Once upon a time, I wrote for two hours a day. I woke up before the sun and worked on a manuscript while my coffee was hot and my brain was firing on, filling my mornings with my favorite thing to do before heading in for work.
These are not those days.
Today I still wake before the sun, but those two hours before work are filled with meeting my two-year-old’s needs: breakfast, potty, reading dinosaur books, playing with trains, bribing him with snacks to get his clothes on, and, to both test and preserve my sanity, watching Baby Shark Space Adventure for the 34th day in a row.
Where does writing fit in during the physically exhausting years of motherhood? It’s a mix of mindset, careful planning, and taking advantage of any quiet moment you have.
Drop the Expectations
I want to do everything right with the little time I have for writing. I want to work on the right project and get things published and be heading somewhere. The pressure I put on myself to get it right in the time I do have has taken the joy out of it though.
In a recent conversation with my writing mentor, I asked her if I should stop trying to write a novel and focus on getting short work published instead. Her advice was to use the little writing time I have to write what I enjoy writing. Forget strategy, forget getting things published right now. Find the joy in the time you have to write, because that’s what it’s really about.
Hearing that was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. Drop the expectations about what your writing time should be, and just write for the sake of it.
Don’t Be a Hero
“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” – C.G. Jung
This quote keeps me going with my writing, especially in those times when writing feels selfish.
I’m fortunate to have a husband who supports my passion and is an excellent father. Most weekends, I take an hour or two to go to a coffee shop and write. But there have been many Saturday mornings where I’ve felt terrible leaving, because we were both up all night trying to get the kiddo back to sleep or because it had been a week full of tantrums with no signs of slowing down.
But I know I’m a better mom after I’ve had my writing time. If I go too many weeks in a row without taking this time for me, I can get resentful. My husband and child do not deserve that. I’m careful to plan these weekend mornings now and follow through with actually taking them.
Unless your child is really sick, don’t be a hero by staying home when he’s in a mood. Let other people help you so you can feed your soul with writing time. You and your child will be better for it.
Every Minute Counts
Those coffee shop Saturdays aren’t always productive. I can be at it for an hour and come away with nothing meaningful. But something amazing happened recently when I tried something different.
I got to work ten minutes early, so I sat in my car and started writing a new essay about a simple thing that had happened over the weekend.
The excitement I felt from that short session made me put in another 20 minutes over my lunch hour. The next morning, my son cried at 4:30, and when he thankfully slept another hour, I stayed up and wrote until I found the point of my essay. When he woke up and we did our usual child-rearing routine, I felt elated that I had written a whole essay draft in under 24 hours! Those rushed scribbles gave me some much-needed momentum and pride that I’d been missing in my writing.
It might not seem like a lot, but five or ten minutes every day adds up to incredible progress. Of course, these little increments are better than not writing at all. The joy and confidence that can come from sneaking this time in is worth it, no matter the quality of the material produced.
Let Your Child See You Write
I don’t do deep writing when I’m home with my child because I don’t want to get interrupted, but I do want him to see me doing what I am so passionate about. I make a point to journal while he’s watching his shows next to me on the couch. I call this my “notebook time” and he has (somewhat) learned to respect it.
Sometimes he’ll say “my turn,” and I’ll let him scribble in my notebook for a minute. Sometimes when we turn on his show, he’ll bring me my notebook if I don’t have it. It’s the coolest feeling that my child connects me with my notebook and understands that it’s important to me.
I know this season of motherhood is just that – a season – but I’m determined to not wait to write until my kids are out of the house and I have all this extra time. Becoming an author is my life’s dream, and writing is how I want to spend my time. If I can keep it afloat during the tough years, even in 5- and 10-minute blocks, hopefully I won’t have as much ground to make up for when my child gets to that stage where I can’t get him out of bed in the morning.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be more flexible with my writing time. I’m not going to get those two peaceful hours of writing while the sun comes up with hot coffee every morning, so I need to get over it and adapt. Scribbling out plot points in the car before work or at the park or during swim class is great for getting stories going, then I can schedule and plan for longer coffee shop blocks for thoughtful editing.
Whatever writing time looks like, it’s a million times better than not writing.