Quiet! Writer in the house
How to run a busy household and find time to write
Published: January 10, 2006
|My eldest is upstairs, playing a CD, dancing her heart out. Downstairs, the youngest is practicing piano. In the basement, my husband is engrossed in a carpentry project--with a roaring power saw. At my computer, I'm trying to put words on paper that make sense. "Mom, do you know where my dance sweatshirt is?" Then the telephone rings, or one of their friends is out front, holding a little finger on the doorbell.|
There's no end to the battle for time and solitude when you're a writer in a busy, growing family. The challenges multiply when there is an outside job or constant requests for volunteer help with the PTA, a church activity or Girl Scouts.
In her book The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner writes of the risks when you isolate yourself: "First there is the literal act of removing oneself, of choosing solitude. Then there is the psychological separation, holding oneself apart. And finally, the potential rejection of friends and family, critics and publishers."
Parenting can be a bonus for a children's writer or illustrator, since stories and images bombard us constantly. But we need to manage our responsibilities and time to reach writing goals that create income and move our careers forward.
These tips may help you juggle your commitments to meet not only the needs of your family, your school and your organizations, but your own personal writing goals as well.
Set realistic goals. Write down your goals with target dates for completion. Paste them up on a bulletin board or a wall you look at often. Work toward them on a regular basis.
Prioritize. Limit your volunteer activities to short-term projects that don't demand heavy time commitments. There's no need to be involved in every activity, no matter how worthwhile it is.
Find a private place to work. If you don't have a space in your house to work in solitude, try the library. Many community libraries have private rooms where study or writing can occur behind a closed door. One of my friends takes her laptop to such a place every day, where she works on her adult romance novel with out the distractions of "dirty dishes, laundry, the dog ..."
Join a writers group. Writers who read your work and offer helpful criticism and editing are valuable beyond words. Their suggestions for marketing can be more helpful than taking a class.
Celebrate your accomplishments. One children's writer I know gets up every day at 4 a.m. He has very young children who need constant time and attention, so he works on his novels when they sleep. But once that first draft of the novel is completed, take a break before going into revisions. Your novel or article will be better if you let it rest, and so will you.
Attend conferences. Weekend retreats allow you to leave your home environment and rejuvenate your education, inspiration and connections with editors, illustrators, teachers and writers.
Enlist the support of immediate and extended family members and friends. Share your writing hours with parents, in-laws, friends or anyone else, so they don't call to chat or drop in during this time. The answering machine is the greatest technology known to writers after the computer and the Internet. Learn to say: "The machine will get it." The answering machine will tell you if it's from someone important to you. If it's a telemarketer, there most likely won't be a message.
When you pursue your dream with determination and commitment, you can achieve a growing level of success.
Connie Heckert teaches several writing classes. She is the regional advisor of the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators in Iowa and has 11 published books to her credit, including two picture books and two books for teens.
• The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
• The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes
• The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
• If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland
--Posted Jan. 10, 2006