The Easter holidays are in full flow and my patience has hopped on a plane and left for Bermuda. Which under the current lockdown conditions, I feel, is totally unfair, as I can’t follow.
It’s 11am, and the bouncy one is insisting I check his room because he thinks it’s haunted. I’m not sure if the cloaked one still lives here. Mini Napoleon doesn’t understand why he can’t have all the crisps and I’ve stopped three fights and am now in the cupboard, crying and looking for Gin.
Writing with young children is hard enough on a normal day. But writing with children that are all on holiday, all completely different and all wanting my attention, all the time, is the thing that hell is made of.
Despite my general apathy right now, I love being a mum. It’s brought me more love than I ever felt possible, and it’s helped me discover that my voice can do a really high squeaky thing that calls dogs to our door. Sometimes, though, I also want to remember what it’s like to be an individual in my own right.
So how can we keep working on our writing goals, while having the children home during the holidays?
Scheduling is key
I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a stationary addiction. If you like a paper planner, then there are many on the market that are great. My favourite is The Clever Fox – 13 Week Ultimate Achiever’s Planner. It allows me to break my key goals into chunks and work through them with a review section every week so I can keep on top of my progress. The Legend planner is also pretty great, although not as specific as I need. But if you’re looking for something a little more flexible, Boxclever’s Family Life Book is great for organising your day to day.
If you prefer a digital planner, then Google Calendar is an excellent alternative. You can block book your time and get your phone to give you a reminder before the time is due to start. I always schedule my writing time. This not only allows me to plan, but allows me to let everyone know, ahead of time, that Mum is working and unless you’re missing a limb or dying, I’m not to be disturbed.
Short and long writing sessions
Something I learned from my writing coach, Rhonda Douglas – not all writing sessions are created equal. Instead of planning a two-hour stint and then beating yourself up because you couldn’t stick to it. Decide ahead of time on short and long writing sessions. So if the kids are home and you’re not able to get to your office/designated writing space/ then you’re probably not going to get longer than a few minutes uninterrupted. So plan on a short 15-minute session.
This doesn’t just have to be writing. You could be researching, planning, or practicing your Booker Prize acceptance speech. Plan your longer sessions for when you know you’re going to have the time. This way is reduces frustration and allows you ‘mini-wins‘ throughout your day.
Use the ‘When and Then’
This is a great technique, I learned from a friend, to reduce arguments and power struggles with my little ones.
You reach your scheduled writing time; you sit down at your computer and a little one inevitably appears and wants to talk about everything that’s ever happened to them since birth. Instead of telling them you’re writing and they can’t bother you right now, you can give them a clear focus followed by an action.
For example, you can say, ‘when I have finished this writing session, then we can bake a cake‘, or ‘when this alarm goes off, then I will make you a snack’. This takes away the uncertainty of ‘in a minute‘, answers and your little one understands what will happen and when.
Banish the guilt
When I first announced that I wished to pursue a career in writing, I was told that it was a foolish dream. That, now I had a son, I needed to grow up and have a proper career, I couldn’t be messing around with a dream that would never make any money.
Sad to say, I believed it. Therefore, I got myself a steady nine to five, went for lunch at the pub with my colleagues and filed my writing under ‘hobbies and other stupid ideas that cost me money.’ It took me a full ten years, and reading books such as Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, before I came back round to the idea of writing as a career.
The truth is, I’d let myself feel guilty, like I was letting my family down somehow by wanting to write. That investing money in something that was unlikely to bring about a return was a poor decision. Now I realise that writing brings me such joy, that investing in it will never be a mistake. Even if I never publish a single word. The journey is what matters. I can’t control whether or not my work gets published. I can control how much I enjoy the process.
So let go of the guilt. You can be a writer and a good parent/partner/international synchronised swimmer, and you have absolutely nothing to be guilty about. In fact, letting your children see you strive for something that’s important to you, is one of the most valuable lessons you can teach them, and something they will hopefully take into their own lives.
Now it’s time for me to leave the cupboard and rejoin the jungle that is my Easter Holiday Home. Have a great week and happy writing!