Ten Steps to Writing While Raising Young Children

I put this in a ten-step program format because I’m a momma on the edge and I need some intervention. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m at the tail end of summer vacation, the kids having been home now–asking for stuff and what-not–for way too long. Or, maybe it’s because I’m getting closer to a deadline and I’m not as far as I’d like to be in the process. Who knows? I surely don’t. So, rather than losing my cool with my kids because they keep interrupting me, or putting myself in a self-imposed time out (let me tell you, ONE of us is going to take a nap today and I’m rooting for myself), I decided to sit down and be realistic about how to accomplish writing goals.

Step One: Get use to disappointment. I don’t really need to belabor this point, do I? No? Okay. Moving on.

Step Two: Learn to survive on twenty-percent less sleep. Look, even if you can skip this part, I’d like you to try it now and then because it’ll make me feel better when I accidentally fall asleep on the couch right after Dora utters her first, “Hola!”

Step Three: If you have to give your children chicken nuggets or hot dogs repeatedly for dinner, make sure you let them know you’re doing it because you’re cool and you want to make them happy, not because you forgot to go to the grocery store. Again.

Step Four: Learn to cut out superfluous and/or extra obligations. We’re kissing Steps Five, Six, and Seven good-bye. Boom. Done. That was easy.

Step Eight: Cry. This works especially well in my household, where I’m the only female on the premises. Rather than ask again, for the gazillionth time, to let me write for an hour, sometimes it simply suffices to squirt some tears. People run. Heck, they flee. Oh, and then there’s that whole crying is cleansing business. Whatever works, right?

Step Nine: Let me be very, very clear on this step. Pinterest is NOT your friend. It doesn’t love you. It won’t make the beds, do the laundry, or even write one word toward your goal. Pinterest is the devil, if the devil is over-achieving, craft-obsessed, baking frenzied, tool-belt wearing Supermoms. (OK, fine, I’m just jealous because I suck at all things crafty. Last week, the glue gun ended up in my hair. Details aren’t important. Let’s just say, the crying was real on that occasion.)

Step Ten: Make a habit of visiting homes of other moms, especially other moms who write. Boo-yah! You haven’t cleaned your windows since 2007, either! Is that jelly on your ceiling? I feel better already.

46 Replies to “Ten Steps to Writing While Raising Young Children”

  1. I have six children (14, 11, 9, 5, 4, and 2) and they’re homeschooled. I say that to say this: Thank you for this post. (And there’s no jelly on my ceiling, but there is a flattened grape. A purple one. I leave it there because every time my mom comes over, she thinks it’s a spider and she flips out. Muahahaha!)

  2. Heather James… I like you. And Sarahballance… I also homeschool. And write. I have no jelly. I have no grapes. But today I threw out my carpet because that was easier than trying to clean it. 🙂

    1. I have thrown out a carpet (or two) also. I don’t think any cleaner in the world could have removed the awful smell wafting from the fibers. Too much spilled milk in that rug! 🙂

    2. This totally made me laugh because just yesterday, my sons were kicking the soccer ball way too close to the living room window, but I didn’t stop them. Specifically because of my point of NOT having washed my windows in so long, I figured if they broke a window, hey, clean window. Ha ha! So, I get it. I really get it. Also, I told my husband I wanted a new rug for the living room because the old one was so filthy. He went to the neighbor’s to borrow their steam cleaner, instead. I said, “Enjoy your Saturday with that thing.” 🙂

    1. Girl . . . are we talking about fridges now? Oh dear, that’s my biggest pitfall! I half close my eyes whenever I go near mine. That way it doesn’t look dirty, just really blurry. 🙂

  3. SUCH A REAL POST! For a while there, I almost had my children convinced chickens really do have fingers. And sleep? I was a member of the Zombie club. And we all know Zombie’s aren’t all that great at typing or keeping a house clean. They are always leaving a finger here… an eyeball there. And that really doesn’ help out when it comes time to type. 🙂

    1. I’m so going to tell my kids chickens have fingers! That’s priceless! And, I’m so bad at falling asleep when the kids watch their cartons, whenever we pick out a family movie for a weekend, my oldest says, “No! Not a cartoon one! Pick a real one so Mommy doesn’t go to bed.” Fail! ha ha!

  4. My children are grown, and I have grandchildren now, but I can still relate to much of what you struggle with. I have an intense day job managing a large river resort. Where other people enjoy summer vacations, I work a hard 60-80 hour week so they can have fun. My manuscript deadline is October 1st, and I’m getting squeamish.

    In the meantime, my husband will probably eat take-out for the umpteenth time again tonight, my fridge is a mess, and ceilings? Well, let’s not go there, or in my closets either. Love your post — here’s to snatching an hour here or there, Heather!

    1. Thanks Anita! That’s all we can do right? An hour here, an hour there. I’ll take it! One of these days, I’m going to have to come to your resort!!!!!

