Sorry about my hiatus this past Saturday. I was camping in Denali National Park, and with all the prep I had to do before we left, I didn’t get a chance to schedule this blog post! I had it almost completed, but things just got away from me. I hope you’ll forgive me and allow me to post it now!
And for all you parents out there, I’d love to hear what your parenting experiences have taught you about writing! Leave a note in the comments, please!
Parenting is a time period rife with life lessons. You learn things like how selfish you are, how much time kids take, how you might or might not be able to do it again, how much sleep you can live without, and how infuriated you can become with your own shortcomings and your significant other. You also learn a lot about yourself, like how selfish you are, what makes you irrationally angry, and what brings you joy.
But parenting has taught me some life lessons about more than just myself or my parenting ability. So far, it’s also taught me several lessons about writing.
1. Time is precious.
There will never be enough time. There will always be things demanding your time and attention. But if writing is important enough to you, you can continue to write as a mother (or father). This will involve writing during baby’s nap times, writing after baby’s bedtime, and before baby wakes up in the morning. But those words will eventually evolve into something you will be glad you wrote.
2. Guard your writing time ferociously.
As I said above, there will always be things demanding your attention. Unless it’s life and death, or unless it takes priority over writing, then you must sit yourself down and write. Of course, if you have one of those fancy standing desks, stand–it may keep you awake!
3. Be flexible.
Children, especially young children, rarely cooperate with #2 in this post: guarding your writing time, but they often help in proving to you #1: Time is precious. So don’t be upset when the baby wakes just as you’re getting into your writing session. It’s inevitable, and see #12.
4. Five words here and there add up.
Even if you can only write five words a day for a week, after two weeks, you’ll have 70 words. After two weeks have passed, you’ll most likely be able to up to that to ten, and then in two weeks’ time you’ll have written another 140 words. Although it seems slow at the time, it’s better than nothing. And even if you aren’t writing an actual story but you’re writing down ideas or phrases or a poignant sentence that comes to you, you’ll have that to look back at, and you won’t regret taking the two seconds to jot it down.
5. Keep a notebook (or iPhone) handy at all times.
This isn’t exactly a parenting/writing trick, but having a notebook handy or some way to write things down when you’re sitting there with your one-month-old at one a.m. can keep your inspiration alive. And it can prevent you from forgetting about that idea you have for the next Greatest Novel of All Time.
6. Embrace sleep deprivation.
Sometimes the best ideas come through when you are sleep deprived and unable to sleep. Inspiration can strike when you are nursing baby to sleep, or rocking baby in your arms, or holding him upright during his first cold so that he can breathe easy enough to sleep. Embrace those nights as tightly as you embrace your child. Let your imagination run wild, and have a notebook handy.
7. Find inspiration in the little things.
Inspiration can be found in your child’s first smile, first word, first step. Let your imagination go as you watch him grow, as you watch him discover the world. He enjoys pulling leaves off the trees or watching a butterfly in a way that you’ve forgotten to do–let that enjoyment and wonder speak to you and inspire you.
8. Slow down.
It may sound cliche, but: enjoy the little moments. Every day is unique, and every day with your child is precious. I try to remind myself of that every day–especially as I reach the toddler temper tantrum stage where the kid is not so adorable and easy to manage. But try to enjoy the stages as they come, and file away cute and annoying events for characters in your future novels.
9. Speed up.
When you get the opportunity to write, put away distractions and write fast. Make the most of that writing time, because you can’t depend on finding it again anytime soon–something always comes up. So write fast, learn how to type fast, and simply get the words out. You can edit later, or give to a trusted writer friend to read later and edit from there.
10. Never give up.
Writing rewards those who persevere. Skill is learned through continued practice, publishing happens for those who determine to stick through the bad times, and choose to believe that they will be published. Successful authors are those who continue to write even when no one wants to publish their work. Successful authors sometimes self-publish while seeking traditional publishing deals, and sometimes become their own entrepreneurs. These days, an author must wear several hats. So learn about them, and never, ever give up.
11. Let go of perfectionism.
I used to be a perfectionist writer. I still, to some degree, am. But I am becoming more and more okay with the imperfections that will always be present in my writing (and in my life). I cannot iron out every imperfection, I cannot create a perfect work of art. (Perfectionism itself is relative and unattainable.) Although I want to create a work of fiction that I can be proud of, I am realizing that I don’t have the time to devout to my works-in-progress to wait for them to become “perfect.”
12. Writing is NOT my number one priority.
It’s more like my third or fourth. First is God, then hubby, then child. Only after that does writing come into play. I find it useful to also rank the priorities of my different types of writing. So my list might look something like this:
- Short Stories
- Self-publishing Research
- Social Media
- Household Chores
Now on some days, my day is not going to be like this. In fact, it may come out more like: Household Chores, then Child, then Husband, etc. But writing it out can help me check in on myself throughout the day. Have I checked off #1? Have I met all the needs of my husband and child? Do I have time to write now? Sometimes I also can find the time to multi-task. Chores must be done, often falling within the needs of my child or husband (i.e. laundry or dinner prep). But before I sit down to write, I can put in a load of laundry and then use that time waiting for the washing machine to write.
You must figure out your own list of priorities and treat them appropriately. Perhaps your child is first, day job second, then spouse or family. Each person’s list of priorities may be a little different, and that’s to be expected. But it helps to list it out, at least mentally, so that you can evaluate how your day is going and whether you are allowing your priorities to falter.
13. Taking a break from writing is okay. Perhaps it’s even best.
I used to feel extremely guilty if I wasn’t writing every day. I still want to write something every day, but during the early months of parenting writing was one more thing on my plate that was simply unmanageable. I couldn’t fathom adding one more thing and still keeping sane, but my drive to write kept my guilt of not writing alive. But there came a time, and in retrospect I agree, that a break from writing can recharge you and can keep you sane. Unless you have deadlines that other people are depending on (and I would recommend avoiding that during the early months of parenting), then a break from writing obligations can be just as cathartic as writing itself. Of course, if inspiration strikes, don’t fight the urge!
(And a bonus) 14. The support of your spouse is essential to success.
I would have lost my mind over these past 15 months if it weren’t for the support of my husband. He has given me time where there seems to be none, and given me a break from parenting by sending me to a writing conference, and more. He is critical to my writing time these days.
Now I ask you:
What has parenting taught you about writing?