I’ve been throwing the idea of being a writer since 2010 but only now, at the busiest time of my life, am I actually trying to come up with a plan to do so. The adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” seems cliche, and I always imagined the masters sitting in coffeeshops, bursts of caffeine-fueled inspiration surging from pens onto the back of paper napkins a la JK Rowling, but slow and steady appears to get results for most of us. Writing plans are common and should be encouraged.
In my case, I’m a stay at home mom (God, how that the emotions and stereotypes associated with that term has changed for me now that I’m a SAHM too) busy juggling (figuratively, of course) a 10-month-old with a part-time lawyering gig. We are fortunate that Baby Raynor only has a cleft lip and palate, but the associated medical issues are taxing on all three of us. Not only are there surgeries, which take substantial time to both plan for and recover from, but dealing with insurance, matching explanation of benefits to actual charges by providers and driving around to appointments just sucks up hours, days and energy. Not to mention, he’s 10. Months. Old. Anyone who has ever had a child knows how insanely active and adorable and demanding these little squishes can be.
So after doing some research and getting ideas on how to make time to write, I decided to try to come up with ways that I can write and things to do that aid my writing ambition, even while taking care of this “high needs” baby, or colloquially, hellspawn.
Much of my downtime is holding him while he naps, so a lot of my ideas deal with how to write with a baby on your shoulder. This list is as much for me as it is for anyone else, because if I don’t write this down, I’m sure I’ll just end up playing games on my iPhone during Raynor’s wonderful but increasingly infrequent naps.
This child of mine doesn’t care if I’m blathering away, so long as he’s cozy in my arms, which should by now be Michelle Obama-buff from lugging around a baby for almost a year now, but sadly, is not. Dictation works particularly well if your thoughts sound like decent writing (literally, sometimes my brain sounds like a running blog). Why not just say out loud what you’re thinking and then transcribe it later on? You can use dictation software recommended by writers such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (the Dragon Dictation iPhone app is free). Or you can (as I do) use an digital voice recorder (or even the old school black tape recorder that journalists in movies always use) and just transcribe it later on.
2) Wear your baby.
When mini-me falls asleep in my Ergo, both my hands are free and I can write with impunity – meaning, I can think and type without fear of awakening the little hellion. If he starts to stir, I can usually bounce or dance him back to sleep if he’s in a baby carrier. Otherwise, he hates the sound of the keyboard, so I’m somewhat restricted to writing longhand (and typing it onto WordPress or wherever it needs to go) other times when he’s awake.
3) Get up early to write.
Writers suggest writing when everyone else is asleep, and I can’t agree more. There is nothing to distract you other than what you allow (email, Facebook, yesterday’s to-do list). I find getting up before everyone works better than writing late at night after everyone’s in bed because my kid tends to sleep sounder in the morning. It’s actually 5am as I’m writing this. This single tip is probably the one I find the most important.
We all know that one of the best things to do as a writer is to read, and read some more. I had a mental block to reading because I thought I was too busy, but I just managed to finish Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn – read all on my iPhone and iPad. Now it sucks reading on the iPhone because the screen is so small (seriously, I should just delete the Kindle app off of there) but it’s easy enough to read on a computer or a tablet. I use my iPad, which I kind of hate, but the iPad mini, Nexus 7, or Kindle Fire are all tablets that can easily be held in one hand. An old-fashioned, muthafuckin’ book probably works too but it’s hard to turn pages
I haven’t written consistently in a long time, and I know I need to get my creative muscles back, and to do that, I need to work them out. There are a number of writing exercises and writing prompts for all types of writers. For creative writers, i09 provides challenging visual concept art writing prompts once a week.
I also find going back and editing my own work to also be a fun exercise. Maybe my real calling is to be an editor, who knows.
6) Write in Short Bursts.
Finishing a novel is a daunting task but short, witty blurbs are not. Most of us have time to update our Facebook daily – isn’t this writing? Actually, try using your Facebook or Twitter as a sounding board to see what works for the audience when you write, instead of as, say an endless feed of food photos.
I also keep a journal (Everyday.me app) on my phone just for short, neatly crafted thoughts. It also backs up my Twitter, Facebook and Evernote. Lists are also fun to make – the list I’m continuously working on now is “Sh-t my husband says.”
Well, that’s it for now. Actually, part of this post was to try to generate ideas from other similarly situated writers. I’d love to hear other ideas on how to squeeze out as much writing as possible in busy days where simply showering = winning.