The other day I was doing a written interview via email regarding my books. The questions were the usual: “How did you get into writing?”, “Where does your inspiration come from?”, etc. But there’s always that inevitable question (though this time it was “off the record”): “How do you find the time to write with FOUR KIDS??”
It’s a question I get asked often, and a question I don’t have a perfect answer to. The easy answer is I just do. But in the interest of helping other parents have hope for their writing dreams in the midst of kid-chaos, I put some thought into how I make it work. It helps that this is in the forefront of my mind, with all four of my kiddos home from school for the summer.
If, like me, you find writing a life-giving, energizing activity, then doing it makes you a better parent. Period. So please, make time for writing without all the attendant feelings of guilt. Your kids will ultimately thank you for being a sane parent and modelling a life of dream-following.
There are ways to set the stage for a successful writing session. Be proactive. Make sure your kids have had lots of exercise and attention from you. Feed them and set them up with a movie or a tried and true independent activity. Anticipate all the things they might use to interrupt you and try to head them off before you start. And most importantly, communicate to them what you’re doing, how that benefits both them and you, and what you expect of them while you’re writing.
You are not going to spend a marathon 8-hour day writing with kids at home. You might only be able to get 15 minutes of uninterrupted time, if you’re lucky. If you expect huge blocks of writing time every day, you will be disappointed. Look at your day and aim for a realistic amount of time or word count. 15 minutes or 500 words may not feel like much, but you can write a novel that way.
You’ve prepared your kids, you’ve set your goal, you sit down and type one sentence and your adorable, beloved child sidles up to you and says: “So-and-so is making annoying sounds and it’s bugging me!” It’s inevitable. You will be interrupted, despite your best efforts at prevention. Some days there will be no writing. Some days you will be typing with a child on your lap. Roll with it. Because there will be other days when all your kids magically disappear to play dates with friends and you can binge write for two hours while the laundry and dishes wait. It all works out.
Even though it feels like it at the time, this chapter of your life is not forever. Someday they will all be functioning adults and you will rise to a quiet house with a cup of tea and a blinking cursor of possibilities. Find the balance that works for your family right now, because this is only temporary.
Erin E.M. Hatton is the author of Otherworld and Across the Deep, winner of the 2014 Free Publishing Contest for Fiction. She has also authored several short stories and novellas. She graduated from Redeemer University College and lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband Kevin and four children.
Learn more about Erin: