointed, but it does mean that when you actually sit down with focused time to write you have something in your arsenal to combat that blank page.
Wear your baby! I wrote two novels with Arthur in the sling before he was 18 months old, and the combined breastfeeding/nap time gave me some extended periods to sit and write whilst I knew he was safe and happy.”
“So, how do I find time to write in a house full of kids? I’d say I have to be disciplined – I do a lot of writing in the evenings when the boys are in bed, even if I’m too tired and really just want to slob in front of the telly. I do give myself telly-slob time too (these things are important!) but usually only after I’ve written something.
I also find that being opportunistic is essential too – I seize the moment when the kids are occupied, escape to the loo with a notepad/smart phone, jot down notes while cooking tea, and I write a lot in my head while out on family walks (yes, this does sometimes mean the kids have to ask me the same question three times before I can get myself out of the fictional world and back into the real one!).
Drawing is my new creative outlet and I find time for that by drawing at the same time as the kids – we all sit down together, cover the kitchen table with pens, paper and coloured pencils and then see what we come up with. I’ve yet to try this with writing but maybe I should!”
Rachel L. MacAulay blogs at Challa and Haggis, she’s a freelancer copywriter, editor of Autism Awareness, assistant editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press, and a social media manager. If that’s not enough she also writes novels in her spare time!
“Walk the dog. If you don’t have one, go for a walk anyway. I find that the monotonous movement of my feet helps bring clarity to my mind. I’ve worked through character issues, finessed stilted dialogue, and developed story lines in my head, all while working off calories without noticing. Win-win!
Vacuum. See above. The monotony of necessary household chores frees up my mind in the same way walking does.
Buy Aqua Notes. I discovered these a few months ago on Amazon. The shower is my creative incubator and I often lamented the fact that I’d have Eureka! moments that never got captured because I’d often forget the solution by the time I had dried off. Aqua notes let you write them down while the shampoo is still in your hair.
Close the door. This may not work if your children are too young, or need a lot of oversight. In the same way I used to tell the kids not to interrupt me in the bathroom unless 1) they were bleeding, 2) they had a broken bone, or 3) the house was on fire, I now close my office door when I really need to concentrate. I can’t swear that they don’t interrupt me at all, but the closed door at least makes them think first.
Carry a pad of paper and pencil at all times. While I firmly believe in living in the moment, and not being one of those moms hooked to their smartphone all the time, I often use a yellow legal pad to jot down ideas while I’m at soccer practice, piano lessons, etc.
Sit down and write. In the end, the chaos of life is really just an excuse. Learn to write in the time you have, whether it’s 5 minutes here or 20 minutes there. Even one sentence is better than nothing at all.”
Zoe blogs at Little House Lea, is a part time journalist and novelist
“I wish I had some magic solution to give you or some great pearls of wisdom on how to scrape some writing time. The fact is, I don’t. When you have a family, like it or not, they’re going to interfere with your writing.
The best way I have found to deal with it is just to accept it, accept that you might have to write with your child asleep on your knee, or might just get ten minutes to write before being shouted for. Accept that writing can happen any where and at any time. Accept that writing can be a fluid, flexible thing that doesn’t need special requirements.
If you get over the idea that writing needs to be a sacred quiet moment, when you are alone with your creativity and instead, accept that writing can be something that can be done at any time, then you’ll find you have time to write. It might not be much time, but it will be some, whereas, if I waited for a time to write with no interruptions, I’d be waiting till the kids were grown up and left home!”
“Don’t do housework. Ever. Pay someone. Or get your partner to do it. OK, OK, do it a BIT so, you know, things don’t start GROWING, but a few toys on the floor? Never mind. If you MUST do housework – make a deal with your other half that you do the laundry (so you can write legitimately while waiting for the washing machine to finish) and they do the hoovering.
Write in short bursts. Finding fifteen minutes is much less daunting than trying to find a couple of hours. If you begin writing in short bursts, you’ll find that you’ll get into to your story more easily when you do sit down to do it.
Write during night feeds if you have a teeny one.”
“Motherhood changes everything about your life – including how you write. Throw out the old rules. Don’t think you must write every day, or for hours at a time. Especially when children are young, time is limited. Write in small increments and then stitch it together like a quilt. If you have a half hour, journal, take notes, brainstorm – ignore the dishes and laundry. Think about your story while driving (if the kids are asleep!) or taking a shower, waiting in line at car pick-up, or pushing a dozing child in a stroller. Keep the line of creativity open. You don’t have to keep your identities strictly separate.”