How to Find Time to Write and Parent Children Too

Today’s guest post is by author Michelle Weidenbenner:

If you’re like many parents who are also writers you find it difficult to find the time to write.

Here are a few scenarios you might have found:

You lay the baby down for a nap and can’t wait to sit at your computer because you finally have a moment to yourself, a moment to write. The house is quiet, your computer is fired up, but all you can do is stare at the blank page. What do you write? Where do you start?

Or . . .

The kids are outside playing, but they keep coming inside to complain about their sibling, or to go to the bathroom, or to give you a kiss—anything to interrupt you. You think you should give up on writing your quota for the day because it’s too difficult to start and stop.

Or . . .

You get the kids fed and tuck them in bed early so you can write the scene you’ve been visualizing all day. You know exactly how you’re going to write it, but your hubby asks to talk to you about something and it can’t wait.

Life is like that. It takes a hold of us and demands to be heard, demands to mess with our priorities.

Sometimes as writers we give in and say, “I’m not going to get the chance to write today so I’m not even going to try.”

Don’t let that happen. There are a few things you can do that will make you more successful. Let me show you how:

  1. You can’t be successful if you don’t have goals. Write them out and keep them someplace where you can see them every day, maybe more than once. Think of this:  if you tell yourself you’re going to write 500 words a day x 5 days a week you’ll have 2500 words in a week. If your novel is 50K words, you could have it written in 20 weeks or in five months.
  2. Make the goals attainable. If you know you’re only going to have a few hours a week to write then make your goals fit that time slot. Your goal is to be successful. Don’t make them so big that you feel like a failure, but make them reasonable enough that you feel successful.
  3. Treat your writing time like a doctor’s appointment. When you have to see the doctor do you let other things get in the way? Don’t you pencil the date and time in on your calendar and keep the appointment? You probably don’t let other events or people interfere with that appointment, do you? Pencil it in on your calendar every day. Don’t let anything interview with this. Make it the top priority. (After the safety of your children first, of course.)
  4. Be prepared to know where you’re going next. While you’re playing with your children, fixing dinner, or taking a shower –all those time you aren’t writing—think about which scene you’re going to write next. (Caution: Don’t do this while you’re driving. You’ll miss your turn and possibly cause an accident. Lol.)
  5. Give yourself small projects. Make it a scene, a setting, a confrontation—something attainable.
  6. Don’t quit your writing session at the end of a scene. At the end of your writing time—force yourself to quit in the middle of a scene, in a place where you know what happens next, so the next time you sit down to write you’ll know exactly where to go. You’ll be fired up to write!
  7. Give yourself permission to write crap. If you’re writing the first draft, or what I like to call the FAST DRAFT, it’s not going to be perfect and you’re probably not going to let anyone read it. (At least, I wouldn’t recommend it.)
  8. Let your spouse and your children understand your goals so they can cheer for you too. Communication is important. If your loved ones understand what you’re working toward they’ll respect your time and encourage your goals.
  9. If you’re not sure where to go for the next scene jump ahead to the end or to a scene you’re excited about. You can always go back and fill in the blank spot later.
  10. Practice writing on the go. I used to have a notebook in my car so every time I waited in the parent pick-up line or for doctor’s appointments I’d be able to write a scene or two. This also helps you learn how to block out the world around you despite the noise.
  11. Share “writing time” with your children. If they don’t want to write they can read during your quiet time. Let them share what they’ve read or wrote at the end of this session or once a week—you decide.
  12. Ignore children squabbles. Easier said than done. Children quarrel to get parent attention. Practice ignoring their squabbles. I promise it WILL get louder before it stops, but in time if they realize their fighting won’t illicit a response from you, they’ll stop. Or read the tip below.
  13. Find ways for children to give back. Tell your children each time they interrupt you they’ll have to find a way to give you that lost time back—by dusting, cleaning out the car, weeding, something that will help you accomplish your chores for the day, something that is age-appropriate too.

