Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writing with Kids (Or Other Obligations!)

Until I had kids, I had no idea that even the smallest maternal bone existed in my body. To my surprise, when I held that baby in my hands, it felt natural and I knew what to do. And it was the greatest thing ever. At the same time, it didn’t take me long to figure out that all my passion (obsession?) for my job as a newspaper crime reporter had been shifted to the little sweet bundle in my arms.
I couldn’t do both.
So I quit newspaper and became a stay-at-home mom.
One day along the line, another baby later, I finally had enough energy to think about something besides diaper changes and picking up the endless stream of toys and realized I missed writing.
Not just journalism but writing.
So on the day my youngest started kindergarten I began to write. A book. A real book. Something I didn’t have confidence to do until I was in my 40s.
And then it sold. Suddenly, I’m an author with book contracts and deadlines and also, still—my most important job—a mama. 
During the school year, these two worlds mesh seamlessly.
As long as I get my “butt in chair” and write as soon as the kids get on the bus for school, then I can juggle both worlds.
I believe in the Brad Parks philosophy: The Church of One Thousand Words.
If you write 1,000 words a day you will have a rough draft of a novel in three months.  It’s true. It’s real. It works. I’ve proven this in the four novels I’ve written so far
Butt in chair. One thousand words a day.
I can get my thousand words a day done in usually two hours.
I’m incredibly, extremely blessed to have a supportive husband who is okay with me staying home and writing, so I often can write for four hours instead of two.
Now that I’m a published author, I divide my day in half. In the mornings, I write from 9 to 12. After lunch, I work on promotional/marketing and other household, more domestic tasks until 3:30.
Then until bedtime, I’m Italian mama and wife, enjoying time with my family
Then it starts all over again.
I’m incredibly, incredibly blessed to live this life. I know it. I don’t ever take it for granted. My good friend, Meg, said this today: “Filled with absolute gratitude and excitement today. My life is a marvel to me.” And I’m going to steal it.
Word for word.
Filled with absolute gratitude and excitement today. My life is a marvel to me.
So, I should back up. The life I just described takes place September through June.
June through September is a whole different story.
During these months, I am full-time Italian Mama and try to snatch moments here and there to write and do book marketing stuff in between piano lessons, swim lessons, soccer practice and play rehearsals.
I have sat in the darkened theater while my daughter rehearses and tapped on my laptop. I get up early and try to write before the kids wake. I lug my laptop anywhere and everywhere. Because you see, I learned from the hardest working writer I know—Joelle Charbonneau—who turned over this blog spot to me. That woman has learned to write whenever and wherever she can and she has been a role model to me for years.
So, this summer, I haven’t got much done writing wise—at least not nearly as much as I wanted to. I try when I can, and I have upmost respect for writers who have a full-time 9-5 job and then come home and write. Especially those who also have families to care for on top of it. Or some friends of mine who write while suffering from chronic diseases that can lay them out flat for weeks. Or writers who are struggling with difficult issues in their life and are weary from life. There are so many scenarios and yet, we all write, don’t’ we? We have to write. Good grief, when I think about that I realize I could never, ever complain about my situation.
So, I won’t complain, but will ask how other writers fit writing into their schedules? I know what works for me and am very grateful to have figured it out, but would love to have others share what works for them.


Scott D. Parker said...

I completely agree with your friend and her quote: Filled with absolute gratitude and excitement today. My life is a marvel to me. It's one of the reasons why I love each day: I woke up. There was no guarantee the previous night that I would so when I do, even if I'm tired, it's a marvelous day. Doesn't mean the day won't go off the rails, but it's still a day of life.

And I'm also with you re: summer vs. school time although mine's a little reversed. Last summer, I decided to wake at normal school time (6am) and write. I cranked out the words and the books. School time, however, that morning time vanished. Cut to this summer and my new job. Up until a week ago, my morning writing time was nonexistent. Now, I'm waking at 5am on work days and 6am on weekends to get the writing done so I can be Dad and Husband throughout the rest of the day.

It's all a matter of context. I've even asked myself the question, when the alarm went off at 5am on the second day: do I want to sleep or finish this project and ultimately have a book signing. :-) That makes the choice really easy!

Kristi said...

Thanks for sharing. When you wake at 6 (now 5 a.m.) how many hours and words do you get in on average? I've applied for several full-time jobs and always thought this would work best for me, as well -- getting up super early and getting my writing done first thing in the morning.
I also like the way you motivate yourself to get out of bed! Book signing wins!
Good luck with your new schedule.

Scott D. Parker said...

When I *know* where I'm going, I can get 1,000/hour. It's when I don't know where I'm going that the word count drastically is curtailed. And we're talking first drafts, too. I don't stop to research what kind of gun the guy would use. I make a note "Look up correct gun" and leave that for second draft. This coming week will be a good test of both the 5am writing session and see if I truly know where I'm going for this new book I started yesterday.

Kristi said...

Yes. I do the same thing. I learned to put a TK in spots like that (no words with tk in them) so then I search TK and it jumps me to the spots I need to massage, research, etc.

Scott D. Parker said...

I use TK as well.

This morning, in 36 minutes, I was able to get 856 words out, but this is a brand-new story (chap 2 today) with all-new characters and I was finding my way with them. I'll likely finish the scene tonight and start w/a new scene tomorrow with the new character I already wrote about in chapter 1. Maybe I can top a grand tomorrow. Nonetheless, if I can hit a mark that's north of 500 in the morning session, I can write throughout the day and get to 1,000 even if they all don't come in the same session.