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?