Writing while Motherin’

So a fellow blogger and an all-around terrific person asked me for advice about my writing schedule the other day, and my answer ended up being really long, so I figured I’d republish here, b/c yes, I generally have a policy that if I write anything over 300 words, even if it’s for ostensibly altruistic reasons, then yes I have to repurpose it as a blog. Hey, ya’ll bloggin’ ain’t easy and I’m really pressed for time this week. But hopefully this helps other would-be writing mamas:

In short here’s how I got to my current level of writing:

Look to the bright side, fellow writing mamas. We've less time to attend to our craft, but at least we don't have to use typewriters. #icantevenimagine

First of all, it takes a while to build writing discipline. When I got serious about my writing practice, I started by writing 20 minutes every day for 21 days. Then I wrote for 40 minutes every day for 21 days. Then I wrote for 80 minutes every day for 21 days. Then I started writing for 3 hours every weekday and using the weekends to preset my blog and you know … spend time with the family.

It was just my husband and me when I started my practice. But I found that by making a big announcement of my intentions to him and my writing exchange partner that I got all the support that I needed. And I especially find this true now that I have a full-on family.

Now, I call 7am-10AM my “business hours” and 2PM-5PM my “writing hours.” My family knows that I’m off-limits during these hours. These are my work hours, just like my husband has his work hours.

I’ve met a lot of writing mothers, and most of us have one skill in common: the ability to separate family and writing. Basically you have to learn to be selfish. This sounds easy, but believe me when I say it took months and months for me to get okay with this.

Also, I find that adults (like children) appreciate routines and boundaries. Saying “I have to write for three hours everyday” is vague and will frustrate both you and your family. Saying, “Okay, everybody, I’m going to write from 2pm-5pm everyday, and I need you to help me” is way better. Explain quiet hours to your children and ask them to help you set up your new office (a formal writing space), so that they understand that mommy has a new job with new job hours. If your kids are below school-age, get childcare for your writing hours. Also, ask your husband to take care of things for a specific time on weekend days when you need to write.¬†As long as you’re consistent and specific with your requests, I find that people almost always will work with you. I rarely get turned down because I stick to these two rules.

But most of all, you have to train YOURSELF. No leaving your writing space to see what’s going on, when things get too quiet or when someone starts crying. I did this all the time at the beginning of my writing mother journey and I often had my writing sessions derailed by something I thought only I could fix. But later on when I decided not to leave my writing space unless specifically requested to, I found that I only got called up once — for my daughter’s first face plant. And she was fine.

Also, it’s good practice for actually getting published, after which you have to ask for sooooo many favors. Start training yourself now to ask for and get what you need.

I only work on one project at a time. And I don’t start the next thing until I’m done with a draft of the current thing. For example, right now I’m working on the first rewrite of my next women’s fiction novel. After that I’ll work on the rough draft of my third novel while I wait for my manuscript editor to do her thing. Then when I’m finished with that rough draft, I’ll start the second rewrite of my next women’s fiction novel. That way I’m always writing, always finishing drafts. I hope that makes sense.

I think a lot of writing mamas make the mistake of trying to fit writing in when you “have time.” That’s fine when you don’t have kids, but with kids you have to make time for your practice. And I think you’ll find that having formal writing hours will net you more pages than managing a 8-hour burst every now and then. Also, remember that your practice is fluid. Constantly adjust it to fit your lifestyle. You’ll get frustrated if you try to do exactly what I do or stick to too rigid of a schedule.

Bt-dubs when I’m on the road, I just go back to writing for 20 minutes a day. That way I’m still writing, but I’m not frustrated because I don’t have my usual 3 hours. When in doubt, go back to the original 20 minutes a day. A little writing is always better than no writing at all.

So that’s my writing mama advice! Other writing mamas, let us know if you have any of your own in the comments.

featured image credit: seriykotik1970