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Momming and Writing

If you’re like me and you’re trying to do it all, you may find yourself sneaking into the corner of the kitchen to scarf down a chocolate chip cookie or sip a glass of wine now and then to keep your energy up and your sanity intact. That “all” may include picking up toys and books and clothes off the floor for the eighteenth time this week, doing your fifth load of laundry this morning, or washing your sixty-five sink full of dishes this month. Or it may mean staying up past midnight to write your weekly blog post, to finish the revision on those chapters the agent is waiting for, or to finish up a freelance job that is paying the bills—even though you know you’ll be back up again at six a.m.

With New Year’s Resolutions dancing like sugarlessplums in our heads, where do we begin? How do we prioritize? Which of the following goals should we focus on first?:

-Finish book
-Get agent
-Sell book
-Start blog
-Blog 3x a week
-Get more blog followers
-Get more Twitter followers
-Tweet more
-Design/Redesign website
-Exercise more
-Read more
-Make more money
-Spend less money
-Spend more time with kids
-Remind spouses/partners of our first names

My advice is to:

1. Be realistic. Don’t try to do it all. You can’t. If you have two little kids like I do, you CANNOT blog as often as other people do. Or exercise as often. Or volunteer as often at the local homeless shelter. You just can’t. Not if you want to get any writing done. And take a shower now and then. Blog once a week. Anne R. Allendoes it, and it isn’t hurting her blog following. Exercise a couple times a week. Quit the volunteer job (for now).

2. Prioritize. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Label those columns: Must Do, Would Like To Do, and Probably Won’t Do. Then divide everything on your To Do list into one of those three columns. For example:

Must Do
Write one hour every day
Make enough money to pay the bills

Would Like To Do
Blog 1x per week
Exercise 2x per week

Will Probably Not Do Any Time Soon
Learn to Sew
Re-landscape the yard
Study Italian

Now schedule the items in the first column into your day. Commit yourself fully to them. If you have extra time, schedule the second column in, too. If not, do those things when you have some free time. But don’t stress about them. They’re not your priority. As for the third column, put them out of your mind. They’ve been crossed off your To Do list, at least for the near future.

3. Carve out your writing time. Find a time and a place to write that works for you, and stick with it. That may mean writing in 15-minute increments on breaks while at work. It may mean writing from 5 to 7 a.m. before the kids wake up or 8-10 p.m., after they go to sleep. It may mean hiring a babysitter one or two days a week in order to write in an office, a library, or a cafe. It may mean ditching the kids with dad for a few days now and then and heading off to a writers’ retreat or conference (that’s what I do!) Try different things and see what works for you. Then stick with it.

4. Balance, balance, balance. Write as often as you can. Make that your priority over blogging, watching TV, and surfing the Net. But take time to nurture your creative soul, too, or your writing will become dry. That may mean going for a run, reading some poetry, taking a hike in the woods, visiting an art museum, lying in a hot bath surrounded by candles, or spending a couple hours drinking tea with a friend. Give yourself a break now and then. All work and no play makes Blogger Betty a dull and unhappy writer.

5. Remember to have fun! You’re doing this—writing, blogging, parenting—because you chose to, because you WANT to. If it’s becoming a grind, if you’re overtired and burnt out and you hate your book and your blog and everyone who demands anything of you, then take a break. Tell your blog readers you’re going on sabbatical and step away from it all for a few weeks. Don’t worry, the rat race will still be here when you get back. And you’ll return with a renewed vigor that will infect your readers. Happy bloggers are successful bloggers.

What about you? Do you have kids? How do you balance parenting with writing and blogging? When/how often/for how long do you write each week? Do you blog each week? How do you “do it all”?

9 comments to Momming and Writing

  • Good idea! Right now my goals are to take baby out for walk – everyday that it's not raining, cook couple of times a week – set up a temporary work space in the living room – to sneak in a few minutes of work now and then – while baby sleeps – and hopefully start exercising couple of times a week end of the month

  • aditi – those sound like good goals and not too overwhelming. Happy New Year!

  • Nellie

    It's pretty funny to hear conversations among the (older) children of Moms Who Write. They are all familiar with the threatening expressions and hand signals that mean I AM ON THE PHONE WITH A VERY IMPORTANT PERSON. I once was talking to a VP at Ballantine when my 3 yr old daughter yelled to me, "MOM! I POOPED!" You are literally torn between two mutually exclusive worlds.

  • oh the juggling act. i'm not sure when it gets easier, but i suppose it must at some point, right? my two goals this year are one part boring, one part fun. the former: create and maintain a family budget. the latter: take a photo a day for the entire year. so far, i'm making progress in both departments. good luck with your wish list for the year!!

  • Jackie – taking a photo a day for entire year sounds great. Is it a photo of anything in particular? (Your kids?) I tried to take a photo of my son just once a WEEK when he was born and that lasted all of about two weeks. I don't have any specific goals for this year (well, I do, but they're the same as last year and the year before and the year before that – finish book and get it published!) Good luck with your goals!

  • I blog twice a week and try for the same days to keep it consistent. (Tues/Thurs). I used to write while my kiddos napped in the afternoon, but they're both older now and we turned it into 'movie time.' Even so, it's not working as well as it used to. Now, much of my novel writing is after the kids are in bed 8-11. I find that if I prioritize writing, it slots in somewhere. If I get too regimented, it stresses me out. But I do write every day–even weekends. Love your list–lots of good reminders.

  • My To-Do list and my Get-Real list are usually pretty far apart. 🙂

  • Nellie – "Mom I pooped!" Ha! When my 3-year-old son shouted, "Pee pee! Pee pee! I need to go pee pee!" at a dinner party over the holidays this one woman burst out laughing. It hadn't even occurred to me that he SHOULDN'T say such a thing at the dinner table!

    Sarah – I wish I could blog Tues/Thurs like you, but I can't seem to be consistent enough, so I'm sticking with one day and the occasional extra post for now. That's fantastic that you write every day with two kids! I do not! You look too young to have two kids, by the way 🙂 How old are they?

    Tara Maya – Welcome! And I hear you about the Get-Real list. I decided not to even bother making New Year's resolutions this year because I'll just get frustrated next December when I haven't accomplished them.

  • Huzzah! It works now! Weird.

    I don't know how you do all that with two small kids! I salute you.