When I began writing, my children were very young—4 months and 2 years respectively. Each day at 2 PM, I would tuck them in for their naps and I had three to four hours of uninterrupted writing time. I luxuriated in it, and looking back, I’m glad I did. I would pour a bath, gather a snack and beverage, turn on the classical music station, light my beloved Frasier Fir Woodwick candle, grab my notebook and fountain pen (loaded with violet ink, naturally), perch my laptop carefully on the edge of the tub, and get to work. I was a machine. 2,000-3,000 words daily without breaking a sweat.
But life happens.
My son started preschool. We moved out of the countryside and back to the suburbs in a new city, which meant I lost my ginormous tub. Denver doesn’t have a classical music station. (Seriously, Denver? Get your #$%@ together!) The dreaded day came when my children stopped napping (that one still hurts). I had to completely change my writing routine. I won’t lie; I lost weeks trying to find a way to weave the strands of my writing career into our new lives. I was miserable because I was barely able to find the time I needed to meet my deadlines for existing projects—developing new ones? Fuggedaboudit.
I tried burning the midnight oil, but I’m not one who functions brilliantly at night, so I had to find a way to manufacture some time during the day. Note that word choice. We don’t have time, we make time. My solution was to haul my youngest to the community rec center as soon as I drop my son off at preschool and let her play in the child watch center for the maximum allotted two hours. It’s a waste of a gym membership in the traditional sense, I admit, but workouts will return in due course.
I race to the lobby, set up my laptop, fire up Netflix or Amazon Prime on my iPad and stream a movie or show I’ve seen a zillion times to drown out the noise with my earbuds, and get as much done in those two hours as I possibly can. No candles, no warm bath. If I’m lucky, I get the table that overlooks the swimming pool. I bring a snack so I don’t have to spend the time or money on vending machines. I even make sure my laptop is booted up in the car before I drop off my daughter and that I’ve used the “facilities” before I leave home so I don’t have to spend precious minutes on anything other than writing. I do not move for two hours. My FitBit gets cranky about it. I prioritize so that the key tasks are completed during this window of peak time and do the less demanding things at night when my brain is less than stellar.
It does take some planning—packing writing bags the night before and having ranked lists of what needs to be done each day, but I found a way to keep up some of my former momentum. And after all that work, that routine will go out the window in four weeks when my son is out of school for the summer. And once again when both children start school in August. The advantage is that this time, I know the bare minimum of what I need to be able to be productive and I won’t lose weeks carving out a new schedule. I miss the days of yore where I could revel in the creative process, but I remind myself that they aren’t gone forever—just for the time being. I learned what I need as a bare minimum to write is a block of child-free time, white noise, and a plan. Carbs help, too. I have succeeded in creating my Moveable Muse, which will enable my career to thrive even when writing conditions are less than ideal.
Over to you—what tricks to you use to carve out extra writing time in your day?
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Aimie - go to http://www.kusc.org/ - they live stream classical 24/7!
I get my best ideas on a bicycle, and when moved from So Ca to Texas, not only the weather some months kept me from plotting - you take your life in your hands with oilfield traffic here! I've worked around it, but still love the hours I can plot in the bike!
Thanks for blogging with us - best on your debut - it looks fascinating!
Thank you, Laura! I used to love plotting while on super long walks with the babies in strollers. They aren't so patient with that anymore!
Thanks, Laura! I used to plot while pushing my babies in a giant stroller on massive walks. I don't get that luxury anymore!
I'm dreading summer and the havoc it will wreak on my writing time. When the kids are in the house, I don't write. They're teenagers and they don't need me, but if they happen into my office with a question or the rare desire to talk to mom, and I happen to be in the middle of writing a scene, I will snap at them for breaking my train of thought. Yes, I know this is completely unfair, even mean, so my only solution has been to not write when they are in the house. I edit, I social media, I blog, I organize, I research, I make notes, I review, but I don't attempt to write until they vacate the house for school, practice, friends houses, or work. That's predictable time during the school year, but summer is scatter-shot, so I plan for it to be. I miss the days when they napped.
I know what you mean, Cara! I hope to get a helper to keep the littles occupied in the back yard this summer!
Aimie, how I admire your tenacity and creative planning to write and care for young children. I didn't start writing until my kids had flown the nest. While I was working I wrote at 5 am, a habit that has stuck even though I don't have a day job anymore. but my writing time is sacred. As a historical fiction fan I will be reading your novel it sounds interesting.
I wish I were a morning person, Susan! It seems when I do try to get up early the kids hear me as soon as I crack the door to my bedroom. It's like spidey sense for preschoolers! I hope you enjoy PROMISED! Keep in touch and let me know what you think! http://www.aimiekrunyan.com
Thank you for sharing this, Almie. How you have "made" time is an inspiring example. May it help motivate readers to keep cranking and realize their dreams.
Thank you so much, Rick!!! I hope readers are able to pull a few trick out of the article to use on their own!
