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How I wrote a book while parenting two children

Writing while parenting is not impossible and it doesn’t have to be hard. So is it simple and totally free of hurdles? Probably not, but if you go about it thinking about how difficult it is, you most likely WILL struggle. When you’re committed to writing a book, you will just do it.

When I got published back in 2018, the most frequent thing people asked me was “how did you have the time to write a book?” This always got me by surprise because I’d been writing stories ever since I learned to write, and I mean that literally. Imagine how difficult it was writing my first story on a piece of cardboard when I COULDN’T READ YET and therefore couldn’t go back to what I had just written. So if not knowing how to read didn’t stop me from writing, why would having a baby do that?

Oh, but of course I know the answer to that question. When you become a mother, you’re expected to really Become A Mother. So really, the first hurdle you need to overcome to write a book while you have children is to accept that you really, really are allowed to be other things besides being a parent, regardless of how much you love your children.

Writing while parenting – it really is allowed

If you want to be a full-time devoted parent and it genuinely makes you happy, I’m glad you’ve found your path and you’re being the best possible parent by doing what you think is the right thing. I’d never judge anyone for doing what is best for their family.

With that out of the way, I should probably mention I’m not a super nurturing type of born-to-be-a-mother or a skilled homemaker, so I never had to justify to myself or to my partner why I was spending so much time on my own projects. I suffer very little mum guilt because I understand what really matters, and that isn’t ironing my children’s socks or spending every waking hour with them.

If you’re a little unsure if you can take the time for writing, consider these two things:

You’re a better parent and a better example when you have your own life besides parenting

Do you want your children to become fully-fledged adults with their own rich lives and interests? How are you going to achieve that without setting an example? You’d do a disservice to your children if you sacrificed everything for them, because that way they’ll only learn sacrifice. When you love someone, you don’t have to cut off pieces of yourself to make them happy, and if your children had any say in this, they’d never let you do that.

Of course, parenting means doing a lot of compromises and not getting to do everything your way, but so it is with having a job and being in a relationship. You need to find the balance and you can’t do that if you’re going to feel guilty about everything you do for yourself.

Your family doesn’t need more time with you, they need more QUALITY time with you

Do you think your children don’t notice if you’re preoccupied with something else while you spend time with them? Think again. No matter how much time you spend in their company, they’re only going to remember the times you really were present.

If you feel bad about retreating into your writing chamber while your children are with their other parent or someone else who cares for their wellbeing, just make a plan to be really present with them the next time you spend time with them.

Listen to your children, ask them questions even if they don’t answer them and let them lead the moment without you questioning or criticizing what they’re doing. Aside from food and shelter, that’s pretty much the only thing they want from you. Seriously.

Yes, small children need you a lot. Accept it and move on.

Having two teenagers is a lot different to having a baby and a toddler, and that’s something even I need to remind myself of. But just because you can’t write as much as you’d like, doesn’t mean you have to settle for not doing it at all.

I started writing my first published book when my eldest was less than a year old and I got a publishing deal when I was expecting my second. Now with two children, I’ve written another novel and drafted a couple more while also working on this blog. It has got significantly easier since I first wrote this blog post because my children keep getting more independent as they grow. (I am now updating this post in 2023 so things have changed quite a bit in three years.)

We’ve all got our unique challenges, but writing while parenting is not a speed race

I really like the saying “if you argue for your excuses, you get to keep them”, and that’s just as true here as everywhere else. I admit I don’t know what it’s like being a single parent or to have profoundly disabled children, but people all around the world are constantly doing seemingly impossible things just because they decided something and kept their heads.

I’m not saying things aren’t difficult for you – I don’t know your life. But if you’re reading this in hopes that you could write a book even when your children take a lot of time and not just because you’re hell-bent on proving me wrong, you have a goal that you deserve to work towards. If you have five minutes every day to work on your book, then use those five minutes. What do you think you’ll achieve by doing nothing at all?

I am not any more special than you are. My eldest child is autistic and my youngest had reflux as a baby and needed to be rocked all the darn time, so I haven’t exactly been blessed with copious amounts of free time and energy. What I have been blessed with is determination and a supportive spouse – at least one of which you have control over in your life as well.

Seriously, it’s not a race

Have you seen people on Instagram promote their courses on how to finish your book in 90 days? I have, and I really dislike it. I can appreciate them for sharing the things they’ve learned, but I don’t think many great books have been written in the span of three months. Sure, that’s a totally reasonable time to finish your first draft, but that would likely require extensive planning at first and it would be followed by rounds and rounds of edits and revisions.

No one is any better than you for finishing their book faster than you. So what if it takes you five years to finish your novel? That five years is going to pass regardless of what you do with it.

So what if it takes you 5 years to write your book? The time will pass regardless. Write truth by Protagonist Crafts

So now that you know why you should write, HOW do you do it?

