Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Writing with kids

Not always the greatest mix, but it can work. It just takes a little bit of planning, sacrifice, and lots of trial and error before you find the formula that works for you. This one's for you ccallicotte. :-)

I have an 8 yr old and a 14 month old. After the birth of the first child, I took that first month off, but then started writing again during naps and sometimes after she went to bed for the night (though, really, by this time I was exhausted so night-writing was a rare event). My son, however, is totally different. He's not a consistent napper, but he does go to bed for the night at 6:30 P.M. and sleeps clean through the night. So my schedule (up until he just started daycare) has been to write at night.

You just have to play around with what works best. For example, at first I tried to write during my son's unreliable naps. And all I got was frustration. It seemed whenever I found my groove, he woke up. Finally, I wised-up, dropped the stress factor and used that time for blogging, internet stuff, and plotting. The most important thing is to take advantage of the downtimes, and give yourself permission to let others things go. So, here are some tips that I have found helpful (feel free, moms and dads, and anyone else, to add your own in the comments section):

1) Save the laundry, the kitchen cleaning, the phone calls to mom or sis for when your child is awake and active, and use those nap times for writing.

2) Take advantage of those 'quiet times' -- baby has bottle and pillow and is lying on the floor watching Noggin... These are great times for editing since, at any moment, you might be distracted. Editing is a lot easier to stop without frustration than rough draft work. At least for me it is.

3) Ask the Hub for some time. A half day on the weekend, running inteference after bedtime . . . The important thing here is to sit down and talk about it -- work out something that is fair to both of you. He helps you out for a few hours, then you help him out.

4) Is your child instantly at your side once you break out the laptop or pen and paper? My son loves technology. He threw a fit if I sat on the couch and opened the laptop. I started with a very nice, soft "no, no," whenever he came over, stood by my knee, and tried to touch the buttons. This always resulted in crying and fits. So frustrating! But when I decided to try the absolute "No" (like a touching-the-hot-stove-"No"), he learned after several attempts over a two-week period (or so) that it was a lost cause and he gave up. The result is me being able to write for 30 + min. when he is engaged in his own activity.

5) Bathtime is a great time to write! (Once you have a child that can sit up and play and who loves the bath). Mine does, so once he was washed, he played while I sat on the bathroom floor next to the tub and plotted, or used my Alpha Smart.

6) Don't try to write when you know it's not going to work. This seems like a simple one, but I can't tell you how many times I did this. It was like, dang it, I have to get this done, I have to write! But this only results in major frustration that not only affects you but your child, too. It's not worth it.

7) Condition yourself to new writing times. Test getting up an hour or two earlier when the house is quiet, you can drink your coffee without interruption and actually sit down and write. I know, this is a tough one. I have yet to do this for any consistent period of time. Kids are so exhausting, every last ounce of sleep is precious! Hats off to those who can do this one.

Every child and every writer is different, so finding what works for you both will take trial and error. Staying up late, getting up early, foregoing that shower you really should take during naptime, giving up some primetime TV . . . it's all a big sacrifice in a very full 24/7 job. And it's a sacrifice to working parents/writers, too, who work all day, come home, take care of the kids and then instead of falling down in a dead sleep, actually sit their butts down and write before bed. But, we sure learn how to time-manage like a pro, and have the amazing ability to concentrate amid chaos, all while watching our kids grow and doing what we love.


ccallicotte said...

Thank you, Kelly! Great post. I admire anyone who can juggle children at home and write - I'm not yet a parent, but I have been worried about how I will manage it when I no longer have long uninterrupted periods of time. I'm going to link to your blog from mine.

Magaly Guerrero said...

Kelly, thanks so much for visiting my blog, I’m following your advice and things seem to be working out.

This is a great post by the way. I’m not a parent, but I have a full time job that is very demanding. I work for a nonprofit organization, doing all I can to help my clients deal with day-to-day issues, and by the time I get home I’m so tired that I look at my laptop and flinch. And then I start writing… I gave up my Law & Order: CI addiction, and had to cut down my workout time to just one hour, 6 days a week. I dream with the day all this work finally pays off—no green Muppet dreams—and if the day never comes, I’m going to be pissed! And then I’ll write some more…

K. said...

Sure thing, ladies. :-)

Sushi said...

That's a really interesting post! I'm a catmom, so I don't have the same issues, but you've got me thinking about a post on writing with chronic illness (and everything else life throws on top of it).

That said, and somewhat unrelated, everyone needs to be a Muppet sometimes. Speaking of which, I need to knit a Muppet puppet scarf for a friend of mine, complete with ping pong ball eyes. It's going to be awesome.

K. said...

Okay, a knitted muppet is AWESOME. I want one!!! :D