Tag Archives: family

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow)

By Emily Schneider

There’s a scene in Sister Act 2 where Whoopi Goldberg confronts a young teenage girl about joining her school’s choir. She describes the book “Letters to a Young Poet” as follows: “A fellow used to write to him and say: ‘I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.’ And Rilke says to this guy: ‘Don’t ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.’ ”

Writing requires energy. It requires strength of mind. It requires emotional fortitude. Most of all, it requires your heart. If your heart’s not in it, then it will not go well.

This is all well and good as a philosophical concept. And, as a young girl watching this movie, I totally identified with it. I wrote because it was the only way I could think of to get what was in me…OUT of me. And it was easy, because I was a child, and didn’t have any other demands on my time.

Finding Time To Write with Toddlers In Tow

But what about now? What do I do when I want to write, but find myself bogged down in the real world tasks of adulthood?

There are the lucky few who are well-published, successful, writing-is-my-life-AND-my-job types. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us buried beneath a mountain of dirty laundry, overdue projects, and what have you? What about those of us scrambling to hold down multiple jobs, or to take care of multiple kids, or are just struggling to make ends meet or to hold OURSELVES together?

I think, honestly, you’ve still got to ask yourself, “Am I a writer?”

Is writing something you think about every day? Do you long for five minutes to yourself to…

If the answer is yes, then my next question is this, “What are you willing to give up?”

Because, the truth of the matter is, you’re going to have to sacrifice something. Every successful writer you’ve ever heard of put blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Every unsuccessful writer has done the same. It’s a requirement of the brotherhood (or sisterhood, as it were) that you suffer for your art. Because, the fact is, unless you’re willing to give something else up, then you’re never going to find time for your writing.

I came to this conclusion in the fall of 2014, after having spent four years as a stay-at-home mom. My three children were four, two and a half, and just under six months old. They were all equal parts needy, irritating, lovely, and adorable. But I missed having something more, I missed exploring worlds of my own creation, of building characters and stories beyond the one I was living. So, I made the decision to join the 365K club, a group of writers attempting to write a thousand words EVERY DAY for the following year. It’s not that I didn’t want to enjoy the time that I had with my kids while they were little, or that I didn’t appreciate the fact that I got to be at home with them, or that I didn’t cherish witnessing their precious childhood moments.

I just wanted to write. I wanted to try, anyway. Besides the fact that I believe you often cherish your kids more if you don’t spend EVERY WAKING MINUTE with them, I wanted to look back at that year and feel that I had achieved something, that I had lived out my passion…at least for a year. The biggest question, then, was how?

How was I going to make the time to do this thing?

Katharine Grubb, a brilliant writer, and friend has a great method of writing for 10 minutes a day to work towards your goal. However, the key to this method and most methods is choosing WHICH ten minutes a day. For me, I am not Ann Voskamp and refuse point blank any waking up before dawn nonsense. I am almost certainly a vampire, and late at night is when I jam. However, you are a different person, with a different schedule and a different household.

So you have to decide- what are you going to sacrifice? What are you going to give up, to find that precious ten-twenty minutes a day? 

TIP ONE: Choose Your Sacrifice

  1. Give up other forms of entertainment: That hour you spend catching up on a favorite TV show, scrolling through Facebook or Youtube, reading a trashy novel- all of those should be the first things you consider giving up in order to get in a daily writing session.
  1. Write during your lunch break: Before I had kids, whenever I was at work, the best way to find time was during my lunch break, when I would isolate myself somewhere nice so I could eat and read (in this case, write!) in peace. The nearest bench or spot of grass did marvelously for me in the summer, and in the winter I would try and find a lonely booth to plop down in at a mostly empty McDonalds or Chipotle. In case you doubt this as an effective method, never forget that JK Rowling wrote a lot of her story down on napkins in a diner (so I’m told). If you can eat with one hand, then you can write with the other. After kids, I still stole time at lunch. Often I could give the kids lunch, and work at a nearby desk while they ate.
  1. Use your commute: As long as you don’t get motion sick, writing while on the train or the bus can be a great solution. I can’t vouch for this, as I don’t commute anywhere, but anytime my husband has to write he will do it on the train to and from work. If you drive to and from work, you’ll have to find another time, but listening to books on audible might help to inspire you still.
  1. Give up your clean house: Let’s be real- being a bit messier will not kill you, and it will give you time to write if you vacuum once a week (or, you know, once a month, which is how I roll) instead of every day. I am not opposed to leaving mountains of dishes if it means that a blog post was finished.
  1. Give up a little sleep: This is personally not my favorite way to make time, but if getting up early or going to bed late is the only way, then do it. If I had to take this route, I went to bed late and drank a crapload of coffee the next day.


Let’s imagine then, that you’ve set your alarm, gotten up half an hour early, and are just about to start drafting a blog post or a new chapter when the children barge in demanding to be fed. What do you do if you have other people living with you that tend to constantly interrupt you? (I’m talking about children, but I’ve known roommates and spouses that do this too.)

I found that the best bet to getting your time to be YOUR time is to make sure these other folks are busy.

TIP TWO: Occupy the Others.

