Mommy, we all have wings, my son whispers to me sleepily as he opens his eyes. My resentment about not having time to fit in some writing before he awoke melts.
They are only little for such a short time, parents of older kids remind me regularly. I consider the ethics of cheering the impending loss of small sweetness that will usher in more time for my art.
If you struggle with carving out a (guilt-free) creative life with kids, here are some things you can do:
Know that your writing is important
I often tell my students that just by making time for writing, they are an example for their children on how to live a creative life. While that’s true, it's important to also know that you deserve to be whole. If writing makes you whole, don’t give it up.
When it comes to time as a commodity, you can afford anything, but not everything. Ask yourself, what is going to give room for you to write? Your kids can come first, of course, but what about those dishes, can they wait?
“OMG, I got 10 minutes to write today!”
In 2013, we interviewed Alice Kuipers at Room magazine. This was before my oldest son was born, and I didn’t get it yet when she said, “I have become efficient at writing in the spare minutes between things—I was waiting at the physiotherapist’s today and I wrote 300 words on a new idea I have.”
If you haven’t had your 10 minutes and at the end of the day you feel defeated, remember this mantra from Alexandra Franzen, "Today is not over yet."
Use systems and experiment
I read too many articles on efficiency and in fact could probably have written a whole novel in the time I spent reading efficiency articles over the last few months.
Systems are going to get you somewhere faster than goals. Goals are too big. Systems break things down. You can create a system that works for you with your writing. Obviously it needs to be flexible.
Get curious and experiment with this. Ask yourself, can I write with my kid in the room, or is better for me to spend that time cleaning up, and writing after the kid’s in bed?
Or, should I use this time for some mise-en-place? If so, get your pencils sharpened, literally and figuratively. Set up your space so you can just get to writing when you do get your 30 minutes to do it.
Systems can also help you cut down on the number of decisions you make each day—a big drain on our energy—and can be applied to everything from meals to your writing submissions.
Get over the guilt (shame, actually)
I have heard it called mommy-guilt, that maddening loop where I feel bad about my parenting when I focus on the writing and bad about my writing when I focus on parenting.
I know now from Brené Brown that wanting to be perfect is based in shame: Guilt is I did something bad. Shame is, I am bad.
And many writers have a tendency towards perfectionism—we hold onto our ideas for too long when we fear they will not be "just right" when they’re down on the page.
There is enough of the feeling we are not enough, of shame, in parenting. Let's not let making time to write yet another source of this shame.
Here's a twist: If you feel shame, like you are not enough, or you should be doing this or that with your parenting or writing, think of it as hubris. Like, who are you to think that you are better, or should be better than anyone else?
Many, many writers struggle with the practice of writing after becoming parents! And you really are short on time when you’re a parent of young kids.
Get by with all help you can get
You’d hire an editor to help you publish your book, so there’s nothing wrong with hiring professionals to tackle work on the home front while you get your writing done.
Spend your writing time actually enjoying writing
If getting 10 minutes to write at a time is a considerable win, this is probably the time to put a pin in bigger projects that involve a lot of research or interviewing. Let the writing be a delicious treat that you get to enjoy, even if it’s only for those 10 minutes.
START NOW! Find some way to start, little by little. Do what you can with what you have a where you are.
Today is not over yet. Your writing life is important. You need it.
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