Is it possible to be a productive writer with little kids in the house?
I started asking myself this question about three years ago when my perfectly organized and time structured writing life disintegrated with the (very welcome) arrival of my daughter.
It took me almost 2 years and a lot of trial and error to figure out the answer.
It is possible to find an organized balance between being a writer, running a household and being a parent with kids at home.
I admit, I sometimes still struggle to find a harmonious balance with work life and the ever changing demands of family life, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that has kept my life organized, let me keep writing, run a (mostly) functional household and stay (mostly) sane.
1. Claim a Sacred Writing Time
There is some point during the day, if it’s five minutes or an hour, that you can find to write.
It might mean going to bed a bit later so you can write after everyone else is asleep, or getting up a bit earlier so you can write before everyone wakes up. It might mean writing during your kid’s nap (if you still have that luxury in your house). It might mean giving up TV time in the evening.
Find a time. Claim it. Use it. Ensure everyone in your house knows this is your SACRED writing time, but make sure that you are especially aware that this is writing time so you’d damn well better make the most of it.
2. Write Every Day, Even Just A Bit
Connect with your work every day to keep that part of your brain activated. Just a few minutes will do. Just a few words.
It might seem pointless to just be adding a word or two but this continued connection really does help. It helps you feel like you’re still writing and making measurable progress and it helps to keep your mind in a state of readiness so that at the beginning of the next session, you’re up and ready to go without struggling to get back into the writing groove.
3. Measure Your Progress Against Your Goals
Find a goal within your project. A word count. A number of chapters. A blog posting schedule. Anything.
Every word you write and every sentence you edit takes you a step closer to that goal and there’s no better feeling than seeing those accomplishment points creep closer and closer.
4. Have a Couple of Different Projects Running Simultaneously
This doesn’t work for all writers, and I know a few writers who actively advise doing the opposite. For me, having different projects on the go simultaneously allows me to use different writing times to differing but still maximum effect. I focus best as soon as I wake up, so I’ve made a 5 am writing time for fiction (which is the most valuable thing for me to write).
I use any other sessions I can manage to write non-fiction or work on any edits, and I use any evening time I get to make notes, brainstorm, outline, and research—all of that writing work that requires a different kind of mental work without the structure and deep focus of the actual composition.
5. Don’t Work All the Time
If (when) your kids are preventing you from actually writing, it can be sometimes best to just let it happen.
Accept the gift of having a break from work and let yourself just be in the present activity. Children are masters at this.
You’re going to get back to your sacred writing time soon, so it might be just easier just to wait for that quality time rather than fighting against the reality of interruptions. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a writing session when it’s out of your control.
6. Let Your Kids Give You A Writing Lesson
Hanging out with a little kid is all about playing. Well, there’s typically a fair bit of cleaning and sometimes some crying and yelling in there too, but play time is a big chunk of the deal.
As you’re playing with your little person, look for ways to spark your own creativity. Draw pictures of scenes from your books or just random stuff. Act out plays with toys. Read storybooks and give yourself a lesson in writing for children. Make up rhymes and sing a nonsense verse. Make up your own stories to tell your children. Trust me, your kid isn’t going to notice you’re “working” during all of this super exciting play time.
7. Get Some Help
Not everyone has a support network in place to help look after the kids. If you are fortunate enough to have support, use it. Call in any willing family or friends, put partners or older children to work. If it’s an option, you might also consider a day care or hire a babysitter to give yourself a good quality writing session. Even a half day a week will do wonders for your productivity. The two days a week my kid is in Kindy, I’m an unstoppable word machine.
8. Write For You
Does writing make you happy? Does writing satisfy you in some unique way that nothing else does? Then you need to write.
It’s easy to feel guilty making time for yourself to pursue a goal or a passion and even a job outside the family circle. As if there wasn’t already enough guilt that comes with raising kids!
If writing scratches an itch for you like nothing else can, then it’s a simple necessity. You must write. Your family must let you write.
I always feel like writing makes me happier, it makes me who I am and therefore makes me a better mother, a better wife, a better me. Don’t feel guilty for writing. Ever.
Writing while raising small people is hard, but it’s far from impossible.
Sometimes sentences may need to sit unfinished for a day or two, but those half sentences are a zillion times better than the sentences never started. Those interrupted writing sessions are infinitely more valuable and productive than the writing session you never forced yourself to take. You can be a writer and a full-time parent at the same time. If you let yourself be.
Kate Krake writes speculative fiction (as K.A. Krake) and non-fiction for writers. Kate is the author of the dark urban fantasy series, Guessing Tales. Kate also blogs about popular culture, health, wellness, and writing. Kate lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles.