Now that summer 'vacation' is here, I've received a lot of e-mails recently asking how I manage to juggle writing and kids. It's a good question, and the answer has evolved over the years.
When I wrote Murder on the Rocks, I had two children under the age of 5, both at home. There was no way I was going to get anything done with both of them and me in the house, so I hired someone to come three afternoons a week to give me a couple of hours off. (A luxury, I know. Enforced nap time might be another option.) The first thing I did when I went off the parenting clock was to go to Starbucks and fill twenty pages of my notebook with words. I didn't stop for lunch. Didn't call a friend. I went to my chair and wrote. When I was done, my reward was to go to the bookstore and browse (and fantasize about my books someday being on the shelf alongside Susan Wittig Albert's). I then input the handwritten work at home, when interruptions weren't such a big deal.
I wrote Murder on the Rocks in 5 months using this system, and although I now count words on the computer instead of pages in a composition book, I still think it's an excellent approach. I have psyched myself out numerous times over the years -- just ask my husband, my agent, or anyone who's happened to ask me "How are you?" on a bad day. Each time, the way back to sanity -- and a regular writing schedule -- has been to go back to the mantra. One thousand words a day, five days a week. If they're awful, you can trash them tomorrow. If you need a day to figure things out (or sometimes a few more -- it happens), fine. But get back up in that saddle fast, or you'll start to lose confidence.
I also used to think that to be a good mother, I had to drop everything for my children all the time. It took me a few years to figure it out, but I've come to the conclusion that that is a perfect recipe for entitled children who are unable to handle entertaining themselves and/or getting a glass of water. On a more philosophical note, I've also realized that I don't want my children to think being a parent means sacrificing all of their own dreams. The best way to teach them this, I think, is to model it myself.
I'm happier when I'm working. Yes, I get distracted. Yes, I sometimes wander off to the computer at odd times. And yes, sometimes I'm not available to make Easy Mac "right this minute." But my writing work is important. It's a priority -- in fact, it's the first thing on my to-do list every day, and I start it first thing in the morning and don't feel content until it's done. (And I do feel content. I feel that I've done my job.)
And when momma's happy, everyone's happy. Or at least has a better chance of it.