Monday, September 2, 2013

How To Not Get Sidetracked as a Stay-At-Home Writer


I want to preface this by saying that I fully believe that being a stay-at-home mother is a significant enough activity to be considered a job in and of itself. I also should say that I could probably do  a much better job at being a stay-at-home mother if I didn't have the urge to write.

I would be less grumpy if I didn't stay up until midnight in an attempt to get my writing done.

I could use the time I spend writing to clean better, make better meals, play with my kids, etc.

Maybe it would be better to put aside writing until my kids are older and don't need me as much or until they are out of the house altogether. After all, life is short, kids grow up, live for today and what not.

But as much as I've always wanted to be a mother, I've always wanted to be a writer, and after a bit I realized that a lot of the time that I am devoting now to writing would've been sucked up by Facebook or television rather than my kids or my home, then all it all started to dissolve into obvious excuses.

So after years of being derailed every time I started to get my writing back on track, I decided to just do it and simply write again (detailed to some extent in a series of posts starting here). Since then, the most common thing said to me by other aspiring writers is "where do you get the time?"

I often jokingly reply that I just do without sleep, living off coffee and ignoring the hallucinations, and to some extent that was true. I wrote the majority of my last novel (One of the still unpublished ones) when Matt was away for training for a few months and since he wasn't there to prompt me into bed at a reasonable hour, I would put Coryn to bed at 9 and write until at least midnight most every night. As I said, sometimes this made me a little grumpy during the day. Sometimes I would be miserable in the morning. Sometimes my energy would be completely gone in the afternoon, but as a night owl I would generally repeat the process again and again: sad morning, tired afternoon, burst of energy in the evening, late night, ad nauseum for roughly three months, but at the end of it I had another 55,000 words in a google drive document that made up a story.

You may not find that this works for you, but there are other options. There is the "get up earlier" option. If your kids wake up at 8, you get up at 6. Boom! Two hours of peace, quiet, and writing! There is the "while they nap" option, often reserved for cleaning and cooking, but if you find you are using it for non-essential activities (ie web browsing, tv watching, even reading), you could relegate it for writing. Just scrape together whatever you can. Carry a notepad in your purse and write at the library, at the park, anywhere you have to be present but don't really have to be doing anything. A lot of life is waiting. Sometimes you can fill those spaces with writing.

Some of us may not be mothers (some writers are even men, I have heard rumor), but we may have the sort of job that garners a paycheck and involves being outside of the home for 40+ hours a week. I actually had one of these once upon a time. I wrote on my lunch and coffee break, on weekends and after five. It was actually easier than with kids because most bosses respect your "you time" and aren't pounding on the door asking for another strawberry yogurt RIGHT NOW when you are in the bathroom (there are exceptions to this, jobs that you take home, jobs that you work extra crazy hours with, but I'm not addressing these exceptions. I figure if you chose to be in a job that is extra time consuming like this it is because it is a fulfilling job that you want to do enough to make it worth the long hours and hardship, and if that is the case, if your job is super fulfilling, then maybe it is what you are meant to be doing instead of writing. Writing doesn't have to be a profession. It makes and excellent hobby and you don't have to be Tiger Woods to play golf on weekends).

But how do you make the best use of the time? How do you get yourself into the proper mindset? Because maybe we like to imagine ourselves writing with a quill pen, on a cherry wood desk, next to a crackling fire, in a Tudor mansion on the British moors but more likely or not, if you only have a couple of hours a day to do this, you are just going to lock yourself into a bedroom with a laptop or a notepad and a cup of coffee, if you are lucky, and hope that the sound of the kids watching Mickey Mouse in the next room doesn't completely override your thought process.

from now on I'm doing all my writing at Bag End


Some quick pointers:

  1. If you are lucky enough to have the help of a partner to referee the children or children old enough to understand the concept of "don't open that door or else," inform those around you that this is your writing time and you are not to be disturbed.
  2. Dress for success! Yes, everyone likes to joke about jobs you can do in your pajamas, but this is actually something I learned from playing World of Warcraft. I discovered that my DPS was better if I was actually wearing day clothes and make up than if I were in my bathrobe and unbrushed hair and teeth. I probably lost you the moment I said World of Warcraft, didn't I? My point is, if you are dressed as if you are relaxing rather than working, you will probably write the same way. 
  3. Find your own ideals: Do you like to write in silence? With music? On a laptop? With pen and paper? I've often said that just having a new notepad will inspire me to write, but I have found that, since my typing is faster than my handwriting, I generally get more done on a computer than on paper and that I am not big into music generally speaking but I also get anxious in complete silence (I have a youtube play list of relaxation videos that I often play in the background while writing). 
  4. Try and prepare everything you will need within the first ten minutes of your writing time or if at all possible have it ready before you start. Set up your ideals mentioned in number 3: your music or silence, your hot beverage or glass of water, your writing materials, anything you might possibly need so you don't keep having to leave your writing to adjust them or set them up. 
  5. Everyone says this one so it is hardly an original tip, but don't waste your writing time editing. Nothing ever gets done that way. Since pretty much every "how to" writing guide says this at some point or other, I'm not going to elaborate beyond that. 
  6. And my own particular favorite to harp upon, if you sit down and 1-5 have been achieved but still inspiration doesn't strike, just start writing. Even if you know in your heart that it isn't "good" writing, just keep writing until you get going and find a groove. Even if you write something that needs to be edited out later, it is kind of like exercising, starting is often the hardest part. 
So those are my top six tips for writing at home. They are highly customize-able. They also really aren't anything new. The question is simply, if you really want to be a writer, why aren't you writing? If you are writing, then you are a writer, congratulations. Finish up and later maybe I'll have some posts on editing and self-publishing for you to read.

Check out the tab labeled "writing about writing" above to see other posts on the subject.








2 comments:

  1. These are great tips! I am so like you...I know I could get up earlier and quite possibly accomplish more, but instead I choose to stay up until midnight or even one am and then regret it when 7am rolls around.... oh well! :) Thanks for sharing these on my blog!

    Melissa Kaylene

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    Replies
    1. I know. Even mornings when for whatever reason I forced myself up, I have never felt "productive" and yet I've had some very productive late nights and can function reasonably well the next day.

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