  5. Oh My! Were you reading my mind???? Went school supply shopping yesterday. It was wonderful … like shopping for clothes to wear on a vacation! I read this post to my eleven year old daughter. She said, “That sounds like you, Mom.” She’s a writer, too. The mothers in her stories always have to order pizza cuz they forget to put the meat out to thaw. I wonder why they have this difficulty. And yes, my criteria for friendship with any woman is she MUST have jelly on her ceiling. Otherwise no point in making myself feel horrible visiting them. Thanks for this post. You made my day!

    1. How sweet! You made MY day, thank you! I’m glad I’m not alone in this. And, you’re right, we need to surround ourselves with like-minded, like-circumstance friends. If your kitchen counter is not flooded with junk mail, bills, and a gazillion sheets of paper from the kids’ schools, we might not be able to hang out. 🙂

  6. That is hilarious! And facebook is not out friend either! Hahahaha thanks for starting off my morning right 🙂

    1. Truth about Facebook! I need a timer for that thing, telling me to get off after five minutes. Really, that’s all anyone needs. But, at least Facebook doesn’t make me feel like a total loser because I don’t put calligraphy on my stairwell, or living room, or dressers. Heck, I can’t even print straight, how am I going to do calligraphy????? 🙂

      1. Heather, I LOVED this post. It is sooo where I am. In fact, just today I had an article on The High Calling about being a work-from-home mom who’s longing for fall (even though I’m homeschooling two days–the other three days my boys will be in a co-op). And I actually, literally thought about writing a post yesterday called “Why Pinterest Could Be the Devil.” I think we should hang out. Definitely! I won’t look in your fridge if you won’t look in mine. 🙂

      2. Oh…and I have two boys. I can attest to the fact that sometimes crying (though I’ve never done it on purpose–may have to try that!) does work. So does beginning any kind of deep cleaning. They scatter, and I get some serious thinking/planning done. 🙂 Thx again for the laughs!

  7. I think step four is my favorite. LOL!

    Maybe I should try crying. Except I have a daughter (just one) who will try to hug me out of it. And the boys will probably just sit there and stare at me, puzzled.

    1. But it’s when they’re puzzled, you run! ha ha! Step four is my favorite, too. I also “purposefully forget” to do things. That works well, too. 🙂

  8. LOL, step three is MINE! But of course, they’re too smart and know that I forgot to go shopping. Especially when they’ve reminded me more than twelve times we were out of milk. Personally? I think eating is highly overrated. I tell them so often, but unfortunately, they haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet. And, step nine?! Hilarious!! Thanks for the giggles ~ absolutely loved this post, Heather.

    1. Thank you! “I think eating is highly overrated.” I LOVE that! ha ha! I’m going to tell my kids that one. Sure, there’ll be mutiny or they’ll fake seizures, but it would be a funny few moments before the chaos started. I’ve done the, “You know people in other parts of the world don’t always have dinner, so it’s not like you’re missing THAT much.” They dug out their lightsabers after that comment and threatened a coup. Lesson learned.

  9. Hilarious, Heather! And a good reminder of why I never attempted writing until my youngest were getting ready to graduate from our homeschool 🙂

    (Think of all the books I could have written, though!)

    Step 4 is my favorite!

    1. Thanks! True, it’s just plain easier all the way around trying to pursue a writing career when kids are older. The only plus, and my mother reminds me of this all the time, especially with my particular crazy bunch, is that they give me LOTS of material at this age. 🙂

  10. Thanks for the laughs, Heather! Life can be crazy, that’s for sure! Let me tell you, you sound pretty amazing in doing all you do!

    Kudos to all you writers with kids who made it through another hectic summer with your sanity all intact (at least most of it)!

      1. I’m going to miss mine too!! And somehow a writer’s life always seems to be hectic, with or without children around. And from some crazy reason, I think we writers thrive on that.

  11. I could have used this list when I was raising my own brood of five, which, indeed, gave me tons of material I continue to use. As it is, the kids are grown now, but I’m still stealing your Step Four, because there’s never enough writing time in a 24-hour day. Boom! That was easy. Love it, Heather!

  12. This post made me laugh out loud, Heather! I will be following your writing journey! 🙂

  13. Haha! I love love love this. I am a stay at home writer/editor mama of two munchkins. Step four is my favorite. 🙂 I appreciate your post dearly. Thank you! You rock!

  14. Heehee! I’ve read a lot of lists, but none that actually skipped a few numbers. Funny, funny you. (Weird how many homeschoolers there are here. I’m a mom of six and we homeschool.) My debut comes out in a few months and someone asked me when I write.
    Um, when they’re asleep.
    DUH. 😀
    I’ve tried writing while Dora was on. No go. She’s a creativity killer. Maybe I should have tried napping??

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