When I’m working on a book, I have to cram it in among appointments, kids and other work. I usually write five pages in the morning, then print them out and take them everywhere I go, whether it’s a charity, to a doctor’s appointment at my health center, or a head shop. Throughout the day, when I catch a few minutes–waiting in the car for my kids to get out of school, for example–I edit those pages and add ideas for the rest of the chapter. Over the course of the day, I can usually sketch out a few more pages.
After the kids go to bed, I input changes and additions. I flesh them out, add a little here and there, pop in some description. In the morning, I start with revising the previous day’s work, then write new material. Those little increments of time add up and increase my productivity.
2 Cook as little as possible Say this to yourself several times: “The Crock-Pot, freezer and microwave are my friends.” Learn to use them and you’ve shaved hours off the time it takes to feed yourself and your loved ones. Five minutes of prep time and then the pot does the work for you. You’ll have only a pot or two to clean up and you’ve eliminated the pre-dinner rush.
3 Hire a cleaning service When the housework got to be too overwhelming, my husband and I did the math. I calculated how many hours a week I spent on the vacuuming, mopping, bathrooms and kitchen. Then I figured that against an estimate from a cleaning service. I was surprised to find that the housekeepers saved five hours of time but only cost one hour of my time (figuring my rate for an hour of writing). The stress-savings of knowing I don’t have to worry about the bathrooms is worth every dime.
4 Let the kids fend for themselves Too often, moms feel we have to do it all–make the sandwich, feed the dog, wash the floor. As my schedule started getting busier, one of the first things I had to learn was that letting the kids do for themselves not only freed me up to work, but taught them responsibility. My 4-year-old doesn’t make the neatest sandwich in the world, but he is mighty proud of the one he does make–and he eats the entire thing without being reminded to finish. To me, that’s double success.
5 Set goals Your writing can fall by the wayside if you don’t have a deadline to meet. Before I sold my first book, I bought an inexpensive calendar to track my page count for the day. I set a completion date for the book, worked backward and calculated how many pages per day I needed to complete to get there. This gave me a concrete goal. Granted, the only editor breathing down my neck was myself, but having those little squares to fill in gave me a daily sense of accomplishment.
6 Report in with someone It’s very easy as a writing parent to start to feel isolated and forget there are other writers out there struggling with the same issues. Find another writer in your community and make a weekly date to chat. Online communication is fine, but I find an in-person meeting really forces you to be honest about how much you’ve been writing.
7 Give the Internet a rest Use the Internet as an incentive, rather than a procrastination tool. Don’t connect until you’ve hit your page count. If you need some tidbit for research, just leave a hole in your piece and fill it in later.
8 Reward yourself Chocolate works for me. For you, it might be an hour in the garden or a trip to the movies. Once you-achieve a writing goal, pat yourself on the back. All too often, parents forget to do this in the busyness of life.
9 Don’t lose sight of the big picture Every once in a while, step back and do some long-range planning. I do five-year, one-year and quarterly plans. This helps me see when I’m investing too much time in the wrong direction and getting off track from my writing goals.
10 Get the right tools Portable word processors, such as QuickPad and AlphaSmart, are great because they’re bare bones. No e-mail, no fancy gadgets, just type and upload to the computer later. I take mine everywhere–in the car, to the coffee shop, to the doctor’s office. The best part is that I can’t edit on it because of the small screen. I can write without thinking and remove that internal editor.
11 Take a notebook everywhere I mean this one literally. I have notebooks in the car, my purse, the living room, the bedroom and even the bathroom. When I have an idea, I can jot it down immediately. You never know when a brainstorm is going to happen.
12 Be inventive When my son was a toddler, he liked to color with me. One day, in the middle of coloring time, I had a phone interview to do. My solution? I dumped a selection of colored pens on the table. I sat near him and did my interview, scribbling on my pad and trading pens with him while I talked. Granted, my notes were tri-colored, but my son was quiet and happy. I’ve also set up things in my office for my kids to do–crayons, paper, etc. They have chairs and space to get creative, keeping them occupied and the family together.
13 Let go You don’t have to be Super Mom or Super Dad. The house doesn’t have to be perfect; the cookies can come from a package. Prioritize what’s important and realize that laundry should never be at the top of the list. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a workaholic, to take every assignment. Remember to set aside time for fun with your family or to relax.