–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads
If you missed anything on the blog this week, here’s a recap:
This week on “Writer People Problems” I talked about a topic near and dear to my heart: My kids! If you’re a writer trying to get work done with kids in the house, you know the struggle is real. So I delivered a whopping 9 quick fixes to make getting the job done easier. Ready to check out my solutions? Let’s go!
I’m a mom of four with kids ranging in age from four years old to twelve years old and the occasional teen niece or nephew stopping in for a stay. In the midst of this circus act, I’ve been a full time writer for nearly a decade. And, I’ve pulled it off because I know the best way to manage my little clowns is to pile them all in the clown car and take them along for the ride.
Writer Moms and DADS with babies, start your day by flipping the clock-in. “Sondi, what the heck are you talking about?” I’m talking about writing late at night and early morning while everyone else is asleep but your little one is awake. Those glorious first few months when Baby Kiddo can’t seem to get day and night right. That’s your new writing time.
And while it might seem counter-intuitive to try working with an active infant, I give this advice to deter you from trying to do it when baby is asleep. Why? Because YOU need your sleep.
Another trick I employ is the double briefcase. I like to keep my notebook, pens and sticky notes handy, but for my active four-year-old, I need to also keep coloring books, magazines and puzzles in the bag. I pick “quiet play” items to encourage her imagination but maintain as little distraction for ME as possible.
Now you can do both of the above and still be stuck with an under-stimulated, cranky kid if you don’t put this one most important play into rotation. Play-date your work day! Before you get bogged down with writing, give your little one your undivided attention with a few hours of playtime. Prioritize your baby, toddler or preschool age kid, and play hard to wind them down: tickle fights, pretend play, tag, races—anything that will expend a lot of energy. Then, wind them down with some snuggles and story time.
Believe it or not, the extra activity pumps more blood to your brain, which makes your ideas fresher than ever when you’re finally ready to write. I can’t guarantee you’ll win any word count marathons, but you WILL write, and really, that’s all that matters.
Working with kids and teens can be a little trickier for other reasons. My preteens are at that age where independence is desired but not quite manageable. They need my guiding hand to make sure chores are executed, homework is done correctly and major life crises—like crushes and friendship wars—are handled with panache and aplomb.
One great thing about having school-age kids is that you can get a lot of work done while they’re hitting the books. I try to squeeze the bulk of my writing into these hours, leaving all errands and store runs until after school. As I said on my blog, it’s much easier to load all 4 of my kids into the SUV and go to Wal-mart than it is for me to try hammering out a complicated chapter with all of them around.
When I do work with them home, I put those fresh young minds to work by asking my kids for advice on my stories. This gives them a sense of involvement and is a great way of subtly showing them that their opinion matters. It prepares them to articulate complex ideas and work through real life problems while simultaneously imparting value. For me, scheduling a conference where we can talk out ideas works best, but you might also try utilizing a drop box. This minimizes interruptions until you’re ready to handle them.
When it comes to bigger kids, the temptation to stay mired in your work may be stronger because they don’t require the same hands-on help as babies and toddlers, BUT don’t make the mistake of thinking your big kids can do without. Shut it down. SHUT IT DOWN. Your kids are the most important part of your life story, and that’s not hyperbole.
Teens like to be the star of the show. What better way to give them the spotlight than having them improv and act out scenes of your story to help you tweak dialogue, flesh out characters and develop more friction?
With my teen nieces and nephew, I bounce plenty of ideas off of them. But I also ask for their help when I need proofreading. Hey, I’m not just trying to get free labor (they get paid). Proofreading age appropriate content allows them to brush up on grammar and writing skills they’ll need for high school and college. The key is to ask instead of demand. They’re teens. They’ve got lives, you know.
Just like with bigger kids, you need to remember to shut down and give your teens your time. But you should also learn to negotiate with your young master negotiators to find out when they really need you around—say, cheer-leading competitions, basketball games—versus when they’d kind of prefer you not show up and embarrass them—like when they’re hanging out with their dates or their friends. This flexibility of your schedule is great for you and your teens.
I hope I was able to help or give you a new perspective on how to juggle parenting and writing. If you liked this post, go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more like it! Because life’s too short for bad books. #ReadEntertained.