Writing On The Side

More blogs about parenting & writing! This time the blog comes with a list of helpful tips for getting stuff down when you feel, as parents do, like there’s nothing to do but the very minimum.

S.B. Divya is an author and an engineer. She is married with children (and pets), and knows the unfortunate joys of homeownership. Her fiction has been published in “Daily Science Fiction” and “Nature.” You can find out more at www.eff-words.com.


Most of us wear multiple hats on a daily basis. We have a paid job (or jobs) that is our main way of earning a living. We have housekeeping duties like cooking, laundry, cleaning, and paying the bills. We might have additional responsibilities: to a romantic relationship; to pets; to children; to ailing parents. If this weren’t enough, some of us are willing to add writing to the pile.

Unless you hit some kind of jackpot (a best seller list, major book award, rich uncle, etc.), you’re probably not going to earn enough from your short story and/or book sales to live as a full-time writer. This goes double if you’re supporting a family. So how can you make it all work without losing your last shred of sanity?

I’m no expert (let me know if you find my sanity!), but I here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience.

  • Stake out your writing time daily for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. Guard this time like Smaug hoarding his treasure.
  • Sometimes life gets in the way (like a pesky hobbit), and you will lose that time despite your best efforts. Fine. Roll with it and get back to it as soon as you can. The more days you slip, the harder it is to recover.
  • Outsource the child care. If you have children who are too young for school, lean on your partner to grab an hour to write on the weekends. Hire a part-time sitter for a couple evenings when you can stay an extra hour at the office – use this time to write!
  • That lunch hour? Is a great chance to read, or eat quickly at your desk and then write.
  • Outsource the crappy work. If you’re lucky enough to be in a high income household, hire help as much as you can.
  • If you have young kids or aging parents to look after, claim your writing time after they’ve gone to bed (at night or while napping). Don’t do the dishes until after you’ve sat down (with a timer if necessary) and done nothing but write for 30 minutes. Staring at your empty page also counts.
  • Take your leisure time – i.e., watching TV or playing games or reading a book – and divide it in half. Leave one half for leisure, and spend the other half writing. After a few weeks, you won’t miss it. You might even drop the non-writing altogether.
  • If you have older kids, do some writing while they’re at after-school activities. Alternatively, use this time for research or outlines.
  • If you have a long commute, use a voice dictation software to plan out a scene, record notes, or even generate a rough draft.
  • Keep a log somewhere, like an x-chain calendar or a spreadsheet, so you can see your progress. Watch the word count pile up (slowly…be patient) or watch the X’s accumulate (with gaps because life happens). Remind yourself that any number is an improvement over zero.
  • Find a buddy to keep you honest, or join a weekly writing group. Peer pressure and deadlines are great motivators.
  • Forgive yourself if you need to take a break. Every job should come with  time off. Writing is no different. Be a good boss, though, and don’t let your vacation turn into a leave of absence.

It comes down to this: You have to make the most of your time when you can get it. Unlike the days when you had no other responsibilities (if you were ever so lucky), you can’t wait for hours of free time to appear. They won’t. Nor can you wait until the muse strikes. Become the master of stealing time. Treat your writing like another job, not a fun hobby, and make sure your family does, too.

If this sounds hard, that’s because it is! But it can also be immensely rewarding, especially when you finally see your name in print.

If you are having trouble figuring out where to find that 30 minute daily writing time, I highly recommend trying something like Laura Vanderkam’s 168 hours log (http://lauravanderkam.com/books/168-hours/manage-your-time/). Once you see the patterns in your daily routine, then you can work on rearranging and/or spotting the gaps.



Writing & Children

Hey, blog. For the last few months, I’ve been managing a Facebook group for writers with children. It’s been a really amazing experience to hear everyone’s stories of both the enrichment they get from having children, and the ways they find time to write with kids. It’s also been refreshing to get support and give support to those of us who wonder (I’m one) if parenting and writing can be reconciled.

So, blog, I decided to feed you a bit with some guest posts from other parents/writers. Gareth Jones is an environmentalist, a father of 5, and a writer who has published over 40 publications in different languages. He was kind enough to share the following:

Writing, With Children

A friend of mine who’d just had his first novel published said that when asked, he told people he had time to write as he didn’t have children. He was amazed that I’d written a novel when I have five children. In fact I’ve now completed three novels, as yet unpublished. So how do I have the time?

Actually, people often ask me and my wife how we have time for anything, or how we cope with five children. I guess to someone with one child or none, five seems a lot, but the fact is it doesn’t seem that many to me; that’s what we’re used to.

The fact is, whatever your circumstances, people find time for what they want to do, whether their hobby is watching TV or doing something more productive. Writing is a solitary endeavour though, so on the face of it, it’s not really something the family can join in. It’s also something that requires concentration, so it’s not easy to write while the TV is on or children are playing under your chair or needing help with homework.

This means that writing time is valuable, as it is for all writers, so I need to spend time thinking about my stories when I’m doing other things that don’t require much brain power, so that when I sit down I can get on with writing 1000 words an hour. Or, more likely, writing for a 10 minute block. Most of the writing strategies I could talk about are common to all writers, so what is there I can say specifically about writing with children?

A lot of writers have daily, weekly or annual writing goals. I have none. I don’t ever expect to get much done, so I’m pleased with whatever I’ve written. Most writers have a schedule, while I can easily go for days and sometimes weeks without writing anything. I keep involved by editing a bit, submitting stories, keeping up with my on-line writers group. And I write when I can.

It can be easy to get frustrated and resentful, and that’s not something I want to feel about my family. So I view writing as a hobby. In ten years I’ve completed 3 novels, and over 100 short stories. I’ve had over 100 story publications in 25 languages, written over 100 book reviews, written a TV screenplay and several comic scripts. I don’t measure output though. I enjoy my writing, and my children join in too. My stories are suitable to read to children, though not necessarily anything the younger ones would understand. They all like writing their own stories, and the older ones help me brainstorm ideas. My oldest son had his first story published in a podcast recently, and the 2 girls had stories selected for a school anthology.

If I ever happen to sell a novel and sign a deal to write a novel in a year, I’ll have to come up with a new plan. But for now I am enjoying writing, with children.