Though rewarding, writing can be a difficult activity. Writers need to be patient and often face criticism for their work. Writing also requires LOTS OF TIME… a luxury many working parents don’t have.
I’m a working parent who also happens to be a writer. I know what it’s like to try to balance everyday responsibilities with a writing passion. I know what it’s like to want to be the best father in the world while also aspiring to be a superb writer.
The juggling act may seem daunting, but it’s definitely possible to be a good parent, spouse, employee and writer all at once. Here’s my advice:
Let go of the idea that you can write 4-8 hours a day
Reality check. Unless you’re employed as a full-time writer, it’s unlikely you have hours upon hours to write each day. If you were to write like this, you would be taking away from your everyday family and work responsibilities. (I recommend you read the “Two Drops of Oil” story in Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which is all about balancing responsibilities while following your dreams.)
Instead of a marathon session, treat your writing like a short high-intensity workout. For example, I dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes a day to writing, which is enough time for me to write a 1-2 page blog post on a weekly basis.
And don’t be discouraged by bad days. On some days, you’ll really feel the burn (or “flow”), while others will suck. Like any exercise routine, the point is to write on a consistent basis. That’s when you’ll make progress.
Be flexible and portable
If you’re like many working parents, your daily routine is hectic. That’s why it’s important to take a flexible and portable approach to your writing.
What do I mean by flexible and portable? Always carry a notepad with you to take advantage of writing windows. Personally, I like to write everything down on my notepad first before transcribing it to my laptop for publishing. I also find this practice to be very helpful in the editing process.
Find your writing windows
Writing windows are hard to come by for working parents, but they do exist if you look hard enough.
Below are my 5 favourite times to write during a typical workday:
1. First thing in the morning
Nothing beats writing first thing in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee, when the rest of the world is still sleeping.
2. On transit
A good time for those who take public transportation. Generate ideas by observing scenery and passersby.
3. Work break
The benefit of writing at your desk is that your mind is already primed for work. Set a time limit and get to it!
4. Post-bedtime routine
After reading time, my 3-year-old son asks me to stay with him for company. I turn on the small desk light in his room and write for about 30 minutes until he falls asleep. My favourite time to write.
5. The evening
There’s always the evening when the workday is over and the children are sleeping. Grab your notepad or laptop – an alcoholic beverage perhaps – and start writing!
You will become a better writer if you’re flexible and portable and treat your writing activity like a daily ritual. You will also be more productive, no matter if you’re working on a blog, essay or novel.