Explain that unless someone is bleeding, they need to play quietly or in their rooms—or whatever you arrange for that time period. Note: Children will not die of boredom, and it isn’t your responsibility to be their activity director.

(Have you heard of Love and Logic? It’s a great parenting program. I get their monthly newsletters and it really helps. If you’re not familiar with it check it out HERE.

Some writers believe that parent and writing are incompatible. I believe that if you want something badly enough you can make your dreams come true. It takes discipline, but so do many wonderful things in life.

Fred Rogers said, “I think of discipline as the continual everyday process of helping a child learn self-discipline.”

By staying disciplined in our writing goals we are teaching our children self-discipline and how they can reach their goals too.

Michelle Weidenbenner headshotMichelle Weidenbenner teaches teens and adults how to get published at Random Writing Rants.She’s an Amazon best-selling author of Cache a Predator, a geocaching mystery, and Scattered Links. The first book in her children’s chapter book series, Éclair Goes to Stella’s, will be released in August 2014. Check out Michelle’s books on Amazon here.

Feature Photo Credit: dharmacat via Compfight cc

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  1. Hi Susanne – Thanks for having me at your blog today. I hope my suggestions help writers. I appreciate you and all you do for authors!

  2. For # 10–handwriting in notebooks is too slow and requires the use of your eyes and both hands. I have a little digital voice recorder that is with me at all times. Get one with one-button record capability. Rehearse using it until you can find the record button by touch. Inspiration finds you behind the wheel in traffic, but also at that last moment before you fall asleep.

    Be sure to periodically review all of the recordings; you could make a to-do list of them.

    1. Hi Curtis – Wow, great tips. I have a digital voice recorder, but haven’t used it in so long. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is great advice! Making attainable goals is key, as is making writing appointments and keeping them. My kids are still rather young, so reading while I write doesn’t necessarily work, but I could ask them to play or have the older one read to the younger while I steal a half hour or so. I’ll give it a try this summer since both are at home with me!

    1. Hi Dana – Yes, having young kids makes a huge difference. They really need your full attention, don’t they? Maybe you could plot while you’re feeding them, bathing them, and caring for them–all in your head, of course. Or talk your story through out loud to them. They might not understand what you’re saying but if you talk in a sweet tone they might give you a few smiles. Ha! Who knows–your children maybe become stellar “Brainstorming Partners” –especially if you write for children.

      Good luck!

  4. Very good tips. I’ve got three young children and I find I have to schedule in writing time otherwise it doesn’t get done. I write in the evenings when they’re (hopefully) asleep too. The hardest time is the school holidays. I think you can find a balance between doing an activity with them and then expecting them to play by themselves while you write.

    1. Hi Emily –
      Some times it takes so much discipline, doesn’t it? There are many days when it’s far easier to just skip my writing quota. I’m good at having “excuse-itis.”
      Hang in there and thanks for taking the time to comment here!

  5. While I don’t have any children in the house any more, but between running two businesses and 24/7 caregiver for an elderly relative (she now lives with me due to a stroke), your suggestions struck a chord. Now that I’m in the midst of writing the last volume to my Dragshi Chronicles, completing an organization history (my loving other half volunteered me for) and trying to put together a guide for plotters, let’s just say the plate if full. Thanks for the great suggestions.

    1. Hi Hellen

      Wow, you are busy. I’m sorry about your “patient.” That makes life so difficult, but how wonderful that he/she has you to help. I love the title of your last volume. Keep going! Good luck staying focused and make sure to take care of YOU too!


    1. So true! It also makes you feel more productive when you leave and return. It’s healthy. You come home with a better attitude and your family has one too.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susanne and Michelle! Michelle, based on this post alone I just subscribed to your site. I desperately needed this encouragement. My two daughters are pretty good kids, but I often get “ensnared” by the demands of parenting and my writing falls to the wayside. With this post I feel a little better about it all and will definitely try harder starting tomorrow. Thank you!

    1. Hi Ekta – Yay! So glad this helped inspire you. It’s so validating to know that other writers struggle with the same distractions, isn’t it?

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