American writer Alice Walker once said that writers should have only one child, because “with one you can move. With more than one you’re a sitting duck.” Yet, with Statista reporting that almost 20 million U.S. families have two children or more, it doesn’t appear that the nation is following Walker’s advice.
Still, if you are a parent-cum-professional writer, it can be difficult to stay motivated to write, regardless of how many children you have. After all, you can’t just pick up your laptop whenever the mood takes you when your kids need bathing, entertaining, or a clean diaper.
But there’s no need to worry! It is entirely feasible to combine parenthood and writing, as long as you know how. This is precisely what this post will help you with.
The tips that follow will ensure that you’re eager to start your new writing project even after a long day of parenting.
Stephen King has revealed that he sets himself a target of 2,000 words per day when drafting a new novel. In contrast, Kate DiCamillo pens between 600 and 900 words per day, five days a week.
You may be used to sticking to self-imposed word counts like this yourself or, like Ernest Hemingway, have a habit of writing only in the mornings. However, now that you’ve got kids in tow, you should discard your word count goals and simply embrace any writing time that you do have.
This means you’re likely to write in bite-sized chunks, which may only last between five and 15 minutes. But this can be just as beneficial for your professional writing career, if not more so, according to Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. She writes that when her children were young and napped for 15 minutes, she would write more than she once did in an hour.
There are some nifty ways you can factor in 15-minute chunks of writing time during your day. For example, if you’re a new parent and have a baby who is fond of warm milk, use the time that it takes you to heat the bottle up in a bowl of hot water to write your next piece. Even if you choose the quicker option of using an electric warmer, you can start writing once your baby starts to feed.
Portable gadgets, such as tablets and smartphones, make it easier than ever for writers to keep on top of their writing. Seeing as babies can feed as often as every two to three hours, writing during each feed is a great way to stay on top of your game and get words onto paper. If these 15 minutes aren’t enough for you, then make sure you seek out help with childcare from your loved ones.
Writer and parent Hannah Davison states that “it might mean that you need to ask for a little help and support from your loved ones and that’s not always easy. Don’t underestimate the significance of saying, ‘This is really important to me, this is who I am and I’m going to need your support so I can do it.’”
You never know when your kids might fall down and need a cuddle, become sick and want you and only you, or just want your undivided attention. As a parent, of course, you’ll put their needs before your writing, but this will likely interrupt your inspiration. Therefore, you will be pleased to know that inspiration is around you all the time.
Jack Kerouac may have found inspiration from the bustling streets of San Francisco, and Scott Neustadter from Venice Beach, but everyday life can be just as stimulating for your writing.
To ensure that you don’t forget great ideas, you should always jot them down as soon as they come to you. This could be on your phone, in your writer’s notepad, on a Post-it Note, on the planner on your refrigerator, or even on the back of your hand.
By doing this, you will keep the idea alive and be eager to get cracking with the next chapter of your book or piece of online content as soon as you’ve got a few child-free minutes.
Professional writer Melissa Burkley says that she favors “mind writing.” This means the majority of her hard work is done in her mind, usually within the first 10 minutes of getting into bed or when she’s just woken up.
During this time, your subconscious mind does all the hard work and can produce some of your best work, just as Mary Shelley experienced. She says that her idea for Frankenstein came to her during an early morning waking dream.
For most parents, it can be tempting to crash as soon as their offspring have gone to bed, especially since new research from the German Institute for Economic Research, the University of Warwick, and West Virginia University has revealed parents face up to six years of sleep deprivation following the birth of a child.
However, it’s worth following Thomas Edison’s advice: “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious” as, by tapping into your subconscious mind morning and night, you’re sure to keep your writer’s brain and ideas flowing no matter how sleep-deprived you are.
As a parent, you are likely to feel guilty on multiple occasions. A study from Pew Research has revealed that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find it difficult to establish an acceptable work-life balance. This is something that all parents will relate to, as leaving children with family, friends, a childminder, or in a care setting while you go to work can make you feel sad, disappointed, and like a failure.
When you then factor in writer’s guilt caused by spending too long on a project, having little to show compared to the time you’ve spent on your writing, or not writing enough, it can really impact the way you feel about your professional writing career and result in writer’s block setting in.
It’s worth looking at the bigger picture, though. As a working parent, you’re a good role model for your children. Your professional writing career will show them that they can achieve what they want from life. What’s more, it’s something that both you and your children can be proud of, especially when they see your name on the front of a book or online.
“I got to see the look on my son’s face as he showed a story I’d written to his friend and said, ‘My mum wrote this book.’ My children love that they understand what I do and they’re proud of it. It matters to them that I am a writer. In knowing our work, our children get to know us a little better,” Davison states.
Davison also offers some sound advice to any writer parents who are finding it tough to do the job they love while caring for their offspring: “To any writing parent that is feeling guilty doing their work, I want to say, ‘Be kind to yourself. What you are doing matters.’ Place the same value on your needs as you do on the needs of your family.”
As writing is something that you love, you should actively do it while raising your children. In doing so, you will have some “me time” and keep your passion alive.
It’s also worth remembering that your writing has the potential to earn you money that will support your family, and you should never feel guilty about providing for your loved ones.
It can be difficult to juggle life as a professional writer and a parent to young children. But thankfully, there are tried and tested ways to stay motivated so that each and every one of your ideas come to life.
So, the next time you’re feeling like parenting is putting the brakes on your writing career, be sure to follow these handy tips and step on the gas.
Amy Fletcher is a freelance writer and researcher with a keen interest in content creation. She has written for various online magazines, blogs, and journals in recent years. When she's not writing, she enjoys long walks with her daughter and two dogs.