But What About the Cereal?!
Michelle Zink is the author of the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, a story about twin sisters, Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become fierce enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in an age-old battle that could have consequences of biblical proportions. Michelle lives in New York with her four children. Visit her blog is http://michellezinkbooks.wordpress.com/ and follow her on Twitter.
Since my first book, Prophecy of the Sisters was published almost a year ago, I’ve toured, spoken at middle- and high schools, appeared at book stores, and spoken to aspiring writers of all ages. It’s always interesting to hear how different the questions are between young writers and adults. Young writers ask things like, “Where do you get your ideas?” Adult writers ask things like, “How do you DO it?”
In other words, “What about the cereal?!”
That’s because juggling children, schedules, spouses, paying jobs, and the running of a household in addition to finding time - and the calmness of mind that is necessary - to write is HARD.
As a single mother to four children, it’s especially tough for me. There’s no one to cook dinner if I’m under deadline and there’s no one to spend extra time with the kids when I feel guilty because I’ve been revising non-stop for a month.
But it is possible. The trick is not to ignore the things that need attention but to organize your time so that they get done while still allowing yourself consistent time to write every week. I shared my big-picture Real Life Writing philosophy on my blog a few weeks ago, but I have a few more tips just for Book Divas readers!
- Set a schedule and make sure everyone in your household honors it. Say it with me; you are entitled to the time you need to work. I work every Tuesday - Thursday from 9am to 1pm, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 10pm. I know it seems like a lot, but I’ve found it’s more effective to concentrate my writing on those three days when the kids are busy with school. Then, I have a few days to concentrate on them and my household. My kids know that these are my work days, and other then the time I take to debrief with them after school, cook dinner and make lunches for the next day, read with my ten-year-old, and have tea with my teenage daughter, NOTHING interrupts my work on those days. It is good and healthy for your kids to see you as a real person with interests and responsibilities and passions of your own!
- Justify time spent planning. There’s no doubt about it. Planning sucks! It’s boring and monotonous and decidedly unsexy. But if you’re juggling a family, household and/or a paying job, it’s absolutely essential if you want weekly writing time. I spend most of Sunday planning for the week. I plan meals, make grocery lists, cut coupons, make note of appointments, and do things around the house. Knowing that my daughter has a dentist appointment on Thursday morning, for example, allows me to plan for leftovers that night so I can make up the writing time. Monday is spent grocery shopping and running errands so I don’t have to leave the house again until Friday (other than to drop off/pick up the kids from school). All of this means that I can write uninterrupted Tuesday - Thursday because, yes! At least we have cereal!
- Make use of non-writing time to prepare for your next session. I don’t listen to music in the car and I don’t talk on my cell phone. Whether driving, cooking, or taking a shower, I’m always thinking about what’s next in my manuscript so that when the time comes to sit down at the computer, I know exactly where I’m going. This means that I don’t waste time staring at a blank page and lamenting the fact that while I finally have TIME to write, I don’t know WHAT to write. My goal is to have enough material planned for each writing stint at the start of that day’s session.
- Open the file. Open. The. FILE! It’s amazing how something small like sitting myself in front of the computer and opening my manuscript file can get me going. It’s a lot tougher when I’m staring at my Facebook wall. • Lock yourself out of the Internet if you need to. I use Mac Freedom (free online) when I’m desperate. It allows me to set a time to lock myself out of the internet so I have no choice but to WRITE. Primitive but effective!
- Make your work area pleasant. When I wrote Prophecy, I worked at a desk in the loft over the living room on an ancient (and huge!) desktop. I was too broke to have an iPod so I listened to an old Sony Discman to shut out the sounds of my house. But I listened to the atmospheric film scores that I love, and I kept a stash of Dove dark chocolate in the drawer. You’d be surprised how much I looked forward to that time when there was nothing in the world but the music and my story. Now, I have a small office in an extra bedroom. It’s furnished with a simple desk and a Clearance lamp from Target, but I have candles on my desk - and I still keep chocolate in my drawer.
Listen; writing requires a tremendous amount of creative energy. Energy that is hard to come by when you’re bogged down in the tedium of the daily activities necessary to take care of a household and family. But with some planning - and a little chocolate - you CAN make time to write.
AND still keep your family in Cheerios. :D