Writing is hard. Rearing children is harder. Writing well and keeping your kid’s from accidentally strangling/braining/poisoning themselves is harder…er. (Let’s save hardest for cleaning fish.) There’s nothing simple about multitasking character creation and dress-up time.
But it’s not insurmountable. It has been done. You can do it too.
Here are 9 Ways to Keep the Kids Alive While Writing.
1. Sacrifice Sleep
What’s that? You thought you could have kids and still get ten hours a night?
When those kids are awake you are their’s. They own you, pal. Yes, set boundaries of course, this isn’t the Thunderdome (yet…), but let’s be serious here—you serve at their leisure. That’s tough when you’re a’writing, cause that Work-in-Progress, she’s a fickle mistress. She doesn’t like to share.
Solution? Get used to waking up early and staying up late.
2. Make it a Game
My son loves to watch me write. Wait. Let me try that again. My son loves to sit in my lap and slam the keyboard over and over while I weep tears of sorrow. See, to him that’s one hell of a game. He’s fourteen-months-old, so the whole “writing” thing translates in his brain to clicking keys.
So I rummaged through my closet, found my old keyboard (See, hun? There was a reason I didn’t clean out the closet), and let him go to town as I typed blissfully away. It didn’t last forever, and it wasn’t nearly so interesting for my five-year-old daughter, but even a temporary solution is helpful when you just need that final paragraph.
3. Bribe Your Partner
If you’re lucky enough to have a co-captain on this wonderful thing call parenthood, start buying some chocolate. Like, yesterday.
Note: chocolate will work equally well for the dudes, but you can also substitute a new Xbox game, his favorite six-pack, or, ahem…”adult time.”
(These might work for the ladies too. Understanding the fairer sex has never been my specialty.)
Don’t take your partner for granted, writers. I know we tend to get tunnel-vision when we’re locked away with our laptops, but if your significant other has been gracious enough to watch that squalling baby for the last hour, you need to get ready with the foot massage, like, pronto.
4. Budget for a Sitter
Whether it’s your career, a way to pay a bill now and then, or just a hobby, there comes a time when you’ll need to slap down a fat wad of cash to support your writing dream.
Uninterrupted writing time is a precious commodity. Like Gold-Pressed Latinum. Sit down for a second and think about your writing time. Price it out. What’s your time worth? $10 an hour? $15? $50? I bet whatever amount you settle on, it’s probably less than a moderately-priced baby-sitter. I know the idea of paying someone to watch the kids while you’re only a room away seems crazy, but we’re writers. Crazy’s just a Tuesday.
5. Stick to Your Deadline
You absolutely must, MUST finish that chapter by bathtime. Your spouse is watching your door as we speak, just waiting to hand over the towel and baby shampoo.
You don’t have the luxury of rewriting that sentence a dozen times. This is your writing hour, and it’s almost up.
If you’re going to write and manage a life outside your study, you have to learn to keep a deadline. Those kids aren’t going to entertain themselves forever, so give yourself a goal and stick to it. Even if it’s twenty minutes, some writing is better than no writing.
Plus, it’ll allow you to silence that inner editor and focus on putting words on paper.
6. Get a Cook (aka: Freeze Your Meals)
Hey, I’m no Martha Stewart. If it was up to me the kids would probably eat Mac and Cheese every night with a Marshmallow for dessert. Luckily, I have a wife who tells me I need to worry about things like obesity and nutrition and won’t allow me to throw a hotdog on the table and skadat.
But I’ve just spent the last hour writing! The kids are hungry, friends. What’s a poor word-smith to do?
Luckily I thought ahead and froze a bunch of homecooked meals for exactly this sort of occasion. Huzzah! The kids will feast on pot-roast and vegetables tonight instead of Ramen Noodles!
The Ramen Noodles are for Dad.
8. Borrow Their Ideas.
These are just a few of the random conversations I had with my five-year-old today:
-What do angels look like? Fairies with one eyebrow and a mermaid tail.
-It’s okay to talk to yourself as long as you are a different person on the inside.
-Magic should be taught in school because you’ll never be a professional wizard without an education.
I mean…seriously? I could write a book about every one of those.
Kids are tiny idea-generators. And I’m not just talking YA and New Adult. They can wax macabre when they’re in the mood. Instead of trying to get away and work in some writing time, look at your play sessions as research. Go outside and play some make-believe. Let your brain soak in that crazy kid energy and hit the keyboard afterward.
9. Be Realistic
Hey, can we maybe talk for a sec? Here, have a seat. Here’s a kleenex. Not for your eyes, for the spit-up on your shoulder.
Ok, here’s the thing—calm the F down.
You’re a human being. Hell, you’re a parent. You’re not going to pop a thousand words every day. Sure, you’ll have moments when you vomit golden prose like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, but those are exceptions. Rarities. Most days you’ll be lucky to post a status update on Facebook.
It’s alright. Don’t stress about writing, just enjoy your family time. Stop looking at the clock and let yourself enjoy these moments while you have them. They won’t stay this young forever.
But don’t forget to set the timer on your coffee machine, writer, cause you ain’t going to bed anytime soon.