Good morning and welcome on Queer Books Unbound! I am very excited to share a new guest post for our blog series Authors Unbound. Please give Isabelle Adler a warm welcome!
Balancing Writing and Parenting
Writing is hard.
Every writer, whatever their level of experience, knows this first-hand. But today I want to talk about the everyday sort of obstacles that make writing hard, rather than the inherent difficulties the authors face when coming up with plot, characters, and new ideas.
The thing we always seem to be short of is time. We all have our daily commitments that take up most of it—work, family, sleep (even when we don’t get enough of it), cooking, commute, rest, etc. Now, add a little kid or two into the mix, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to cover everything. Writing is hard? Try parenting!
This is something I don’t often see people talk about. A lot of authors have families and raise children, and yet, somehow, the challenge of balancing parenting with writing (let alone regular, daily writing) goes mostly unacknowledged. What is more important—allowing yourself your creative outlet, or spending quality time with your kids?
Maybe the real question is, how can you manage both?
Now, writers who have been writing for a long time probably already have their routine down, but new and aspiring authors might struggle with a sense of being overwhelmed. I know I often got very frustrated when the day would draw to a close, and I still haven’t hit my word count goal. And I still do, but now I know enough about my process to remind myself of the most important thing:
Go easy on yourself.
Yes, it’s good for your productivity to set daily goals, but it’s also vital to understand that you won’t always get to check off everything on your to-do list. When we give ourselves too many tasks, more often than not we get swamped, and end up doing none of them. The more realistic you are about how much you can do in one day, the easier it will be to actually achieve it.
In order to approach your writing schedule as efficiently as possible, first you need to recognize your personal rhythm. When do you feel the most energized, focused, creative? Are you a morning person, comfortable with waking up before dawn? Or do you have the tendency to burn the midnight oil, working late at night? Do you require quiet to concentrate, or do you like having some sort of white noise in the background?
Next, analyze your household routine. Are your kids early risers? Do you have a baby that keeps you up at night, so you need to catch up on sleep during the morning? When do they go to bed? Do you work from home, or in an office? Do you have a quiet place to sit during your lunch hour? Can your partner (if you have one) spend more time with the kids during the weekend?
Of course, the younger your kids are, the more restrictive your daily schedule. But even with toddlers, you can fit in time for writing. It won’t be much, it probably won’t be uninterrupted, and it won’t be easily attained, so don’t get your expectations up! Remember, it’s all about being realistic about your goals.
The next step is to see when your schedule correlates with your times of peak acuity. Are you at your most focused in the morning, and your kids get up at 6:30 AM? Try getting up even earlier. I know it’s hard, but that hour of absolute quiet in the morning, when everyone else is still asleep can be absolutely priceless. You’d be surprised how much you can write in an hour with no distractions! On the other hand, if you feel more comfortable working at night, the time after you put your kids to sleep is perfect. Can you utilize your lunch hour for some creative thinking? Carry a notebook and a pen with you, and see if you can jot down some ideas. If you don’t mind the noise, maybe you can work on your laptop while the kids play. Try different approaches, switch things up every few days, and see what works best for you. Everyone is different, and there is no one tried-and-true way of either writing or parenting. And yes, it will require extra effort. But if you love writing, I promise it’ll be worth it.
As for me, I find that I write best in the early morning, so I try to get up before the rest of my family does and get a few hundred words down. Then it’s time to get the kids ready for school and go to work. Evenings are reserved for family time, so I don’t do much writing then. I admit that after a long day I’m usually in no condition to churn out words, so I don’t usually write at nights. However, I sometimes use this time to do some plotting and outlining (while watching Netflix, if I can!)
On weekends, my husband usually takes the littlest for playtime at the park in the afternoons, and I divide this time between regular chores and writing, while my other kids are happy to read or watch TV by themselves. Also, naptime!
Of course, what works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else. There is no magical solution. I don’t presume to tell anyone what they should be doing; I’m merely encouraging you to find some sort of arrangement that lets you do what you love doing, while still devoting as much time and energy as you need to your family. You won’t know what works for you unless you try!
Now, it’s important to reiterate that forcing yourself to keep up with the ideal of productivity will only get you burnt out. After all, being a writer is essentially taking on another job! So, whatever you do, allow yourself plenty of rest and downtime, and don’t stress yourself out. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and should be proud of it!
Note about COVID-19:
With the pandemic shaking things up, your routines and schedules will be different, and things that worked for you in the past might not be possible to implement with the same level of efficiency. Being cooped up with the kids 24/7 won’t give you much time for anything, let alone being able to concentrate for a few uninterrupted hours in front of the computer. Your writing time will be shorter, and you may need to reexamine when it happens—if it happens at all. And that’s okay! With the entire world being thrown into a tailspin, taking care of yourself and your loved ones understandably takes priority. That story will be waiting for you to pick it up when you can!
A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
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We can’t wait to hear from you!
You can find all previous guest posts in this series >here<.