  1. Turn on a show: Now before you get up in arms, one episode of a television program will NOT rot a child’s brains. Remember, we’re talking about finding just ten-twenty minutes per day to write. Even the most highly active children can usually sit still for ONE episode of something they really like. I would highly recommend this tactic for the interrupting spouse or roommate as well.
  1. Give Them an Alternate Activity: Again, most kids (and adults) will sit still for 20-30 minutes doing an arts and crafts project. Play dough, watercolors, chalk, whatever- everyone likes that stuff. For those less inclined to cleaning up a giant mess afterward, you can have them play in their room for 20 minutes. For the younger kids, you can put them in a playpen or pack-and-play with a ton of toys and set a timer, then work on the couch nearby. You can even put your kids in the tub and sit on the bathroom rug typing if you have to. No matter what activity it is, if the interrupters are occupied (and safe!) that will give you the time you need.
  1. Give Them Food: No matter young or old, if you give someone food, they will most likely leave you alone for ten minutes. I’ve already mentioned lunchtime as an opportunity, but what about for younger kids? Well, for those toddlers eating solid foods, I have (on the advice of a good friend) put them in a high chair with cheerios or frozen peas while I worked at the nearby kitchen table. What about if you’re nursing? My friend, if you have a nursing pillow, and enough desperation to finish a sentence, you can type with one hand. I know, cause I’ve done it.
  1. Make Them Take a Nap: Naptime is a golden time to get a lot of stuff done. Instead of getting the house clean, why not work towards your word count? Also, it’s okay to encourage your spouse/partner to take afternoon naps (because who’s gonna turn down a nap, really) or to let him/her go to bed before you. More time for writing!

With all of these things in mind, there are a couple last things I want to say. I mentioned at the beginning taking on the 365K challenge for the 2015 year. I didn’t meet that goal. I didn’t meet it in 2016 either, and I didn’t sign up for it this year. But, you know what I did do? I wrote. I wrote almost every day, which is something that hadn’t happened for a long time. One thing I didn’t do: give up time with my loved ones. This is something you should NEVER give up. Well, okay, maybe if you’re about to publish and need to edit your final draft you can hide in a closet typing for three days. But don’t do this too often. Because your family and friends are your support system. They bring you joy and anguish, but they are the ones that are there to help you keep going when the going gets tough. And, at least for me, that’s more important than even writing.

So, there you have it. Find time to write, even with toddlers in tow. Go for it.

“In my mind, when I call myself a domestic engineer, what I mean is that I am “arranging, managing, or carrying through by skillful or artful contrivance” the management of my 3 children and the piles of dirty dishes and laundry that seem to accumulate in every corner of my house.” Emily lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and blogs at domesticengineering301.wordpress.com.

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Things I Think About Daily That Make Me Productive

I am NOT perfect. I make a LOT of mistakes, but one of the biggest things I did right was decide that I would make time for my dreams.

(I wrote a book about it too!) 

Click on the image to get your copy!
Click on the image to get your copy!

I realized that if I was going to actually write in 10 minute increments, I would have to organize my life. Now, I’ve been doing this 10 Minute Writer/Novelists gig for nine years, so I’ve streamlined my procedures pretty well (and THANK GOD, my kids are older!)

But I still have 10 Things I think about on a daily basis that makes my organization and productivity possible.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.17.31 PM

1. I know where everything is.  I minimize clutter, assign places for everything and have no trouble throwing things away.

2. I have a plan every day. Most of the time I keep it in my head — but I also write lists and keep a calendar. I’ve also discovered that daily schedules have to be flexible, especially as my family’s needs change.

3. I know how long each task should take me. I figured this out when I was devoting my housework to 10 minute increments. Ten minute tasks include: starting a load of laundry, folding one basket of clothes, starting  meal prep, cleaning the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher, emptying all trash bins, vacuuming one floor of the house. Having this information helps my plan my day.

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies
Clearly, I rushed this graphic and forgot to take that last bit off. Oops.

4. I communicate my time needs to my family. I started training my children when they were young that I would need 10 minute increments to work. Generally speaking, they understood it. Now that they’re older, they have no trouble respecting my need for some alone time.

5. I model good attitudes to my children regarding staying organized. This is the most important item on the list. If I whine and complain about anything I do, my children will, most assuredly echo me. If I want them to be happy cleaner-uppers, then I need to whistle while I work. It’s cheesy, but it works.

6. I set a lot of timers. Thank you Apple! My iPhone has what I need: alarms, timers, and world clocks to tell me if my friends in the UK are up to talk! Oh, I kid. I’ve now graduated from my microwave timer to my phone, which is better because my microwave didn’t fit in my pocket.

Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”


7. I plan my meals in advance. Generally speaking, I know what we’re going to eat every meal of the week. I also cook the same things every weekend. I love to be creative in the kitchen, but the “old standbys” go faster. I have a couple dozen recipes that I always have ingredients for and I’ve practiced cooking them so often, that I’m pretty fast at it. I also couldn’t function without my crock pot and rice cooker.

8. I don’t waste time shopping or doing other errands. I keep orderly lists and go out as little as possible, combining as many errands as I can. If an item didn’t make the list, then it has to wait a week. It’s brutal, but that’s why we buy four gallons of milk at a time.

9. I multitask if possible. I use down time to get stuff done, but I also understand when multi-tasking isn’t such a great plan.

10. I delegate household tasks. This is my secret weapon. My kids have always had a lot of responsibility around the house and the older they get, the more jobs are given to them. Some people think having five children is hard work, are you kidding me? Because I do have five, I have an army that cleans the house every Saturday morning, tidies every afternoon and cleans the kitchen twice a day. How do small families do it?

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 1.30.44 PM

All of these took practice, but none of them were too difficult. If you’re  new to the idea of working in 10 minute increments (and perhaps a little intimidated) pick one of the things on this list and practice it for a few weeks until you gain confidence. Then pick up the other one.

know you can find time to pursue your dreams.  Even in as little as 10 Minutes a Day!