As I near the end of writing my second novel, I am reminded of what I frequently tell my students. They are encouraged to prioritize their activities, homework, and social life while also reminding them to stay positive as they reach for your dreams. In my life, there are countless days that these two war against each other. I constantly make time to write, despite the odds of ever becoming a professional writer, while the other aspects of my life beg for and need, attention.
Being a mother of two young children, an independent author, and a full-time high school counselor, I struggle to balance my time. I always want to spend quality time with my family, helping the students on my large caseload, and chasing my dream. Oh, and there’s taking care of myself by getting sleep, exercising, and eating well. Is there ever enough time in our day? Does anyone ever get enough sleep?
I hear “how do you do it?” many times a week and sometimes I have a hard time answering that question. To be honest, I am not always sure of how I do it. Especially when my 3-year-old bangs on my computer, the clock reads 12:30 am and I have to get up in less than 5 hours, or when I have blood shot eyes, a crick in my neck, and I still have to take a shower and make lunches. Not to mention the time I haven’t been able to spend promoting and marketing the book the way I really want and need to. I should be hitting the streets and passing out cards. I am supposed to be dropping into bookstores and calling reporters but I’m instead rushing home to get my oldest off the bus after a full day of work, getting in a quick run so that I can continue to stay mentally and physically healthy and strong, and all the other life responsibilities that I know we all have.
So, like I tell my students, I have set goals, and I have to get creative. I know what I am capable of now, and I am willing to keep working hard by putting out quality books. Trips are essential to market, and I will dedicate at least two times out of the year to travel and market. It is important to be inventive when trying to keep yourself healthy and some things I am really good at doing, and others, well those I stink at.
So here are the ways I have tried to make it all work. Some days I feel like I am owning it, and others, well don’t judge when I am spazzing and close to tears.
- How do you take the time to care for yourself?:
- Exercise: Gone are the days I spend an hour or even more in the gym or at classes. I run or do a quick 15-20-minute workout on my non-running days. 8fit is an awesome app that I have been using for the past two months, and they have high intensity and diverse workouts, fitness coach and meal ideas. Plus, my girls love to try to do the exercises with me or at least enjoy pushing the “next” button. A small caution for all of you with small, expert device wielding or button pushing little ones. They have skipped my rest many a times, and boy does that make the workout much harder ☺ On my run days, I try to take them with me when I can. My oldest can ride her bike with me on over 3-mile runs while the little one still loves the jogging stroller. I feel I am still getting quality time with them and taking care of my body and mind.
- Sleep: Yes, even with my second child who trained me to survive on little sleep, I still need it. We all do! Some of my compromises with her, now 3 and still hard to get to sleep and keep asleep self, are that I will stay in her room, but I will work on my computer as I sing her to sleep and be there when she wakes- up afraid. Yes, I fall asleep in there and wake confused about where I am, but hey it’s sleep! She has also become ninja-like for those times I make it to my bed, and I find her cuddled up with me at 5 am. No, I don’t think it’s the best sleep for either of us. I mean who sleeps well with little feet or a tiny toosh in their face at all hours, but we are doing the best we can and for now- and that’s okay.
- Eat: This part I admit I am not the best at and typically consult my older, and MD wielding, sister. She does a fantastic job at planning meals for the week while my family does not. I do, however, have two little helpers now, and I have been putting them to work on smaller, and safer tasks. Ones such as making/packing lunches (beware of the double dosing on the sweeter treats. Mine are sneaky sometimes), mixing ingredients, making a salad, and my oldest can even make scrambled eggs. I also make a ton of hard boiled eggs, chops veggies for the week and divvy them up for lunches, and ask for help more when I need it. I was the one always going to the store and started to get annoyed with my husband, but then all I had to do was ask. Now he goes a lot after work or in the morning after dropping off the girls. Communication is key, and although we are all super mothers, fathers, girl, and boyfriends, or single moms and dads, we need to ask for help sometimes.
- Leave it!: Sometimes the best way to take care of yourself is to NOT work on your project at all. That’s right, close or don’t even pick up that laptop, notebook, or palette. Push the stress aside for a day, days, or even a week as long as you can still meet your goal or deadline. Sometimes the break unlocks a floodgate, and your creativity will come rushing out tenfold; more so than if you forced it out piece by piece instead of taking a much-needed break. This is incredibly useful for writers block, but more importantly for those of us that have a ton of other hats and need to prioritize or just rest. As long as you keep your focus while you take a break, never fully letting your dream escape the track you out it on, I’m sure you will see amazing results.
All in all, if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be happy, those around you won’t be happy, and it will make it harder actually to reach your goal. Reaching your goal beaten down can lead to never wanting to repeat what you have worked so hard for, and if it’s a writing career you are aiming for –cranking multiple works is key!
2. How do you find time to write?
- Into the night: Being a night owl helps, well it helps my writing but not the dark circles the next day. It also helps that I have a goal, four books in 4 years that I will keep cranking out and market the best I can. If I hit wall after wall and don’t find my niche to keep going, then I will reevaluate. No, I won’t quit, but I may need to realign my goals, and I also may not be able to keep up the pace and the late nights. I did invest in a laptop with a backlighted keyboard as well to be able to type quietly in bed next to my little one. For those of you who are early risers and don’t have to be at work at 7 am like I do, you can reverse this and sneak your writing in early.
- During the kids’ activities: Thankfully my girls like at least one thing in common so I looked around for class times that were the same or close to each other at the same facility. My laptop goes with me, and I sit and type while they enjoy their class once a week. I bring my ear buds so I can focus and get a good hour in. The girls do well when I am there now, whereas before I was in the car that was not the most comfortable of experiences. There aren’t any coffee shops, libraries, etc. close enough, but you all may have one nearby that you can pop into during their class as well so be on the lookout.
- Mommy isn’t here: When the kids know I am home it is “mommy, mommy, mommy!!!” So, yes sometimes I have to pretend I am not home, and my husband takes care of things when I am really trying to get something done. These don’t have to be major chunks of time when you can focus, so an hour or so is usually enough. This act of hiding myself away is also a good plan during your lunch break. You can eat and write a little for yourself on your break!
- Banning Perfectionism: So, I’ve been telling you over and over again to use those little chunks of hours, and some of you may be thinking I am crazy. I know it can be very difficult for some of us to just write, to get it all down, no hold’s barred, balls out, and without fear. My husband, in fact, struggles to let an email for work flow without having all the right words and those perfectly worded sentences and structure. There are times I have felt the same. I pull out my hair out and chew on my nails as I searching for a word, a way to lead into a scene, or one of the hardest things-closing a chapter or ending a book. Now if I can’t find a word I write a simple one, highlight, and come back. If I can’t lead into a new scene seamlessly, I write a note to myself in that spot, highlight it, and move on to the next scene. It will come later, I promise.
Free writing is essential to get your thoughts out, to move through the ideas of your story, email, speech-whatever it may be. So, try to remind your anxious mind that you will go back and fix all those crummy overused words, those commas in the wrong place, or that ending and just write!!
I hope the tips I have learned throughout my process of writing my first two books are helpful for those of you chasing down your dream. For some of you, it may be to become a writer as well, or an artist, maybe you are a student in college or working on a report, article or dissertation. Whatever the case, I hope I have helped you find the time.
Founder and Owner
Rawlings Books, LLC
Author of Trust: The Alex Conner Chronicles Book One, an adult, urban fantasy.
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