When I got pregnant, I felt like my brain turned into mush. It actually got worse when my son was born because not only was I mush-brained, I was also a sleep-deprived zombie. But slowly and surely, I got my brain back. I started writing my novel, Manly Man of God, when my oldest was 3 1/2 and my youngest had just turned one. If you have young kids, writing or doing some other form of creative expression is often the last thing on your mind. Still, if the urge is there, you can make it happen. Here's some tips I've figured out along the way:
1. Accept that it is impossible to write and supervise children at the same time. If your children are old enough to ignore for a while that might work, otherwise you will need to find time away.
2. Recognize the difference between investments and costs. This is a great tip from Being Boss podcast: if you look at the costs of preschool, or grocery delivery, or whatever else it takes for you to have time to write as costs, writing does not make financial sense. It takes time to build up your skill set and your contacts. Your first month as a writer doesn't come with a magical paycheck that covers all these costs. Instead, realize that these expenses are actually an investment in your future as a writer. Of course, your ability to spend money on your writing habit will vary. If preschool is too expensive, can you arrange a babysitting exchange with another full-time parent?
3. Pick three things you are currently doing well & decide to do them terribly or not at all. It is impossible to give 100% to watching your kids, running a house, taking care of yourself, and producing art. Something has to go. For me it was exercise, vacuuming, and playing Legos with my kids. Some writer-parents forego sleep, personally I would not recommend it.
4. Seize the moment. Any time you have ten minutes or more free can be writing time. Ignore the dishes, ignore the fact that you haven't showered, sit your butt on your chair, open your document, and Just. Start. Writing. BONUS: once you get enough practice, writing anywhere, under any circumstances, will become your SUPERPOWER. Non-parent writers will weep with envy.
5. Write garbage. Just like Anne Lamott says, it doesn't matter if it's terrible, just get started. You can fix it later.
6. Get some support! Parenthood is isolating and so is the writer's life. Don't go it alone! Joining a writer's group (in person, online, or both) will make you a better writer and a saner human. Listening to writing podcasts (such as the excellent #amwriting or Magic Lessons) can bolster your spirits and give you great tips on how to do this thing. Check out all the great writing hashtags on Twitter.
7. Look into the mirror and say to yourself, "I am a writer." Now say it to a stranger on the bus. Now say it to two strangers at a cocktail party. Now yell it at your family while closing the door to your office/closet!
8. Ignore timelines. Some authors can write a book in a year, others take a decade. While some writers find daily (or weekly) word count goals helpful, for others it doesn't work. Cut yourself slack. Any progress is good progress.
Do you have a dream writing project? I'd love to hear about it! Post your wishes in the comment below and perhaps BluBell, the Evil NaNoWriMo Fairy will sprinkle magic dust on them.