My experience is limited to my own book, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. We don’t have to be experts to move forward with confidence in our words and story, and I’m the perfect example of that. I have plenty left to learn, but I didn’t let that hold me back from writing and independently publishing a book. Here are my answers to your questions.
What did your writing routine look like?
COMMIT. Even before we talk practicalities of a writing routine, it’s important to realize the commitment you must make to yourself. Start by giving yourself permission to pursue writing. I enjoyed a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that reignited a passion for creative exploration in my life.
TALK ABOUT COMPROMISE AND SACRIFICE. Have a talk with others in your life—spouse, friends, etc—to share the priority you’ll be placing on your writing endeavors. Talk about the ways you’ll make time for this. You’ll have to sacrifice things. For me, it meant watching very little TV, spending less time with friends, and getting less sleep. No one else will make the time for you, but hopefully you’ll have people understand how much it means to you. In our marriage, it took compromise and I had to take several months off during my husband’s busier work season as I helped him. Expecting to be supported in my writing meant that I was also supportive of his endeavors! Another helpful tip (that I learned from hope*writers) is to be grateful for allotted writing time. Instead of coming away from it tired and grumpy (which was a huge temptation because I was writing on the extremely draining topic of grief), I tried to remind myself to be grateful for the time. It is a gift, not a given.
BE FLEXIBLE. I looked at my week ahead and planned out some chunks of time to write. In the end, sometimes it had to be cancelled. I still tried to prioritize, but I also wanted to remain flexible so I wasn’t resentful of my toddler or other things creeping into writing time.
FIND A GROUP. It could be a local writers group or an online group, such as hope*writers. I appreciated being part of the hope*writers group to have support and learn a ton about writing, marketing, and the book publishing industry. It was an investment to pay for the monthly membership, but it was worth it to have a network of support and valuable online trainings!
MAKE SPACE FOR NON-WRITING TASKS. Writing a book involves many other things—learning marketing, growing a following of readers who care about your words, editing and rewriting, navigating design decisions, etc. It’s important to make space for these parts of being an author throughout the writing process.
STAY IN YOUR LANE. In a large writing group like hope*writers, it would be easy to compare my writing or accomplishments to those of full-time authors. My website is less snazzy, but it serves its purpose. My audience may be much smaller, but they are still worth the effort. It helped to stay focused on the job ahead of me rather than getting distracted by all the things I could do “better”.
How do you budget your time to write with a little one at home?
I spend most of my days as a stay-at-home mom. I only had one kiddo at home while I wrote the book, but she’s a high-maintenance toddler. I don’t like making her sit in front of a screen, and she doesn’t play independently. She wants to do whatever I’m doing! It was hard, but somehow I made it work and still managed to keep the rest of life together—including being involved in friendships, church, working part-time, being pregnant, and helping my husband get our second coffee shop opened (including a huge building renovation). If you set your mind to do it, you can do it! It may take 10x longer than you think, but it’s possible.
MAKE LISTS. I had lists of larger goals and timelines, then I broke the lists down into smaller tasks. The lists of smaller tasks were essential because I was able to do them one at a time, rather than feeling like I needed a full morning or full day to accomplish anything. This was also a helpful way to record progress and reflect on what I accomplished. It was a huge morale boost to be able to write down the things I finished in a given month—even if it seemed insignificant, it all added up!
USE CHILDCARE WHEN POSSIBLE. When my toddler is napping or down for the night, I get a little bit of time. It usually isn’t enough to do much “big picture” creative thinking and writing, but I can get little things done. I try to utilize a babysitter here and there for a morning so I can get longer chunks of creative thinking time. A few babysitting tips: have younger babysitters come play with your children while you’re home and working in another room, arrange a day with a family member to help, do a babysitting swap with a friend. When you have uninterrupted childcare time, make a plan in advance so you can get started right away. If being home makes you tempted to do other things—cleaning, chores, etc—then get out of the house.
STAY POSITIVE. It’s hard work, but I fought against feeling frustrated at myself for going slower than I imagined. When discouraged, I looked at the lists of what I’d accomplished to focus on what was done rather than only seeing the endless tasks that remained. Avoid unnecessary tension and playing the “blame game” with your children or spouse. You are the one responsible for getting the work done, not them!
FOCUS. It takes discipline to say “no” to the television, a nap, or time with friends. There were plenty of times I choose to say “yes” so I didn’t drown in writing. But whenever possible I tried to remind myself of the larger goal of writing a book, and it required focus and discipline in the small gaps of time that I had each week.
Overall, my writing routine was a bit haphazard. I didn’t always have regular times to write, but I tried to remain flexible and positive as I continued to maintain my other work and life commitments. In the end, I had to continually remind myself that no one else would care about my writing getting done as much as I would. The responsibility fell on me, and the sacrifices often had to fall on me, too.
Check out my other writing posts:
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