Wow, Aimie, this is a stellar post. So many writers are in your situation. I did the same sorts of things you did, relying on synchronized napping (harder than it sounds, especially when the kids are tiny and you want to nap, too) and even resorting to indoor playgrounds like Bonkers or Chucky Cheese on weekends so I could sit and edit while my kids crawled around in the toxic, disease-ridden ball pits, I dragged my laptop to every dance/gymnastics/sports practice they had when the children (we have five) were old enough to do that.
I also had the good fortune, when my oldest children were still toddlers, to meet the great short story writer Grace Paley, who began writing shortly after World War II. When I asked how she got writing done with small kids at home, she grinned and said, "Day care." At that time, day care centers had been established because so many women were taking the jobs of men who had gone off to war--and she sneakily used those centers while she wrote! From that day on, I started hiring sitters for just a few hours here and there so that I could at least occasionally write without distractions. I also went to cheap hotels for weekends and basically hid from my family. It can be done. You're so right: it's a matter of MAKING the time to write rather than just WANTING time to write.
So right, Holly! We have to find those chunks of time and make the most of them. I long for a weekend retreat!!!
i call that "writing in the cracks." Seize every moment you can to write, then WRITE!
Exactly right. As a historical writer there are always research tidbits I can do in scraps of time.
The shower and my drive times are when my best ideas come. I don't know why - probably because I'm physically doing a task that isn't very hard. 🙂 I'm a huge fan of writing in between other things. It makes me focused.
You'd probably really enjoy Barbara DeMarco's book, PEN ON FIRE. It's wonderful, and exactly about this topic.
I think that's super common, Jenny. I think because we're relaxed and our bodies are occupied, but our minds are free to wander. I'll be sure to check out the book!
Behind the wheel and on the treadmill ... I can always count on inspiration when it's life-threatening to capture it. But I have my ways. And, so far, my life hasn't been threatened in the process. BTW, your book sounds intriguing. Best wishes for its--and your--success!
Isn't that the way of it, Christopher??? Recording apps on smartphones are a great tool! And thanks! I hope you check out the book!
Great post Aimee.
I'm a former Denverite, and I want to suggest you try KVOD in Lakewood and Colorado Public Radio.
Thanks, JJ. I sure will!!!
I miss Denver! (Used to live in Highlands Ranch.) I could pack everyone up and take them to the rec centers for swimming all year round, take them to the libraries for the events, take them to the park. Everywhere we'd go, I'd my music and a journal, then at night when everyone is tuckered out, transcribe chapters into my computer... Writing seemed to take less time back then. *heavy sigh*
I don't remember what channel it was but I do know there was a college station that played classical on the weekends when I lived there. Not sure anymore.
Good luck making the time to write.
It's a great place for those sorts of services! I love our rec center!
After lunch we have 'quiet time'. I put on the cartoons, snuggle up on the sofa with my four year old and attack my key board for as long as I can before my mum-guilt kicks in - I usually get ninety minutes.
How lovely! I'll be implementing that strategy this summer and hope I can help my 3 year old off my lap 🙂
Quiet time was how I dealt with it when I had one who had graduated from naps and one who still took them. We seem to have gotten away from it as I added kids. 🙂
Everything changes when the kids get older. My teen son in the summer stays up all night and sleeps all day. It actually works pretty well for me except for the mess in the kitchen the next morning.
I know... I'm learning that I can't count on any routine to last more than 5 minutes at this stage!
I can't last more than a day without writing something; even if it's just a journal entry. My inspiration hits me most at the oddest of times, mostly when I'm Swiffering with the radio on and dancing, and also in my regular day job. The things people will say and do in my line of work (IT/IS, or Computer Instruction) always seem to spark ideas and quirky lines that I will play around with, but I write them down in a notepad when I hear them.
As far writing time goes, my Navy Sons are both grown and gone and I'm twice divorced, so I can write without too many obligations or responsibilities, usually on weekends, two nights a week, and when the words just hit me. Sometimes I will even schedule an extra day of writing just by writing it down in my agenda book. I actually am starting to live "the writer's life," and I love being on my own, alone at 50 years old, to do it. I love this life!
-- Laura LeighAnne
[…] The Moveable Muse […]
I write music and nonfiction as well as fiction, and with four kids it's a constantly shifting paradigm. I need complete silence in order to think, so I get up at 5 or 5:30 every day and get usually half an hour of concentrated work time. I've learned that I can write a blog post at piano lessons; I can sit in the van and revise; I can go to the library for the hour between workout class and preschool pickup and stay off the bleepety-bleep internet, which is almost always a guarantee of productive time. And I save research and writing piano parts for times when the kids are around, because it's physical and for that reason it's possible to do it. Those are a few of my coping techniques...
I've been stymied-- even though the grandkids have finally grown up enough to stay home alone I can't even think about writing. Now it is my husband! The company he worked for closed it's doors and he is at home all the time. Every time I move he pops up from somewhere with a question or a task or even some object he wants me to put away. Even when he is downstairs I can feel him breath. It helps to read what other writers are doing to find the time to write. Thank you all.