Writing a book takes time. A lot of time. And for many busy, working parents, it feels like the time it takes to write a book is time we simply don't have. And yet, we are determined to do it. So we try to juggle. But it's a huge struggle to juggle writing and family and work, especially when we work full time.
So how in the world do any of us manage?
It isn't easy. It sure as heck wasn't easy for me to pursue my writing when I was working five days a week while maintaining my role as caregiver, cook, and cleaning lady for three kids and a husband! But I did it.
How did I do it? I'm glad you asked!
The first rule to remember is this: Your family needs to know that your writing is more than a hobby. It's a job. It doesn't matter if you haven't earned a penny in your writing career yet. If your goal is to publish a book some day, then having time to write is just as important as studying would be if you were trying to get a medical degree. So make sure your family takes you seriously.
Beyond that, here are some tips that will help you make the time to write.
Make your writing portable.
You should be able to take your writing with you anywhere. Maybe this means you have a nice little laptop, or a tablet, or a handy little journal (or one of each). You need the flexibility to be able to write anywhere, whether it be in the corner of your family room or your bed or your car.
Write down every idea that comes to you, as soon as possible.
Ideas often strike when least expected, so be prepared. You may not have hours each day to devote to your writing, but if you write down all your ideas (even the "bad" ones), you'll have plenty of material to use when you do have real writing time.
Give up something you enjoy doing.
Making time to write means something's got to give. We all have little things that we do that suck up time that we could be spending elsewhere. What activity could you spend less time doing without causing undue stress on yourself or your family? It could be something as basic as cooking simpler meals, giving up your favorite TV show, or spending less time shopping. Social media can be a huge time sucker for a lot of people. Is it that way for you?
Strictly enforce your children's bed times.
When kids are very little, it's not realistic to expect them to respect your writing time. And it may not be ideal to expect your husband or wife to take on all the parental responsibilities for a few hours each evening. Or you may be a single parent! So, enforcing bedtimes can be key to ensuring that you have the time to write for an hour or two in the evenings.
Get up early or stay up late.
Are you more productive in the morning or the evening? I'm more of a night owl, so there have been plenty of nights when I've stayed up late working on a manuscript. If you're a morning person, get up an hour earlier and spend that time writing. If you're a night owl, try going through your bedtime routine earlier in the evening so that you can add thirty minutes of writing time to the very end of your day (then crawl happily into bed).
Use weekends to your advantage.
Lazy Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for working parents to find time to write. My kids would sleep in on Saturdays and then get up and watch cartoons. They knew that I would be working until noon, at which time they were free to pester me. Work out a similar arrangement with your family and stick to it!
Start small and work your way up.
It's important for you to commit to writing every day, but don't set yourself up for disappointment by pledging to write for an hour every day no matter what. Start by committing to fifteen minutes each day. As that gets easier for you, add to it. Even if you are only able to write for fifteen minutes at a time during the week, you might be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Learn to write in random places.
This is why making your writing portable is important. We all have those times in our lives when we have to wait. Wait at the DMV. Wait at the dentist's office. Wait during our daughter's piano lessons. These are all times that you could be using for your writerly advantage.
Train your children to entertain themselves.
I'm not saying to be a neglectful parent. But it's not the worst thing in the world to let your kids work themselves out of their own boredom. Spend quality time with your kids, but don't let them use you as their personal boredom-buster. There are few things that kill inspiration like a kid whining about being bored. And if they're trained to entertain themselves, you're more likely to be able to stick to a writing schedule.
Don't obsess about cleaning house.
Writing is something you do on your own. Cleaning doesn't have to be. When I was working, the kids and I took our cleaning inspiration from the show The Big Comfy Couch, in which Loonette would do her "ten second tidy." Doing a "ten minute tidy" with the kids on a regular basis helped keep the house in order and saved me lots of time.
Learn to say no.
Life can be busy busy busy. Working full time and caring for the needs of our families can be challenging on their own. On top of that, many of us like to volunteer in our communities, churches, and our kids' schools. These are all good things that can ultimately help us to be better writers (and people). But it's important not to let yourself get overwhelmed. You can only stretch so far before you snap!
Distractions are not your friends.
Your writing time is precious, so use it wisely. Don't let yourself be distracted by social media notifications, text messages, and phone calls. While you're writing, unplug! Stay focused. Make the most of every moment spent pursuing your dream. Do that, and your dream of being published will be that much closer to being a dream come true!