Monday, 20 March 2017

How Do I Write With A Toddler In The House


I've been asked a lot lately, how do I write with a toddler in the house? To be more specific, with a toddler and a five-year-old kid in prep school, in the house.

I decided to put some thoughts on paper, because actually, until I really thought about it, I didn't realise I actually have strategies to make it happen.

I know there are millions of writer mum's out there, navigating the baby years, which inevitably move forward into the school years.
I've seen a few lot of posts about the school years, none about with a toddler in the house, which is quite a deal different. When it comes down to it, what do I actually do to achieve my writing goals.

If I am going to be even more philosophical, why do we even have writing goals?
Here are my reasons.

1. I value myself. 2. I value my writing. 3. I believe I can make a contribution to society in doing so. 4. I truly enjoy writing.
I have managed to write and independently publish and market seven books to date, not including the unpublished manuscripts that I am submitting for traditional publication as well.

Sure my family comes first, but being a mum does not exclude me from being a writer. Sometimes we need to pan back from the microscope and look at the big picture.


 I can do both, and in fact, I believe there is no better time in life to write than when you have a young family.


I have chosen to stay home with my kids, leaving the world of nursing behind me, and I can truly say I do not regret it for a moment. So how do I do it?

 I set myself realistic goals. I know a lot of authors profess that they write every day. I have a young family. I continually struggle with energy levels and I have a toddler at my side, 14 hours of the day, not to mention the demands of my five year old who has just started prep.
She is gone for 6 hours of the day. My toddler sleeps for approximately 2 hours during the day. I want to write every day, but it doesn't happen.

Once my girl is at school and my toddler's head hits the pillow, I have a snack, so that I'm not distracted. I sit at my computer, call up my latest manuscript, put on my dictation headset, enable DragonDictate, and I write. Usually an hour maximum.

I do not dictate punctuation, it interrupts the flow. I manually add punctuation as I go, which gives me time to think about what I will dictate next. I write until I cannot write any more. When my energy runs out, I stop. I rarely push myself.  I do not write well when I am fatigued.  So I write what I can, then I save it.

I save my documents by date. This gives me an idea of how many days in the week I have written.

I also keep track of my word count. I don't have a great attention span, being perpetually tired. I do not beat myself up at a low word count. Even 50 words are still words. To me, 1200 words in a day is a minor miracle. But as we know, every word counts.

Some days, the toddler doesn't sleep, or I have an appointment, or something fun to attend. Those days I know will be unproductive when it comes to writing. I have found my most efficient time for writing is during the day, so when that toddler goes to bed, I do not plan any housework, or even consider it. This is my sacred writing time.

When my first child stopped sleeping through the day, I lost my daytime writing time. I struggle to write at night. I can edit at night, without any trouble as the words are already there, but I can't be creative. If I was going to have any writing time, I had to get up early, and hour before everyone else.  5 am became my sacred writing time.

When my second child came along, sleep deprivation once again destroyed that plan. I needed to snatch sleep when I could. I didn't stop writing, but I did negotiate writing time with my husband.

Every weekend, when I felt like I had enough energy, I would sneak upstairs with my computer and headset.  I would shut the door and block out the world of family and obligations.
It was my sacred writing time, even if it was only an hour on a weekend, sometimes two.
Regardless, I managed to write an entirely new manuscript of 46 thousand words, by doing this.

 My office is a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. It's in our living area, so I can snatch moments on email and facebook etc during the day when the toddler is in the high chair, or I don't know, making his own lunch.  Just kidding!  Sure, there is no privacy, or quiet moments when your office is in the living room, but I gets it done.

In essence, the long and the short of it is, writing is in my blood. It is my career, and so I pour into as much as I possibly can, without it effecting the everyday workings of having a young family.

I often set myself deadlines, but I make them really generous.  I am to have this manuscript finished by this month and then I calculate out the days until that deadline. Then I calculate the words needed to write to make my goal. This gives me a great incentive to get it done.

I also book in editing with my editor well in advance. As I use a freelance editor, I have to be spot on in my delivery, so I also make that part of my motivation.

So there you have it.  How I write with a young family.
The house may not always look like a vogue catalogue, but my family is fed and have clean clothes and I get to live my dream at the touch of my fingertips.


That is how I write with a toddler in the house.....

Until next time.....