Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions - When Do You Write?

Me with all of my kiddos!
The number one question people ask me when they find out I'm a writer with six kids is, "When do you find time to write?" It's a valid question.  In fact, I would have wanted to know the same thing before I became the crazy woman with six kids, trying to do anything other than raise my kids. 

Honestly, sometimes I don't know the answer to that question myself.  My six-year-old has interrupted me roughly every minute-and-a-half since I sat down to write this blog.  I finally had to threaten her with an early bedtime so that I could finish this post. 

When I first started writing, I had definite blocks of time that I could set aside to work.  Then I had kids and things got harder.  I set up a desk in my bedroom--my version of Virginia Woolf's "a room of my own".  I thought it would allow me to get away from everyone and focus on work for large blocks of time. 

Sometimes it worked.  My husband would come home from work and we'd trade off the kids.  I go upstairs and write.  But by then it was 7pm and I was exhausted.  Often my brain was too fried to write.  I also missed all of us spending time together as a family.  And I really missed my husband.  Still, I was writing.  So we kept the schedule.

Then my husband got a different job, and he was suddenly home a lot less.  I became the sole parent for long stretches of time.  The little time I had set aside to write was completely gone.  There was no way I could go upstairs to my desk and write alone. 

This was a very stressful time for me.  You see, writing is more than a job for me.  (If you're a writer reading this, I suspect it's more than a job for you too.)  It's the way I make sense of the world.  Without being able to sit down and write every day, I became locked in my mind.  My world seemed to shrink.  To stay sane, I needed to find a way to combine being a mom with writing. 

I want to pause here for a moment and address some of the conventional "writing wisdom" out there because I read it all and when I was (inevitably) unable to follow it, I felt like a failure.  So what I'm going to tell you here is what worked for me.  Something else might work for you.  But the thing I hope you take away from this is that there is no one "right" way to write. 

I did three things that really helped me.  All three break the writing rules, but this is what helped me get back to work. 
First, I moved my desk downstairs.  We converted our dining room (which we never used) into my office.  It's right off the kitchen and open to most of the downstairs.  Writing in the midst of all the noise took some getting used to, but this way I can work and watch the kids at the same time.  Also, having my office in the midst of all the chaos means I can write in small bursts throughout the day instead of in one long block.  I leave my laptop on and steal time whenever I can. 

Most weekdays go like this: wake up at 5:30 and get the first three kids on the bus by 6:15.  Then I have small amount of time before the next bus comes at 8:00 so I write until I have to get the next kids ready and off to school.  I still have one child in kindergarten and she's home for half a day.  I finish writing for the while she's working on her homework or doing a craft project.  Most days I finish writing by lunch time. 

Second, I lowered my daily word count.  I used to set high word counts for myself.  Some days I'd meet them, but often I wouldn't.  On the days I hit my goal, I felt great.  On the days I didn't, I felt awful.  Let's be honest here.  With six kids (that I frequently solo parent) I missed my word count goal more often than not.  I was feeling pretty bad most of the time and as a result, I never wanted to sit down and write because doing so felt like Such A Big Deal.  Solution: lower my word count to something I could reasonably attain. Now I hit my goals most days, and I feel like I'm actually accomplishing something.  It's like the tortoise and the hare.  True, I might be a little slower, but as long as I keep plodding along, I'll reach the finish line. 

Third, I stopped writing on the weekends.  I used to spend a lot of time writing on Saturdays and Sundays, and I was getting burned out on it.  Also, it felt like my priorities were off.  Don't get me wrong, I love being a writer.  It's my dream job.  But I love being a mom even more.  If I had to chose between the two, being a mommy would win every time.  Now on the weekends I spend time with my husband and my kids.  It gives me time to recharge and I actually look forward to Mondays when I can get back to my work in progress. 

All of this flies in the face of "conventional" writing wisdom, but it works for me.  I do follow the conventional rules in a few ways and I'll discuss those in the next post. 

So when do you write?  Do you have a schedule?  Do you stick with the rules or break them?

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