With the goal of writing fifty thousand words in a month for NaNoWriMo next month, I’ve had a lot of people say things like, “I’d love to do NaNoWriMo, but I just wouldn’t have the time” or “How do you find the time to write?” But I think one of the best things I ever learned from doing NaNoWriMo for the first time was that the time is there, you just have to learn to find it and use it effectively.
The first year I did NaNoWriMo I had a VERY active nearly-three-year-old boy who had grown out of naps, an eight month old baby AND I was teaching part time. No, I didn’t write fifty thousand words that November, but I did write twenty-five thousand. The days I taught were usually zero word count days, as by the time I got home from teaching, cooked dinner, organised kids for bed, etc. I was just plain worn out. But I was proud of my twenty five thousand words — it was twenty five thousand more words than I had at the start of the month, and by January I had finished writing the first draft. PLUS I learned A LOT about managing my writing time effectively.
Currently I’m a busy mum of two (and one on the way) running between preschool, swimming lessons, playgroup, grocery shopping, etc. On top of that, although I’m not currently teaching, I’m helping my husband run a dairy farm by doing all the paperwork. Plus I do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. BUT I still get writing done.
How do I find time to write?
Easy answer: Have you seen my house? It’s not going to win any prizes for neatness. I do have to balance it though. So here are three of the ways I make time.
1. Write after the kids go to bed at night.
My kids go to bed at around 7pm every night, so once they’re in bed it’s a good time to get some writing done (depending how tiring the day has been–sometimes I just want to collapse in front of the TV or get lost in a book). I know other mums who get up an extra hour early before their kids get up to get some writing time in. This doesn’t work for me because 1. My kids are early risers (ie: 6am) and 2. I am so not a morning person. Work out what’s best for you: if your kids are late to bed, late to rise, try getting up an hour early to write, or if your kids are like mine, early to bed, early to rise, try doing some writing at night.
2. Write after lunch/at lunch.
This is my second best writing time. My kids tend to have some quiet time around this time of day. When they still had naps, this was usually naptime. Sometimes my youngest still has naps if she’s had a big morning out (like today). As for when they’ve grown out of naps, they still have some quiet time, whether it’s quiet play with their toys in their bedroom/the loungeroom or some downtime watching a Wiggles DVD or ABC for Kids. My oldest loves being outside, so he’ll often go out for a play in the backyard. Sometimes I’ll get my laptop out on the kitchen table and write while we eat lunch. If you’re working, you can always get some writing done on your lunchbreak.
3. Computer placement.
This could mean having your computer in the same room where your kids play, eg: the loungeroom, so you can write while they play. I had this set up at my old house and it worked really well. It’s not possible where I am now as the loungeroom is too small, but I do have it set up so I can see straight into the loungeroom. I also use my laptop so I can sit in the loungeroom/dining room to write. I like to have a view outside since my son loves playing outside and that way I can watch him. Of course, be prepared for distraction. While sometimes my children will play happily for small blocks of time, more often than not they like to climb on my knee and watch me type or ask for something to eat every few minutes. It can be hard to keep any writing momentum going, but I still get little bits and pieces written.
P.S. It’s so tempting to use quiet time to catch up on Facebook/Twitter, read blogs, play games, etc., but you’d be surprised how much writing you can get done by just disconnecting from the internet or using a computer/laptop that doesn’t have internet.
But what about the housework?
1. Do what you can with the kids underfoot, so when they’re not, you can write.
I found it’s easier to do housework with kids distracting me, than trying to write when they’re distracting me. So instead of hanging washing while they nap, I’ll take the kids outside to play and then when they nap, I write. Involve the kids in what you are doing. My kids love passing me clothes to hang on the line, they love standing on chairs at the kitchen bench to watch me prepare dinner (especially if they get to eat pieces of chopped carrot and cauliflower) and they love pretending the vacuum cleaner is a monster chasing them.
2. I’ve now got a whiteboard where I write up what I want to achieve for the day.
I have a section for the farm business, a section for housework, and a section for writing. For example, on the board today I have: FARM – call electricity company, update records for workers’ hours; HOUSEWORK – Do a load of washing, do dishes, fold and put away washing, clean bathroom; WRITING – 300 words (minimum) on short story, blog post. Priority is given to the business, then housework, then writing (though I often slip writing in between my housework). (I still need to clean the bathroom and do my 300 words today.)
3. Have a day off.
Saturday is my self-designated day off housework. I’ll load the dishwasher and make breakfast and lunch, but that’s about it. I don’t even cook dinner on Saturday, that’s our takeaway night. It’s a quiet cruisy day, and often perfect for catching up on some writing.
Like I said, my house isn’t going to win a prize for neatness, so I’d love to hear any other tips you have for staying on top of the housework.
What do you do to find time to write?
How do you balance work, writing, housework, being a mum?