Busy Parent Writer: How to Work a Writing Practice Into Family Life

Sharon Cindrich and kids

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

The first thing students of my Parent Writers class want to know is the magic trick. How do you squeeze writing into a day filled with toddlers and carpools and piano lessons and groceries and all the other exhausting demands that come with being a parent? They are never satisfied when I take away the smoke and mirrors to reveal that there is no trick–just lots and lots of hard work.

Working a successful writing practice into your life means you need to recognize your writing endeavors as one more job. And taking that job seriously means committing time to work at it, instead of adding it to the end of your to-do list. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Okay, there aren’t tricks, but I do have a few tips…ones that will help you recognize your writing as a priority, shuffle it into the mix with the other demands in your life, and boost your productivity. Read ’em and write!

Get it on the calendar. Right next to the appointments for the orthodontist, the piano lessons and your child’s soccer game, put your writing time down in ink on the family calendar so that everyone knows it is a priority.

Build in a reminder. Set an alarm on your watch or on the stove to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing and write.

Prepare the family. Remind your partner that you plan to write after dinner. Have jammies laid out for bed. Give the baby a bath early. Reserve the home computer with a sticky note. Encourage the whole family to support you

Give yourself a carrot. Decide on a reward for getting that essay finished or logging in three hours of work. Think low budget-a fancy cup of coffee, ice cream, a TV program-you’re a writer, after all.

Make it a pill you can swallow. Start by finding small pockets of time, such as 15 minutes a day OR 3 half-hours a week OR one paragraph before bed. Make each step a regular commitment, then build on them each week.

Like any good habit, developing a writing practice takes some focused discipline to get started. Once you get a regular rhythm going and have set clear expectations and boundaries with your family, your writing rituals may start to feel like magic.

Sharon Miller Cindrich is the mom of two, a columnist and author of E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids (Random House, 2007). Her next book debuts in the fall of 2009. Learn more at www.sharonmillercindrich.com.


2 Responses to “Busy Parent Writer: How to Work a Writing Practice Into Family Life”

  1. 1 Lara January 19, 2009 at 5:45 am

    I really like the idea of setting a timer (in addition to putting it on the calendar). It’s so easy to get sidetracked during “writing time” and never actually get to the writing.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  2. 2 Sarah January 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    thanks for this great article! I especially liked your last suggestion of “making it a pill you can swallow” especially because I rarely seem to find large amounts of time to devote to writing. I have noticed, though, that if I try to start small and then build up, I usually get a lot more done. Thanks again!


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