Balancing Writing and Family

Balancing Writing and Family

How, given our hectic everyday lives and family responsibilities, do we find the energy, space, and time it takes to bring a creative work into being?

As a full-time writer who’s also a work-at-home mom, I’ve grappled with this question for years. And I’ve found some answers I’d like share:

Now’s as good a time as any to write
Sure, you can wait until the living room’s been painted, the car’s been paid off, or the kids are grown, but the fact remains—even when all that’s behind you, you still have to begin.

Beginning any writing project is hard because you’re entering unknown territory. There are no road maps to consult or guarantees of success. So what? The whole point of writing is to go where you’ve never gone before and to discover all sorts of stuff about yourself and world along the way.

Know that the writing road gets smoother as you go along and that you will know what to do and how to do it as you progress. First, however, you must take those first steps. Today’s as good a day as any to begin.

You don’t need lots of time to write
You need time period, be it a half-hour or a half day. Any time spent writing is better than no time writing. Thirty minutes a day over the course of a week adds up to 3-1/2 hours. That’s no small shakes.

Sure, at that rate, you may not finish your novel or screenplay within six months, but you sure as heck can begin it. Once you’re “out of the gate,” time becomes a non-issue. You don’t have to find it—it finds you.

You must have a room of your own, Part 1
That doesn’t mean you have to have an actual room with a door to close, but it does mean you need a space in which to work.

Space, by the way, is not just physical. It’s mental as well. You can have a great home office, for example, but if you can’t keep others out of it (or keep yourself in), it’s doing you little good. The bottom line then? You must create space for yourself by laying claim to it, by setting boundaries that others cannot cross during the times you write. This ain’t easy because it means you first must “come out of the closet” as a writer. You must declare to the world (your significant others) that you are more than what they see; that you want more for yourself; that you have the right to write.

A room of your own, Part 2
Once you lay claim to your right to write, you can begin to lay claim to a writing space. If you have a distinct room at your disposal, replete with door (preferably a locking one), you’re all set. Know, however, that such a room isn’t a requirement. Many great poems and plays are written at kitchen tables, in the corners of basements, and in notebooks lovingly, sometimes furtively, carried from room to room. The bottom line is you work with what you’ve got and make it work for you.

Note the traffic patterns in your home. What spaces are constantly traveled? Which get only occasional visitors or none “after hours”? Which can fit a desk or filing cabinet, or even a single cardboard box containing your notes, research materials, pens, and pads? (Such boxes, by the way, make great “portable offices,” enabling you to take your writing wherever you go, e.g., the library, coffee shop, or even into your car or bathroom). So, choose your space, however modest, and set up shop.

Forget the cheering section
Let go of the notion that your significant others will support all you do—or even that they should. Becoming a writer requires an internal shift that has an external consequence, and most significant others, no matter how much they love us, buck at change. It makes them uncomfortable because they fear we’ll become less focused on them. Too, they know that time spent writing is time not spent doing other things—cooking, cleaning, running errands. No one wants his/her needs to go unattended or, worse yet, to be asked or expected to pick up the slack.

All of which is to say that your declarations as a writer may be met with moans, groans, and protests rather than with the celebratory popping of champagne corks. So it goes. Know that you don’t need a red carpet rolled out for you; nor do you need anyone’s permission but your own. Give yourself that permission; keep your focus. You’ll be surprised how loved ones come around eventually (even if they do still mutter under their breath).

Break out of your isolation
Writing may be a solo endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. No matter where you live, there are folks in your community who also dream of giving birth to short stories, screenplays, columns, etc. Find them through writing conferences, workshops, and teleclasses, or through profiles of writers in the local paper. Form your own workshop so you and one or two or five or six other writers can share your work or simply talk shop. You can also put yourself in the company of established writers by studying their works or reading their biographies.

Finally, touch your writing as often as you can, even if it’s for a few minutes a day and even if it’s just to journal or jot down a line that swept through your mind at 3 a.m. Such “touching” gives validity to your dreams and gifts. It also enables you to grow into the part of “writer” and to help your writing become an integral part of your life.


Beth Mende Conny is the founder and president of WriteDirections.com. She has published more than four dozen books and collections, and helps individuals and businesses bring their projects to publication. She can be contacted at Beth@WriteDirections.com.


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