When I’m on a writing course I enjoy being surrounded by people with whom I have something major in common – the love of writing and the passion for penning something that may one day be published. This coupled with the support they offer in believing in each other’s abilities offers a much-needed confidence booster!
However, I still feel like the odd one out when it comes to my age and life situation. Many writers don’t seem to take up the hobby until retirement – quite understandable given that this is the first time in most people’s lives that they have the bandwidth to write.
When I mention that one of my main difficulties is finding the time, suggestions include “what about when your child is at school?” or “how about weekends?”.
Ho, ho, ho – if only. The simple truth is that when my child is at school I’m at work, and on weekends my husband is at work which means entertaining a child. And anyone with a little one knows that this is no easy feat.
So rather than come up with excuses for why I don’t have time to write I’ve decided it’s much more productive to find ways to create the time. Here I’ve produced my top tips for time-poor writers with young children. I hope it’s useful!
- Soft Play. Oh, what a wonderful, ingenious invention. The upsides of soft play are hours of uninterrupted, guilt-free writing time: while your child socialises, has fun and is active.The downside is that there may be a fair amount of chav-dodging to do, especially on rainy days.
Top tip: If writer’s block should strike I like to play a private game of ‘hunt the hunk’ ie finding a half decent, hero-inspiring bloke in the crowd. This can often be very challenging in such establishments; like a MENSA version of Where’s Wally, but I promise you that there’s always one – trust me on this and have a go.
You will need a good imagination to think what they’d look like if they weren’t wearing joggers but this helps get the creative juices flowing.
- Movie Afternoons. Key to success: seting the scene A movie afternoon doesn’t just mean whacking on a film and job done, oh no no no, it means closing the curtains, getting out the duvet and buying in the cinema style popcorn and drinks.I generally find I can sit on the sofa (so half partaking in movie afternoon) and switch off from the film to concentrate on the writing. Some kids’ films are geared for adults too though and are really entertaining so be wary of these.
Top tip: The recent Snoopy film is a good one – it’s a load of rubbish through adult eyes but kids love it.
- Join a class. Keeping active and time to focus – result! I take my son to gymnastics on a Saturday morning. It means an early start but it’s worth it for the one hour solid writing time this gives me. I don’t have to worry about him as he’s being well looked after and is doing something that brings him many benefits, and it means that by 10am I could have written several hundred words.Top tip: Don’t be tempted to treat it as a social occasion. If you end up sitting next to the same parent every week you’ll spend all your time chatting politely about how wonderful their little Isla Mae’s arabesques are.
Not only won’t you a) know or b) care what an arabesque is, you’ll also hope for poor Isla Mae’s sake that her other hobby is rugby, judging by the state of those awful arabesques. One thing for sure is you won’t get any writing done.
So be anti-social. If anyone tries to strike up conversation, look at them blankly and start picking your nose. I also find that asking them if they know a cure for the noro virus gets rid of them quite quickly and leaves you a bit more space on the bench to spread your stuff out.
Following these tips should ensure you remain a no mates long enough to write something substantial.
- Making sacrifices. You may just have to deal with it unfortunately. Jokes aside, as a working mum I of course like to spend weekends and evenings with my son and yes, I do try to carve out an hour or so on a weekend to write, but sometimes I just can’t because we’re doing lovely things together and that’s wonderful. So this means that when he goes to bed the laptop comes out.Now this means that it might be 7.30pm after a full working day, after cooking tea, doing housework, helping with homework, reading, bathing, etc etc. Needless to say, I’m often not feeling particularly inspired at this point. But too bad. If I’m serious about writing a good book, I need to shut up moaning and get on with it.
I like to go out dancing – salsa, modern jive, lindy hop, etc. But often it’s a choice between going to class or sitting on my backside and putting something on the page. Last year dancing invariably won but this year as much as it pains me, I can’t let it win, not if this book is going to become a reality.
Top tip: The husband of a very successful author told me that when she started out writing she had to be selfish. He was at the time referring to spending less time with her young child. And yes, this has to happen to some degree. But it also means being selfish with yourself and giving up some of the other things you like to do.
It’s a pain, it’s a hassle and it’s not easy, but nothing that’s worth doing is ever easy, so I’m trying to remind myself that the sacrifice hopefully won’t be forever and if I actually manage it, it will be very worthwhile in the end.