This article was originally published in Authors Publish Magazine on March 3, 2016. Authors Publish, by the way, is a fantastic little publication that you should subscribe to. I actually don’t subscribe to a lot of newsletters, and this is the only writing/publishing one that I get in my inbox. I love it. It’s full of useful information on writing and publishing; and it features tons of potential markets and magazines. Read it. Love it. Use it.
And now, my article…
A Busy Mother’s Guide to a Writing Life
As a mother of four young children and a writer, the question I most often get is, “How do you find time to write?” Usually I answer that I stay up too late. That is true. But there are a few other (healthier) habits I’ve found helpful as a mother-writer.
How do I find time to write?
When your baby sleeps, write. This was the single most important piece of advice I was given as a mother-writer. Don’t do the dishes, don’t balance your checkbook, and certainly don’t watch TV. Writing takes time and concentration. It sometimes requires you to be in a certain zone you can’t hit if a small human is hanging onto your leg repeating your name over and over again. When you’re alone and it’s quiet, write. The end. If that’s just too much, if you simply must have time to do some other things in those precious quiet moments, then at least set a limit for yourself—I will write for 30 minutes before I do something else.
When your baby turns into a big kid, enforce quiet time. And then write. Quiet time can be difficult to establish at first. You can always pop in a movie, but many kids find just as much fun in listening to a book on CD or iPad or even—gasp—playing in their rooms.
That said, if quiet time is a big fat disaster, consider a babysitter. You just need an hour each day; maybe a neighborhood tween will watch your kids on the cheap after school. Maybe a friend will trade babysitting with you each week. Maybe a spouse can take the kids to the park every day.
How do I find time to read?
Give Yourself Permission. Interestingly, I find it hardest to make time for reading. Why? Because reading is fun. In those precious extra minutes I’ve stolen from my busy life, shouldn’t I be doing something difficult, perhaps even unpleasant? Maybe I should edit that paragraph that’s still kicking my butt. Or hammer out another 1000 words. Or at the very least take those nasty diapers out of the diaper pail. No. You (and I) should read, allowing ourselves that precious time to feed our spirits and study our art.
Multitask. If work and family really are sapping so much of your time that you’re finding it difficult to squeeze in some good reading, then it’s time to multi-task. Generally I hate multi-tasking, but reading is the perfect foil for certain menial but necessary tasks in your busy life. You can listen to audio books in the car (or while you do the dishes), take a book with you to the bath (hey, you’re getting clean, right?), or—my personal favorite—read on the exercise bike. All the sudden that menial task is fun (and you just got two things done at once).
How do I submit and sell what I’ve written?
Choose a time of day that is designated for this purpose (and be consistent). It doesn’t have to be long and it’s okay if it’s not your most alert time of day. Some of my best research and marketing time happens when I’m so exhausted that I don’t want to do anything except drown myself in a cup of hot chocolate and make impulse purchases on Amazon. Still I know it’s time to do a little work, so I look up newsletters or blogs with good information about submissions or marketing. Or I take a few minutes to prepare an already-written manuscript for submission. Or submit the manuscript I prepared the night before. Or post a snippet on Facebook. There. Done. The best part is that once I get going I always have more fun that I would just trolling through Amazon or Pinterest. Also, remember that slow and steady wins the race. You don’t have to do all these tasks every night, but if you do one every day, you’ll be surprised how much you get sent off, marketed, and—eventually—sold.
Sometimes it helps if you make yourself do a tiny task before doing something fun. Want to watch a movie with your husband? Good. All you have to do first is send out a tweet about your new book. Or do a quick draft for your blog about your upcoming cover. Those five-minute contributions add up.
I’ve come to enjoy and even to crave the nooks in the day carved out for myself and my writing. I believe that my family is benefited by my writing and that my writing is benefited by my family. Which is how, and why, I find time to write.