It’s My Time and I’m Keeping It

“How do you find time to write?”

I get asked this question all the time by other writers who also happen to be Moms or Dads with young kids. They’re hoping I’ve got a magic spell that will open a portal they can escape into. Preferably, one with excellent child care. Part of them also wants me to validate their need to write. To tell them wanting to write is okay.

I’m not a therapist. I’m just a writer. One with two kids, ages 9 and 5. Someone who wrote her debut novel while her first son was one, her father was dying slowly of prostate, lung, and brain cancer, all while working well over the forty-hour mark per week, and traveling around the country. Since 2012, I’ve had 8 titles published. 9 if you count a boxed set. Two of those novels were written in 12-week spans. I also have 4 novels, 1 novella, and 1 short story that aren’t published–because I followed Creativity’s call and am now editing like an insane person.

I’m not telling you all this to brag. I’m telling you this so you’ll get it. I’ve been there. When I get asked this question, I smile. I listen to the story that invariable follows, because someone listened to me once–many someones. And then I share my story.

The Big Collaboration

When my husband and I decided to have another child, I entered into this agreement with a disclaimer. I will have another baby, only if I get my writing time. Sound like a business proposal? Maybe, but I wasn’t going to have another child if it meant I had to hate my life to do it. Everyone would suffer.

He agreed. I’m extremely lucky. I have a husband who’s always supported my writing.  Then came baby number two.

When the baby slept, I had to sleep. But what about the “writing” time? I remember rocking little Bam-Bam in his car seat while editing my first book, The Star Child, hoping my foot wouldn’t cramp up and he’d start screaming.

A New Kind Of Schedule

When Bam-Bam turned my plans upside down. Hubs and I carved out a plan that, although painful at first, would end up being the best thing I’ve done for my writing career.

  • 5:00am Get up, make copious amounts of coffee, commence writing time. Hubby has the kids with a promise of no interruptions.
  • 8:00am Shift change. I take over. Breakfast for the little dudes. Off to school or wherever.

Now, you might think I’m crazy. That’s okay. But 5-8am is a 3-hour window. I started going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 5am. I had three, guaranteed hours (solid hours) of writing time per day. That’s twenty-four hours a week. I would still sleep (7 hours), have time with the kids, and time for Hubs.

 I remember rocking little Bam-Bam in his car seat while editing my first book, The Star Child, hoping my foot wouldn’t cramp up and he’d start screaming.

I Set Weekly Goals

Once I had my schedule, I determined how many words I could write each day. I multiplied that by how many days I could write a week. I put it on a calendar and set a completion date for my WIP, editing dates  and so on.

Here’s a shot of my weekly schedule.

stephs-planner

My writing plan for each day is on the left. I include planned word counts here. On the right, I include my writing goals for the week, but also write down any to-dos that pop up while writing to avoid distractions.

Like it? You can download your own copy here.

I Don’t Cave On My Writing Time

Shortly after, I came up with some basic rules for my own writing time:

  • Writing time is sacred. I do not use the time for chores, errands, calls to Mom, etc.
  • If any kid-free time becomes available, write. Even if you don’t feel like it at first. It’s still a break.
  • Spend at least forty-five minutes working (with the kids around) per week. Boundaries matter–Mom has a job, too.
  • If there are chores to be done, I do them with the kids and teach them to help.

Even now, as this blog post is being written, I am hiding out in my office, guarding my writing time.

How Has This Helped Me?

By holding on to my window of hours in the day, I’m keeping my passion for the craft alive. I’m also showing my kids that Mom has a life that matters to. In short, I’m keeping my identity or at least a large part of it, anyway.

Even now, as this blog post is being written, I am hiding out in my office, guarding my writing time.

Let’s go back to that writer from the beginning–the one asking the questions. “I could never do that. I’m so tired.” That writer will say. “It’s so hard.”

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s pretty damn hard. But badly do you want to write?”

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6 Comments on “It’s My Time and I’m Keeping It

  1. This one really resonates with me. I am very careful to hold on to my sense of self while parenting, and the paragraph on making sure your children know that Mom has her own important things to do was A+. Well done! That schedule obviously does the job!

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  2. Wow! That 5am writing club is a real thing! Sadly, if I got up at 5am, I’d only have an hour and fifteen before I needed to be in the shower and somehow I can’t convince myself it’s worth it… 😦

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    • It is a real thing! That’s okay! That’s why it’s simply my story and nothing more. When you find time, whenever that works for you, just take it. That’s all that matters.

      I’ll tell you this, though. I was never a morning person either. I’m still not a morning person! However, my family IS thrilled that I wake up on my own and don’t involve them in my daily struggles. 🙂

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  3. It really boils down to a choice: Do I want to make a life, or just let life happen? Learning to be content in the moment while working toward a goal was always my challenge. I started writing in earnest after my third baby, fitting in snippets of quality creative time randomly throughout the day. Since then we’ve added two daughters to the tribe, and that third baby just went off to college. Obviously, I wasn’t cranking out dozens of bestsellers with such a busy houseful, but now I’m able to write full time, and am grateful to have it all – just not all at once.

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