Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Writing with the Kids Around by Christine Locke

Are you a parent and a writer?  Is your writing still "part-time" or "on the side," in other words, not supported by day care?  If so, how do you find time to write?  Having older children (beta readers!) can be a blessing to a writer of young adult fiction, but what about little ones who still need so much attention?

I started Open Door early in my last pregnancy.  After my daughter, above, was born, there was just no time for writing.  I became terribly discouraged.  Would I ever finish?  Would I still have the same passion for the story when/if I could return to it?

The answer to both questions was yes, but finishing that novel took a little more creative planning than I originally expected.  Here are a few tricks I've learned for writing with (young) kids in the house:

1.  It sounds overly simple, but make a game out of your household chores.  My baby likes to pretend to vacuum with the Swiffer wand while I mop the floors.  She also loves to "help" unload and load the dishwasher.  Having an 18 month old help me makes the chores a little harder to do, but at least I am doing them while she is awake.  And she is having fun being my "big" girl.  My son, 6, can take part on a different level.  He is capable of a whole new range of independent tasks, and he is proud of being asked to do things that his little sister cannot yet accomplish.

2.  A light touch does it with online presence.  Thanks to the miracle of smart phones, I can follow back the real people who are gracious enough to follow me on twitter with just a moment's attention.  I can also do some courtesy retweets, responses, and original tweets without spending an hour at my laptop.  The same goes for Facebook posts and email monitoring.  The key is to take care of these things during downtime--waiting for the coffee to brew or sitting outside my preteen daughter's dance studio.

3.  Think about your story before it's time to write.  I have learned the value of the story summary and outline.  I used to think that truly creative writing should be more free-form, and that may be true.  However, I just won't get a coherent first draft without the summary and outline.  When I have the short summary and outline in place, I will even write a list of scene descriptions.  I do use my precious writing time to do this important pre-work, and it helps the process later on.  But once you have these steps and while you are in the process of writing the story, think about it during the day.  Tell you kids about it, even--the point here is to already have ideas swirling around your mind when you do get that chance to sit down with your ms in progress.

4.  Ask for help.  My husband and I found that in the evening after dinner, he can watch a family movie with the kids while I escape to the office to write.  I'm back in time for bedtime prayers and kisses, and he gets some quality time with all the children, including the (pre) teens.  If this is not a good option for you, do you have a friend or neighbor who is also a writer or is starting a home business who might trade with you for a couple of hours of young child care?

5.  This is the MOST important, and hardest, step for me: when you have time, WRITE!!  If you stay home with kids and they are napping, WRITE!!  (You already did the chores and monitored your online stuff, so no excuses!)  If you've gotten a precious hour with the help of friend or neighbor or spouse, WRITE!!  If you cannot sleep at night and you're going to be awake anyway, WRITE!!  This is, hands down, the absolute biggest challenge for me personally.  There are so many other activities that seem so important.  But I finished a book that is now getting 5 star reviews by forcing myself to write, write, write, whenever those free moments came.  It's still tough, but now that I've done it once, I know I can do it again.

How do you find time to write with young children?  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts!

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