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, how do you get any writing done when you’re a busy parent? You just need these four things: easy inspiration, planning, time management and routines. And what does all that mean?

Inspiration – make it fast and easy

When you have little time to write, you can’t waste it faffing about waiting for inspiration to strike. You need to be able to get into the right mood straight away and not at random, uncontrollable times.

That said, you don’t actually need to feel inspired to be able to write, and the people who actually finish writing books are the ones who do it even when they really don’t feel like it. When I say you need to be able to get inspired easily, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t write when it doesn’t work and you’re not in the mood.

Whether you’re looking to start a specific writing project or you’re just hoping to hone your craft, it’s helpful to have a specific playlist for your writing time if you’re able to listen to music while you write. This not only helps you get into a writing mood when you need to, but it can also help you catch the specific mood of the story that you’re writing even when you’re just compiling the playlist.

For example, here is the Spotify playlist for the novel I’m working on now, and listening to it really helps me get grounded on the feeling I want to convey with my writing.

And what about Pinterest, do you love it as I do? You’re going to! It’s not just for finding the perfect hot chocolate recipe or for ogling at handmade coffee mugs, but you can also find beautiful, evocative pictures about literally anything. This is fantastic for planning your settings and characters and for making moodboards. If you’re feeling a little lost when you’re supposed to write, just one look at these pictures can help drop you into the world of your story.

Actually, you can even use Pinterest to plot your story when all you’ve got are “vibes”.

Here is a word of warning, though: preparations don’t count as writing. Make the playlists and moodboards when you can’t be writing and save the writing time for, well, writing. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re being productive when you’re editing your playlist for the twentieth time. You’re better than that.

A hot take: writing while parenting can’t work without planning

I know, I know. Some of you like to write by the seat of your pants and discover the story as you write, and I’ve learned to accept that. (Just kidding, it doesn’t take a lot of accepting. It’s none of my business how other people write their stories.) But the fact is, if you don’t have a lot of time to write and you actually want to get things done, you need some kind of a plan.

If you’re writing a book, I wholeheartedly recommend having some kind of an outline before you start to write. It’ll save you from so much fumbling and writer’s block and it’ll help you jump right into writing as soon as you have a chance. Knowing your setting and your characters through and throughis integral for a well-planned writing session, so make sure you know your story world and all the players in it to avoid writer’s block.

Planning your writing doesn’t just mean planning your story, it also means planning what you’re going to do with the time you have for your writing. If you’ve got a 30-minute block of time coming up in five minutes, you’d better know exactly what you’re going to spend your time on or else you might spend half of it completely lost and then you only have fifteen more minutes left to actually write. You deserve better than that.

Manage your writing time or someone else will

This part overlaps with the previous, because it’s kind of hard to manage your time without a plan. When you’re writing a book, effective time management also requires you to understand the process of book-writing. You can’t just start writing, spend x number of days doing it and then resurface with a finished project. You didn’t think it worked like that, did you?

Planning. Outlining. First draft. Second draft. Third, fourth, fifth, TENTH draft. Is your structure just right? Does the story make sense? Have plot holes been filled and do all characters retain their names throughout the process? Only after making sure all that you can start thinking about your spelling and grammar, in fact, they are the last things you need to think about when editing your story.

That’s why you need to manage your writing time to get the most out of it, because chipping away at a dozen tasks in your designated writing time will be extremely frustrating and it’ll feel like it’s getting you nowhere. That’s why, when you write, you keep writing and you don’t stop every two minutes to edit your text or to do some extra research.

How many times did you check your phone notifications while reading this post? That might indicate how well you’re able to keep out distractions while you’re writing. Respect your writing time by staying laser focused – writing while parenting has enough distractions and detours as it is.

Related: Tips for writing more efficiently

Set up routines that the whole family remembers

I know, it’s not enough that you yourself respect your writing time, other people in your family need to respect it too. That’s why you need to set up routines that everyone remembers and respects.

Your toddler might not understand why it’s important for you to lock yourself in the bedroom with your laptop – mine definitely doesn’t – but if it happens frequently enough and you stay firm about respecting your time, they’ll eventually get it what it means when the door is closed. Writing routines will also help you build the rest of your daily life around your writing time. Jot it down in your calendar if that works for you.

Start writing your novel in less than a week

Not knowing where to start is one of the biggest things that keeps aspiring writers stuck. I get it and it’s okay.

I’m here to fix that problem, though.

You can enroll in my 5-day novel-writing online course FOR FREE and you’ll know exactly what to do to start writing that awesome novel of yours. Like I said, a good plan saves you so much time, and this course will show how you can plan your story for success. You also get fun bonuses like writing exercises and a story idea workbook. You can go straight to the sign-up page here.

In short, writing while parenting doesn’t require magic or blood sacrifice, just intentional use of your time. Who knew? If you have any thoughts or questions about the subject, do let me know in the comments!

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