Thursday, June 14, 2012

Writing with kids: A Brief Primer

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.  



At 2:25 AM, April 05, 2013, Blogger lorraine reguly said...

This is a great approach! Thanks for sharing!


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