We are a thousand weeks into this COVID lockdown. The days are warm and long, and we have officially given up on our children’s schooling for this year.
Blessedly, it is looking like school will return to mostly-normal in September. Tattoo shops and swimming pools are reopening this weekend. But childcare is closed until Sept, which means that we’re stuck with our kids all summer. And even when we do go out, I spend all my time saying, “Kids, give people space! Remember social distancing?!” It’s a pill.
My kids are 6 and 8, so I’ve had a bit of practise with this writing-as-a-parent gig. I did a lot of freelance writing when my beans were little, so I had to figure this shit out. Here’s what I got:
The first thing to do is to write as much as you can, in every moment you can. Don’t worry about writing your magnum opus while you’ve got kiddos running around yanking on your hair. Write a critique of PAW PATROL, or write Calliou fan fiction. Write stories for your children. Whatever makes the most sense in your sleep-deprived brain in that moment, as long as you keep writing.
After a while, your writing muscles will get stronger, and you’ll be able to do more serious stuff. Generally, what you’re gonna want to do is to eke out periods of time during the day when your kids are occupied, and hop onto your computer (or your pad of paper if you write longhand).
I would say to try for 30-60 minutes to start. You won’t feel bad if you don’t do much in that time, and you may have a crackin’ shot at actually getting some real work done. Try for one of these blocks every day. Plug your kids in front of the TV or send our your spouse or parent on a walk with the kids.
Don’t let laundry, cooking, or cleaning get in the way. Literally set yourself a timer, and glue your ass to the chair (don’t literally glue your ass to the chair– that one was figurative).
When your kiddos are wee, I say to give yourself a time goal rather than a wordcount goal when you write. It’s like fitness training: you’re just training yourself to write amidst the chaos, so it doesn’t really matter what you actually end up with in terms of writing.
Every week or two, try to block out several hours in a row. These are the times that you’ll need to physically be far away from your children. If the lockdown is still going, take your compy to a park, or if it’s too cold, drive your car away from your home. Bring a coffee and a snack, and get to it. (Make sure that you are agreeing about how long you’ll be gone–last thing you need is to come home to a fight with your spouse or parent about this shit.) The first few times you do this, set a time goal again. After a while, these ones can start to have a wordcount goal.
It takes a lot of tenacity and a bit of forcefulness to move forward with your writing. It is hard to prioritise writing when there are a jillion other things you could be doing. You will feel selfish; you will feel like a bad parent. (Especially if you’re a mama, when society expects you to give up most of yourself in favour of your family. Dads are allowed to have more hobbies and interests.)
This process is also about being kind to yourself. Make sure to remember that you are doing this for your own damn self; writing is a way to tell your story. Your drafts won’t be perfect. Everything goes to hell a little bit (or a lot!) after you bring home your babester, and your writing will surely suffer. As with everything else, it will come back stronger and more robust than before.
Think about it this way: be hard to everyone else when you’re booting them away to go write, but be soft to yourself while you’re writing.
It’s gonna be great.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.