Writing While Raising Small Children
By Becky Banks
I’m a stay-at-home mom and writer. I spend most days chasing a 2.5-year-old, trying to convince him that pants are a good thing. I do this while writing romance novels professionally. I wasn’t always this glamorous.
In 2012 I left my well-paid executive marketing job and immersed myself in the soul-enriching yet pocketbook-depleting world of a full-time writer. My days back then were luxuriously spent agonizing over perfect story arcs and drinking whiskey to unshackle my inhibitions for more creative and vivid sex scenes. I lazily wrote whenever the spirit took me and then daydreamed about characters the rest of the time. In 2014 my son was born and my writing changed. It became something I did during his frequent nap hours when he was a baby. Then he got older, took fewer naps and learned to walk (read: terrorized everything within arm’s reach), and by then I didn’t recognize my writing life at all. Writing became something I had done once and, when I had time, would do again.
While it was a writing dry spell, ideas still came in, and at odd times. Typically during long negotiations with my toddler who was on the toilet as I lay on the floor outside the bathroom waiting for him and simultaneously trying to convince him that a Gummy Bear is totally worth getting off the pot for. In that downtime, I made notes in my Google Ideas app on my phone. At other times, I scribbled ideas on the backs of receipts after grocery shopping and collected them like gold bars at the bottom of my purse for the next moment I had alone to write. But I started to ask myself, when is that writing moment going to come again? How do I capture time in an already time-crunched day? Nap time seemed like a good option, but I welcome his nap time as a time to rejuvenate before round two of wombat wrestling (aka putting on pants). I realized that weekends were out too because I wanted family time – my husband works all week, and the weekends are when we can spend time together as a family. So that left writing during the week. It meant creating a job that I left the house to go to and dedicated time to do every week.
Creating that time was insanely hard to accomplish at first. I gave myself four hours a day, two days a week. I asked either a babysitter or his grandmother or a friend to come play with my son, so I could go to a coffee shop and work. I found that time to be invaluable to my writing career. And getting alone time as a parent is more precious than diamonds. So, when we do get time alone, we don’t waste it. I discovered how true this is when I sat down at the coffee shop for the first time and brought up my Google Ideas list and systematically went through it, ticking off items one by one. Although it was a long list of website updates to make, emails to send, and character enhancements to add, it only took an hour. The rest of the time I spent writing. Just having two days made a world of difference; each time I sat down, I knew where I wanted the next chapter of my manuscript to go and why. Given time, the words I put down on paper were more thought through and complex. Compared to my writing before I had my son – when I had all the time in the world – my writing is now accomplished more efficiently, and surprisingly, I’m better at it.
Finding time to write in the midst of raising small children is much like trying to sort paperwork outside. During a hurricane. It’s hard at best. So, taking months to accomplish a chapter or story outline is okay – it’s good, even. My latest novel, Serendipity of Fate, is my best yet, but it took me two years to complete it. Relax, take your time, and enjoy your hard work in both parenting and writing. Just remember that sometimes you have to make time for you and your craft.
Becky Banks is the award-winning author of the Scottish romance, The Legend of Lady MacLaoch. Her newest release, Serendipity of Fate, a contemporary military romance, is due out Nov. 11. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, precocious toddler, and geriatric pug. Learn more at www.beckybanksonline.com.