As I scrolled through my Facebook this morning and no less than 10 “hilarious” cat videos that made me appreciate my own cat’s general indifference to everything, I came across a post from talented writer, blogger, wife, mother of three and Sisterwives member Gretchen Weber Kelly. She mentioned how she has come to the realization she can’t write with her kids at home.
Please join me in attempting to appear utterly shocked by this admission.
OK, we can all stop because she’s not buying it.
With summer vacation less than 10 weeks away for many schools… There! THAT’S the face we were looking for!… Gretchen was asking for suggestions, advice, the name of a harmless sleep aid that could induce a three-month hibernation period for her children, or any tips for maintaining her writing momentum through the summer while her kids are at home. Her question made me think of a Nickel’s Worth on Writing post from a while back regarding the importance of establishng a writing routine, no matter what that routine is.
When I first started writing in an actual newsroom, my routine consisted of sitting at my desk, staring blankly at the screen and banging on my keys as quickly as possible until it was time to go home, where I would do my actual writing.
Why did I do this?
I was intimidated. On either side of me, journalists were typing feverishly — seemingly non-stop — while I sat waiting for inspiration. My brain was still hardwired for waiting until the kids were asleep before slinking off into the study/laundry room to do my writing — as long as nothing else needed to be done. I was a single parent with two children under the age of 10 at the time, so there was always something else that needed to be done.
I realized two things one night sitting in my luxurious study/laundry room:
1) I needed to push myself to establish a new writing routine that fit my lifestyle and commitments, and
2) By putting my daughter’s favorite sweater through the drier, it was now the perfect size for our neighbor’s Chihuahua.
I couldn’t do much about the sweater, which she’s still bitter about 10 years later. But the first thing — establishing a set routine for my writing — became a priority and it should be for you, too. Married or single, with or without kids, stay-at-home or away-at-work parent, full- or part-time job, setting a writing routine says to yourself and others that your writing is just as important as other responsibilities you have.
Whether it’s 30 minutes or three hours, every day or certain days of the week, making that commitment to yourself as writer — to write without exception, excuse or apology — is something you owe to yourself as a writer. No one objects to your making dinner, doing laundry, ironing or picking up the kids after practice, and your writing routine shouldn’t be any different.
I’ll admit, re-programming myself took time and persistence. And I had to get over the fact that, as my fellow journalists were typing away, there were long periods of silence — some as long as 10 to 12 seconds — echoing from my cubicle. The truth is, my brain actually adapted quickly to having a real writing schedule, much in the same way your body adapts to a workout routine. And I say “your body” because mine still hates going to the gym no matter what time it is.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of writing full time. However, the same rule applies to anyone who is serious about writing. In addition to priming your brain to be ready for action at a set time on a regular basis, setting a strict writing routine says something very important to yourself and others:
I’m a writer and you’re not, so neener neener!
Ok, not really.
…Well, actually, yes — but that’s not my point.
My point is that it says your writing, just like making time for each of your other responsibilities, is just as important.
Bottom line: If you take your writing seriously, so will others.
Unless you iron your manuscripts; that’s just weird.
That said, I’d like to dedicate this post to Gretchen, The Sisterwives and every writer who strikes that sometimes awkward balance between giving all of themselves as parents, while holding on to who they are as writers.
But if anyone knows anything about an actual hibernating-kids sleep aid…