How do I manage to write full time and also be a full time mom? The short answer: I don’t.
These two engagements do not happily co-exist. Any articles out there that confirm you can have kids at home all day and a writing job all day are glossing right over several very important details. Similar to advising tourists to head for the beautiful city of Tokyo and skimming past the small detail that there’s a twenty-story high Godzilla rampaging around those gorgeous high-tech streets.
So how do you write and also parent at the same time?
Rule number one: Write when you can and don’t expect long stretches of time.
In this process you cannot get into a writing frequency and expect to stay in it for long periods of time. The baby will be wandering around like a tiny destroyer and worst case pushing that pretty blue button on the front of your computer and turning it off RIGHT when you’re in the middle of a great scene (true story). The other kids, chores, errands, drop-offs, pick-ups, life. All of it eats into your time to plant your butt in your chair and get your fingers on the keyboard.
Although it’s difficult you will have to learn how to dive into your story, leave it regularly and then jump right back in. No sticking your toes in to gauge the temperature, no easing into it with a writing ritual. Just going from red light to green with no yellow in between. There are days that absolutely fuck-all (a technical writing term for measuring progress) will get done. Be ready for that occasional event and don’t let it trick you into thinking you can’t do this at all. You can do this. Some days you can get more done than others, and that’s life.
Rule number two: Prioritize your Priorities.
Your expectations about this will decide whether or not you can make it work. Take some of your precious time and figure out a rough list of priorities. Family and writing will be right up there at the top, so regular cleaning may fall down near the bottom of the list. No? That’s just me? Ahem.
Anyway, decide what order your writing comes in. I write in the mornings and then take the two younger ones out for a walk or to the park in the afternoon before we pick up their brother. Yes, I would get the work done faster if I pounded away on the keyboard all day, but I listed my priorities and found my family was in line before a finished manuscript in a month.
Rule number three: Even if you are a Pantser, suck it up and Outline.
While you are prioritizing and trying for the tenth time to get back into the story you just had to leave you will require assistance. The only way to get it is to be organized about this. Unless you have superhuman author powers and can hold an entire book in your head without putting any of it down on paper you must learn to outline and like it.
Of course you should find and use the outline that works for you. However you get your ideas down, do it so that you can dip into them when needed. When you take off full speed from that red light you have to know where you’re going, or risk running head-on into a wall. Even if you aren’t efficient by nature you will be amazed at how anal you can become.
TL;DR-Summary: A shortened version of this post with one bonus rule can be found at the Women On Writing Blog: The Muffin if you’re interested.
Though these two jobs don’t co-exist well, there are ways to smooth down the rough edges and fit them together. Keeping your expectations realistic, arranging your priorities to suit your two jobs and staying organized about it will go a long way towards helping. It may take you longer than you hope, but keep writing. Are there any methods that work for you? Let me know about them in the comments.
And if you’re an author who works full time, writes and has a family I can only bow down in wonder and ask if you have any articles on your own blog about how to get it done.
photo courtesy: stocksnap.io artist Bonnie Kittle