For the past almost year I have had two under three.
During that time I maintained this blog, self-published the final book in a children’s chapter book series, and published my recent non-fiction debut, For the Love of Marriage. I’ve also been running our children’s book website, managing two little ones and a household, and growing an entire human being from scratch.
I’ve been busy.
I am pretty frequently asked how on Earth I find the time to do all this writing. Today I am going to share all my secrets.
Short answer: Be bad at everything else.
Long answer: Remember that we’re all only human and something always has to give. I don’t do elaborate birthday parties. All of our family and closest friends live far away so I don’t spend quality time with people outside of my husband and children. I rarely bake unless it’s from a mix. I <3 my crockpot. I <3 naptime. My husband <3s garage time.
Sometimes I am working on a deadline so we put our babies to bed and then Ryan catches up a massive mound of dishes while I write, or sometimes I go lock myself up for an hour to catch up on my writing while he plays with the kids for an hour on the weekend. Those are not ideal and I try to avoid those scenarios, but they happen.
In general though, I just write a little at a time.
I almost never have traditional writer’s block. I might get too hung-up on something to move forward normally, or I might find myself moving something in a new direction every other day for a while, but I’m never really at a loss for words. I always have thoughts and ideas and random phrases on my mind.
So I have a little notebook in the living room (where we do most of our playing) and another in my purse. They (and the notepad tool in my phone) are frequently covered in thoughts and ideas, and sometimes really weird and random cryptic things only I get.
At some point every day I take 15 minutes to pound out all that weirdness. I’d love to give it 1-2 hours a day but that’s just not realistic for me right now. I am typically able to write A) at naptime, while A watches a movie/plays with puzzles/colors and B naps, B) very distractedly at our backyard picnic table while the children beat each other/jump off of things, (which they never do when I am not trying to write, stinkers) or C) at night. I try to aim for A, or B if I have to, and leave C as my last resort. That’s my time with my husband and it’s already limited most weeks. If I didn’t get any time in at all I might sneak in a 15-minute writing session while Ryan is in the shower, but I try to only do big chunks of writing on nights he is out working online (like twice a month) or is working on a project in the garage (far more often).
Sometimes I get almost a full hour during naptime, other times my 15 minutes is spent telling A, “Give Mommy ___ more minutes and then I will ____ with you.”
Basically, I have no problem with the thinking side of it, just with the finding-the-time-to-do-it side of things.
For now, I am happy with this situation. I would of course enjoy more writing time but I feel pretty stretched thin most days (yes, my belly skin, but also metaphorically) as it is and I know that the only way to do that right now would be to give something else up. Put the kids in daycare for an hour a day, give up my nights with Ryan or our weekend family time, stop cooking nutritious meals or let my house fall apart, something. I also know that this is just a season. Someday I will have so much time to write and I will so very much miss feeling so wanted and needed by such precious tiny people.
I have been very curious to see how my current system evolves as we add this third little one to the family. When A was a baby I used to set him up in the bouncy seat beside me and wonder why I could only ever write for like four minutes at a time. Eventually I got smart and decided that I am not really a work-from-home-mom so much as a mom who occasionally gets a little work done while at home. ;] Suddenly it all made more sense and I set a personal word count goal for each day. I was usually able to hit that goal by working for short increments of time, usually during naptimes, adding up to about an hour a day.
We are always working towards our bigger-picture goal, which is to eventually work only for ourselves and live on only 50% of whatever income we bring in. I work at this by focusing on my books and our website. I sometimes get really caught up in it and decide I want to put the kids in daycare for a few hours a week or hire a mother’s helper to play with them while I work for a few hours each week. At the end of the day though, that doesn’t really align with our goals either so I always come back to sticking with the way we’re already doing it: Slowly.