Finding Time to Write: 3 Tips for Writing with Kids

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?

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13 thoughts on “Finding Time to Write: 3 Tips for Writing with Kids”

  1. You lucky duck, Karen 🙂 It’s my dream to write full time, but right now being a mum with young children at home, means it’s just impossible. Though it is nice to have extra time to write now I’m not teaching.

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  2. I saw this recently … “Women with clean houses do not have finished books.”-Joy Held …. I am liking that motto – hehehe

    I’m a night righter – my quiet time after lunch has gone. If I sit at the computer … generally someone comes in for conversation within a minute.

    Writing blasts – I can write 200 – 500 words in 15 mins – so in theory I get NaNo written in around an hour a day. I use my days to mull over where the story is at then them get to it when I sit at night.

    (but I just quit writing today .. so I’ll decide tomorrow if I’ll actually continue and do nano this year 😉

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  3. I’m going to need some of these guerilla tactics after Z’s brother or sister is born. Right now, I do well with writing while she’s at preschool and doing chores while she’s underfoot. I think doing chores with her is better, because she learns how to do them. She loves helping. Also, I try to do just one little chore a day, so they don’t all pile up.

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  4. I love writing in the afternoon if my 3 yr old has a nap. Sometimes I write with her around since the computer is right where the toys are. I have a lot of guilt over writing while she’s playing but not as much as when my son was at home too. Mine wants me to play with him. It is definitely easier to find writing time since he has gone to school every day. I think I brought them both up clingy (a writer’s nightmare!) I too have started doing chores with them around, but I mix it up and write next to them one day and HW while they are around the next day. We go out a lot at the moment, but never in the afternoons, so that is sacred writing time. Your writing always suffers when you burn the candle at both ends, so I’m learning not to overdo it in any area. Best of luck with NaNo!!!

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  5. Hi Jo, I hear your pain. I am a mummy, a foster mum, secretary for the local football club and a writer. Finding the balance is very hard. I do the same as you and I have these four things on a whiteboard and I write the tasks under them. I do a week though. I also do the housework while the kids are awake and write when they are sleeping, early to bed and early to rise. I also only do house work between 7 – 9am as I get everyone out the door for school and between 5 – 7pm as we do our nightly routine. These designated times helped with procrastination too because I would use the excuse of having to do the washing etc instead of write. Saturday is also a carefree day for us too. Great post Jo. Loved it.

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  6. Michelle – What a great quote! I think the hardest thing with kids is even when you think they’re occupied, they still like to come and chat. Writing bursts, as you mentioned, is a must. Even 100 words where you can adds up eventually. It does make it hard to get immersed in the story though. I find car rides and showers are good thinking places–I can hash out plot and story ideas, then write them when I next get to the computer. (And by the way, you could never quit writing!)

    Beth – That’s definitely another plus to having kids around while doing the housework, they’re learning to do it to. Both my kids are getting quite good at helping. I’ve been trying to do at least one major chore a day too, plus the chores I do everyday (dishes and washing). Enlist Z’s help when bubs is born, but expect to be too tired to get much writing done in those first few months.

    Catherine – I found my son was much more demanding of my time too. He was a very active toddler. Now he’s a lot more independent. My daughter is much happier to quietly do her own thing, though she can be much more chatty. My oldest starts school next year, but I’ll have a newborn to contend with then, so I’ll still be juggling. Thanks for the luck, I’ll probably need it!

    Rebecca – You sound very busy! The whiteboard is a new thing for me and I find so far it’s working fairly well. I have three columns: one for stuff that needs to be done today, one for stuff that needs to be done this week and one for deadlines (eg: submission due date for a short story or the date our business tax is due). I try to set housework time from 9am until 10 or 11 (after kinder drop off). I try to combine loading the dishwasher with getting breakfast ready and cleaning the bathroom while the kids are in the bath. It’s nice to find others who can relate!

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  7. This is great advice. I now do housework while the kids are around so I can use nap time for writing. I can vouch that this works, and often buys me at least an hour or even two on a good day, just for writing.
    I’m a new subscriber. Just wanted to say Hi!

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  8. Hi! Thanks for subscribing. 🙂 Nap time is great for writing, I’m unlucky that both my kids grew out of nap time fairly early (right on 2 years), though my daughter does have the rare day where she’ll nap (usually a couple of hours when she does). I love those days for getting writing done, especially if it coincides with my son being at kinder. Quiet time can work fairly well too.

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