The Great Balancing Act: Part-time Writer, Full-Time Mom

I miss the good old days before the baby (writing-wise, at least). I’d roll out of bed, eat breakfast, and then write until I was finished for the day. I was pretty good at setting goals and getting work done, until I became pregnant. Then writing was very difficult. I had trouble thinking and forming sentences. My creative brain was gone. Thankfully it came back when the baby was born!

To say it’s been tricky getting work done while watching my 7 month old is a bit of an understatement. I don’t really have any great tips for doing this, all I can say is thank goodness my mother-in-law likes to babysit for me. She babysits regularly, twice a week, and because of that, I actually get to leave the house to write (and leaving the house to write is such a good thing!).

But because my time is much more limited now, I’ve found that I’m becoming a little more efficient with my writing. Whenever I find myself saying, “Hmm, I don’t feel like fixing this scene right now. I’ll do it later,” I stop. I think about the fact that there really is no “later”. If I put things off, it’ll take me months to write a scene that should have taken a few weeks. And then, I just do it. Or at least I do most of the time. :)

Not only am I trying to balance writing time with baby time, I’m also trying to juggle two works-in-progress at once:

1) Cloudreader, the MG fantasy I’m writing with my sister is mostly done…except for the ending. The ending is kind of in sketch form, with notes and badly written sentences. I’m slowly going chapter by chapter, incorporating suggestions from writing group and then working on the next chapter. There isn’t much left though. I should be done with this round of revisions in a few months. Then will be time to revise the manuscript as a whole.

2)Landwalker, my YA post-apocalyptic/sci fi novel is just getting going. I’m working on my characters, figuring out backstory, figuring out where the plot is heading, doing some background research. I have a few chapters written, maybe about 30 pages in total. I’m using Scrivener for this one, so some of my time has been spent playing around with a new organizing scheme and things.

My strategy for working on these two projects has been to basically work on Cloudreader one week (the week that submissions for my writing group are due) and then Landwalker the following week (the week that I have writing group). This also keeps me from working on Cloudreader immediately after group meetings–I’ve found it’s best to let feedback settle for a bit and see which comments actually resonate with me before changing things.

(As you can tell, I also do some blogging as well, but that’s usually my last priority and gets done during baby’s naps.)

I have no idea how well this strategy is going to work in the long term, and I may end up changing things around, but so far, so good.

Writer-Moms (and Dads): How do you balance writing and parenting?

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9 Responses to The Great Balancing Act: Part-time Writer, Full-Time Mom

  1. For me, it’s about lists and organization and me time. When I run, I run through everything I need to do for the day, and make mental check lists. Because that’s me time, it included non-work, but totally essential things–showering, eating, taking five to read something I’ve been looking forward to. Later, I write down all the lists, and pick out the three most necessary work things I need to get done over the course of the day.

    Getting those three things can be tricky. Sometimes, I end up dictating into my phone, or writing notes as I’m walking the baby (in the park, where I can’t run into things). Most of my correspondence is done via my phone when I’m walking/sitting down at a cafe while he sleeps, in the car when Joe’s driving, or late at night, when I’m watching tv. That’s how I keep up with necessary reading, like PW and your blog, too. I just star the things I need to come back to.

    The actual writing comes when he’s napping, or at night. I can write almost any time of day, even when I’m exhausted, though I’m more likely to make errors then. So if it’s late, as it so often is, I write detailed outlines for articles, or sentences I’ve come up with for a story, and why I think they’re important. Why a sentence is important usually tells me a lot, but that’s just the way I think. I also collect all the links I might need, and pull the quotes that are interesting. I write notes all day long, too, because I’m apt to forget important things.

    In daylight hours, again, during the naps, or when we have Araci (alas, just Thursdays so far), I fill in the gaps. This way, it takes me between one and two days to write a post for PopMatters, and one to write for the NRI. Book reviews, unfortunately, take me weeks, because not only do I have to read the book, I have to digest it. Most of those end up being dictated into my phone so I get a clear sense of how I feel about the book before I try and write something coherent.

    The biggest problem for me at the moment is interviews. Going through the material from a 30-60 minute sit down requires a lot of attention to detail, and a lot of time.

    Some days, nothing comes together, and I’m happy to get one thing dealt with. If I can’t concentrate, I run over to Hootsuite and read and tweet for a bit, or schedule my tweets. I have a rule that for every link of my own, I should find 5 links for others, and give back. Of course, that takes time!

    The downside of this system is that I am rarely not working in some way, since I try not to work when I’m with kidlet, and give him the majority of my attention. I am forever worried I don’t devote enough time to him.

    I like the way you’re switching back and forth, and it does sound like you’ve got a pretty efficient system!

  2. amitha says:

    Wow! I feel exhausted just reading all of that! I have no idea how you have so much energy! I might try hootsuite tweet scheduling. that sounds like a good idea.

    I also feel bad when I’m not devoting 100% of my attention to the baby. Sometimes I find myself playing with her, but then zoning out and thinking about a new chapter or a new blog post in my head at the same time. Ahh, the guilt. I have a feeling it will never end.

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  7. I think the guilt is something we’re stuck with, but that we can spin it into a positive. It does help me work out if I’m doing something for me or for him. Of course, it does also make me less likely to do the for me thing, unless it involves chocolate.

    I don’t really have energy so much as drive. I like to work, and I like most of the things that come with it. Even when I’m exhausted, I find myself drifting work-ward because I enjoy it. I get almost as frustrated not working as I do when I’m overloaded. It’s screwy, but that’s okay. :)

    It’s so hot today I was afraid to even walk up to the gym, though. I haven’t been outside at all – this is prime seizure weather and it’s spooking me a bit.

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