Sometimes I hesitate to write these “how I do it” posts because I think, “Who really cares when I write and when I do laundry?” But then I always get students in my personal essay class who want to know how exactly I find time to write, teach, and raise my kids. They want specifics, timetables, tips. I get that; I’m the same way.
First, however, I correct them – I don’t FIND time, I MAKE time by making certain choices. For instance, I choose not to waste time showering in the morning and I never dust. Aren’t you glad you don’t know me in real life?
I read a good post somewhere once by a woman who runs an online business, has a bunch of kids, and maybe even homeschools them. (If this rings any bells, send me the link.) She had a wacky schedule where she would get up in the middle of the night to work and then nap in the afternoon with her kids. I value my sleep too much for that.
I know some people who get up before dawn to write, but I have never, ever been a morning person. Except for that brief stint in my 20’s when I was going to the gym before work at 6am. That led to embarrassing incidents like the time a fellow exerciser inquired about why I was wearing 2 different sneakers. I thought about trying to convince her it was a celebrity cross-training trick, but I fessed up: I’d packed my gym bag half-asleep in the dark and was too lazy to go home and get matching shoes.
Anyway, one tip that night-owl lady gave that I agree with is:
Never do housework while your kids are asleep. Or, I’d add, at school or a playdate. That time is too precious to waste on unloading the dishwasher. Put the baby down for his nap, then run to the computer and start writing until you hear him wake up. And even then you can probably squeeze out another 5-10min by calling, “I’ll be right there, sweetie. I’m coming!” Kids have no concept of time.
Here are some other tips:
Prioritize chores. Decide what is must-do and what is can-wait. For me, the kitchen and bathrooms are high priority. (Remember, I have 2 BOYS. The loo starts to smell like a bus terminal after a few days.) Folding laundry comes in dead last. I once spent a Sat. morning folding and putting away 4 baskets of clean laundry. Know how long it took me? 2 HOURS. I’m simply not willing to give up that much potential writing time on a regular basis. Clean is good enough; a few wrinkles never killed anyone.
Stay local. Pretty much everything we do is located within a 5-mile radius. I’m not kidding. I chose a gym, preschool, and sitter largely based on their proximity to our house. Sure, there are nicer grocery stores, fancier gyms, and an amazing music class across town, but if I have a couple hours to write, I don’t want to waste half that time in the car.
Remember that writing is more than just writing. Sometimes people forget how much THINKING is involved in writing. Before you sit down at the computer and start pounding out prose, you have to have some idea what you’re going to write about. And it helps to let plot twists and essay conclusions rattle around in your brain for a while before revising. So don’t fret that time away from your desk is wasted. I regularly find that after a workout or sitting in carpool I have a much more productive writing session because I’ve gone over things in my head and am ready to write them down.
What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for squeezing writing into your busy life?
NEWS O’ THE DAY: Speaking of my class, Personal Essays that Get Published, the next session of the Level 1 and Level 2 class kicks off Oct. 12! The 6-week online class is geared towards writers of all levels who want to publish and get paid for writing about their life. Level 1 is a prerequisite for Level 2. Past students have gotten published in regional and national parenting magazines, alumni magazines, even the New York Times! Find out more and register here.