“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically about their environment.
they lie and especially in their children
than the unlived life of the father”.
After a bad night with hardly any sleep, you’re sitting in front of your computer staring at the blank screen. You wonder if you will be able to do it, finish that article, story or novel that you started months ago. The urge to write is overwhelming, but you freeze. Not only are you exhausted, but the baby you put to sleep less than half an hour ago is whimpering in the crib. Your four-year-old son just barged into the office and tugged at your elbow begging for a snack, even though he had lunch an hour ago. This is useless, I better give up, you tell yourself as you try to hold back a scream. To your horror, you suddenly find yourself sympathizing with those animals that eat their young…
Do not despair. Take it easy. I’ve been there and I know exactly what you’re going through.
The truth is that you can write, but you need to have four things:
The right state of mind
Before planning a program, the most important thing to do is to put your mind in the right frame. Remember that your children will not stay small forever. Time goes by fast (I assure you it does!) and soon they will be old enough to go to school. However, until that magical day arrives, you will have to “steal” time to work on your project. Wanting to finish an entire novel in a month at this point in your life is unrealistic. Don’t focus so much on the “end product” as on making that “end product” a little at a time. Small paragraphs are what articles, stories, and novels are made of. The important thing is steady progress, and as long as you take steps to stay on track, you’re on the right track. These little bird steps, no matter how small, will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you guilt-free to enjoy your life and your family.
Good physical condition
You might think, “Are you physically fit? I thought this was an article about writing.” Well, you can bet it is. Let’s face it, moms who take care of young children are always tired. And tired people do not particularly like to sit in front of the computer and write; they want to collapse on a bed. Moms urgently need to raise their energy levels! A good diet and a little exercise can do wonders for raising energy levels. Eat protein-rich foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stay away from white flour and sugar as well as junk food. Eat three meals a day with a light, healthy snack in the afternoon and another before bed. Stay away from those high energy bars though. They’re so high in carbs that your blood sugar levels will spike and then crash, leaving you feeling even more tired and hungrier than before. Low-fat cottage cheese and a couple of almonds, with a bit of fruit, are a great choice for a snack. Drink plenty of water! Scientists have discovered that dehydration is one of the main factors that make a person feel tired.
Finding time to exercise can be difficult, so it’s a good idea to do it with your child. If you have a stationary bike or other exercise machine, do 15 minutes while your child watches Teletubbies. You don’t have to exercise for a full hour. Even 10 minutes will do the trick. Take your baby for a walk in the stroller at least 3 times a week, preferably in the morning when he is cool and calm. She will calm your nerves, she will rejuvenate you and even inspire you. Your baby will love it too. Not only will she enjoy the “sights and sounds” but it will probably make her feel tired and eager to take a longer nap later in the day, just what she’s looking for!
A well planned schedule
Okay, so you’re in the right frame of mind and you’re eating right and exercising. Whats Next? A well-planned schedule that fits your lifestyle and plays to your strengths and weaknesses is a must. But keep an open mind and don’t be unrealistic. If your baby naps in the afternoon, don’t set your writing schedule in the morning, or vice versa. How long each writing session will last depends on your lifestyle and the children’s habits. You can choose to write half an hour every day or one hour every other day. Up to you. The important thing here is to keep it accessible and stick with it.
There is one thing I highly recommend: if you can handle it, take no more than two nights off of your project. Not only will it stop your momentum, but it will give your brain plenty of time to generate doubts and excuses to procrastinate.
You may be wondering: But how do I get rid of my children!?
If your children are old enough to go to daycare, your problems are solved. Simply set your writing schedule during those hours. For those of you whose children are still at home, there are other possibilities:
Write early in the morning before your children wake up, during their naps during the day, and after they go to sleep at night. (See why you have to stay physically fit?) I have a friend who wrote two books this way.
If you can afford a babysitter, perhaps your neighbor’s teenage daughter, to watch your son while you write in the next room (that way you can keep a close eye on them), then go for it!
Write while your child watches his favorite video movie. Do you want to see it again? Move along! This is not the right time to consider the effects of too much television on children.
Go to the local library and write while your child listens to Story Time! Almost all libraries, and even bookstores, have story hours for children. Take advantage of these.
If you have a writer friend who’s also a mom, list her as your “writing partner,” take the kids to McDonald’s, and write while your kids play in those weird play tunnels. “Hey, wait a minute!” you believe “You said to stay away from junk food.” Nice try, but even McDonald’s now offers a good selection of salads and fruit cocktails. Also, I never said a hamburger now and then would kill you. You might even reward yourself with a hamburger…AFTER you’ve met your minimum writing quota for that day.
Invite your writing buddy’s mom(s) to a “writing morning” at your house and write while your kids play together. They can take turns with their homes. Also, as a group, you can consider hiring a babysitter for these occasions. Writing with a support group of people who are in the same situation as you is often very rewarding and productive. Plus, it’s much cheaper when each of you contributes to paying for the babysitter. You may even want to start a club and meet once a week.
None of the above will help if you don’t have the determination to stick to a schedule. Think about it. Do you want to reach seventy years old without having achieved your goal, that masterpiece of a novel that will give you multiple contracts, fame and fortune? You will never know unless you take the first step. Family, and especially your kids, should always come first, BUT don’t use your kids as an excuse not to write. The truth is that life is so hectic that there will NEVER be a “perfect” time to write. I assure you that if they are not children, later on you will come up with something else like your procrastinator. The program may be difficult to follow at first and you may need to tweak it, but eventually you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise, you will live with self-blame, self-loathing, disappointment, and frustration.
Have to. Start today. Now.
Don’t forget: frustrated writers are frustrated moms. Frustrated moms are unhappy moms. Artfully accomplished moms are happy moms who can give themselves to their loved ones without reservation.