If you want to write a novel, but are putting it off until the kids are grown, I have two words for you: Don’t wait. It’s possible to raise a happy, healthy family and still follow your writing dream. And that’s true whether you’re single or married. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or work outside the house.
You may think I’m crazy – how can you find time to write when you’re already so busy you barely have time to sleep?
It can be done.
J.K. Rowling quite famously penned the first of her Harry Potter series in a coffee shop with her baby napping in a buggy. I wrote my first novel, Flip-Flopped, in two years by setting my alarm for 5 a.m. every day and squeezing in writing before work and then stealing any other time I could. I’d write a scene while my son built a Lego castle, or do some editing while he was planted in front of the TV for a half hour.
A mother of two small children, Allison Pearson turned her frustrations as a mom into the best-selling novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It. She’s admitted that being a mom and trying to write a novel is difficult – “like having a secret third child in the house that you have to go and play with when the other two have gone to bed,” she’s said. Still, she managed to finish in a year, even with holding a job part of the time.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to sweep aside everything to write. There’s this assumption that writing a novel means countless hours of uninterrupted time-just you alone in a cabin somewhere with nothing but pen and paper and maybe a plate of Oreos. That’s not only impossible for most people, it’s not even preferable. Some of your best writing inspiration will come from life. If you make writing a part of your day-to-day routine, you’re far more likely to stick with it.
Some tips for combining motherhood with a writing career:
- Schedule it in. A friend of mine has a regular 8 – 9 p.m. date with her computer. Barring a broken leg or the house burning down, she never misses it, and she rarely goes over. Knowing she has a limited time spurs her to be productive.
- Lower your standards, at least when it comes to housework. Could the floor go one more day without sweeping? Could you use bottled pasta sauce instead of making it from scratch? Yes, June Cleaver always did everything perfectly, but she didn’t write a novel. She also wasn’t real.
- Involve your kids. Plunk them down next to you with crayons and paper while you write. Dub it your “creative time.”
- Be the tortoise. Forget every story you’ve ever heard about how this or that author wrote a book in a month. Writing your novel will take as long as it needs to take. If you stick with it, you’ll eventually get to the end.
- Delegate. Women often get stuck with the housework because they feel they’re the only ones who can do it “right.” Give jobs away to your husband or kids, and resist the urge to re-do them – even if the towels aren’t folded right or the stove doesn’t gleam the way it should.
- Consider starting small. If writing a novel seems overwhelming, start with a short story or even some of the super-short “flash fiction” that’s popular right now. The bonus: It’s easier to get short pieces published on the Internet so that you can amass clips.
- Banish guilt. As women, it’s hard for us to take time for ourselves. If you’re feeling guilty about spending time writing, remember the saying, “kids learn what they see.” What your children will see is you plugging away at making one of your dreams come true. Isn’t that at least as important as a perfectly clean house?