Writing with Parental Obligations

In a comment, a reader asked me two questions.  This is the second question.  The first was published yesterday on my blog 25 Oct 2011: How do I generate ideas?

As a Parent, what are your suggestions regarding getting time to write amidst all of the other obligations?

I can say that I continue to struggle with this one everyday.  I only have one child and the comment by Kane indicated that he had five children.  I am hoping that in his case however, that some of his children are old enough to amuse themselves and if so, they can also be called upon to amuse the other children.
In my case I went through a pretty traumatic labour and birthing time with my daughter, so after she was born there was a period of about three months that I didn't get the chance to write at all.  She was, and still can be, a very needy child.  This is not a negative thing: in fact I love my little cuddle bug.  The problem arrived int he form of me not being able to put her down at all in those early months.  If she fell asleep, she woke when I put her down.  At night, she needed to be close to the breast at all times for her soothing needs.  Also, my husband was a little shell shocked (and rightfully so) with how much work was required to keep this little human alive and to take care of me.  I was quite a mess during this time.
Finally, I actually felt organized enough to put the baby down.  She cried, and that was okay.  I let her cry for the first time in three months, and I cried because I forced myself to teach her that she was not entirely dependant on me every moment of the day, even at three months old.  But it's hard for us as parents too because we play so many roles in children's lives that they can become too dependant. Sugarbee (That's what I'll call my daughter here) needed to be taught she could soothe herself.  Within a week, a hard week, she had learned that once a day I put her down on a play mat with toys suspended above her and mommy sits out of sight (her sight, not mine) and is there in case she has a problem. 
I was able to write for about 30 minutes.  Then, when she got older and could roll, I began to put her on the floor more often or in a playpen so that she could play.  That usually afforded me a total of an hour a day (on Maternity Leave) to write.
What about other parents?
Well, it comes down to the following: Where is it on your priority list?  Writing for me is below Children, spouse, and family but it is above church (Gasp! I know.  God understands-I assure you.) work, exercise and extra curricular activities; for me extra curriculars include choir, painting and jewelery making.
Then, you need to take time from all of those things at the bottom of the list and apply that time to your writing. So, for me it means writing on my breaks at work, writing instead of signing up for that painting class that I really wouldn't mind taking-at least until the ultimate goal is met.
If you have a specific goal in mind it really helps to solidify what you're willing to give up.  My goal is to be a New York Times best selling author in one year from today, and have a contract on a second book ready.  For me there's no true end game in sight.  My dream is to make a living off of my writing.
If you want to make a hobby of your writing, then give it the same time you would give other hobbies; remember though, every hobby requires a commitment of resources to some degree.  You don't take music lessons without either buying or renting an instrument.  Same with writing.  You don't need a computer (until you begin to want to pitch it) nor do you need fancy anything (besides a notepad that would make you proud) the commitment for writing is about time. 
Just like I did with Sugarbee, if you make writing a habit and a priority-your family will too. They'll get used to seeing you there and get used to the level of priority you make of it.  If you flake out, or you say you're going to write and then crawl out of your writing space to play with your kids, you're teaching them that it's not truly a priority to you.
Trust me, amidst the complaints you'll get about needing your attention-eventually you'll get left alone to focus, it's just a matter of time.


Question: How do I generate Ideas?

I had a question posed to me about two things that are both independant but are fairly related. I will pose the question here and break it down.

"You're a mother. I'm a working father (of 5). So, from one parent to another, do you have any advice for how to generate ideas, and get to the craft despite the clamour that usually attends parenthood?"

First: Do I have any advice on how to generate ideas? I'll deal with the second tomorrow.

Yes, in fact I do.  I have this little notebook, it's rather old (two year) but it's one that was fairly expensive for it's size ($16.99 for 5.5inch by 4inch with about 50 pages.)  I bought it at a cafe in Prince George literally, the day before I moved up to Whitehorse.  It was October 30th and I arrived in Whitehorse the 2nd of November because we got hit by bad weather the whole way up and we were driving a Uhaul.  Plus, there were almost no trucks on the road clearing or salting.  We got to the newly covered areas before the trucks could.  It was disastrous!

But, on to my suggestion.  Buy yourself a book that you like to look at and is tough enough to withstand heavy abuse.  The pages themselves have to be thick.  No more buying those crappy notebooks that you can see the color of your skin through, because they won't hold up-I guarantee it.  Worse yet, they won't serve your purpose.  If you can't stand the look of your book, or everytime you pull it out to make a note you rip a page, you'll stop using it within the week.  Also ensure that your book is about pocket sized. 

Some say, "but I don't know if I want to write, so going cheaper is better isn't it?"

No. It isn't.  Reason? If you have a crappy experience just trying to keep track of all of your earth-shattering ideas, you'll quickly discard the writing dream too...only, it'll rear it's ugly head everytime you hear a J.K. Rowling story or if someone you know gets published.  The cycle begins anew!  So, do it right the first time.

What about, "I always lose those books though, and I hate carrying them around?"  Well, you have an alternate choice.  Ensure you always have paper and pen in your car, in your purse or wallet (you can get some miniature pens/pencils and slip an index card into the cash side of your wallet) and keep your notebook at home.  This is what my notebook started out as.  It was a repository of all of my ideas.  If I had ideas important enough to write them down, I quickly put them into this notebook when I got home at the end of my day. 

Eventually you won't be able to live without your notebook because if you plan on going to a cafe to write or to the library to scour sources for ideas you recently had, you'll need your book.  Plus, if you begin this little exercise, you'll find that you really do have a ton of ideas.  Most people have tons of ideas but we fail to acknowledge them and fail to remember them.  Writing them down does this.

Imagine this:

You sit at a computer screen and see the blank white screen in front of you.  You think, "I want to be a writer, I have great ideas!"  You put your hands on the keyboards and type....nothing.

When most people sit down to write, that's not the time to think-it's time to write!  So, keep your ideas so that when you sit at that computer you're not wasting time trying to get an idea.  Expand on one in your notebook.  That way you won't waste a moment!

Tomorrow I will answer the second question which is: As a Parent, what are your suggestions regarding getting time to write amidst all of the other obligations? (See that post Here)

Happy writing.