When I was first coming up with the Night Buddies stories, I was a single parent trying to figure out the balance between spending ample time with my son John while still working enough hours to be able to provide for us. The actual writing of the books didn’t come until later, when John was grown and able to take care of himself, but I know that many of you out there with that novel idea formed and ready to go in your heads aren’t as keen to wait for your child to be on their own before setting pen to paper.
So what if you didn’t have to?
Finding a balance between writing a book and being the best parent you can be is no easy task, but I believe it can be done. Here are my top five tips for how to find the best balance between the two!
1. You are one person, and especially as a parent, you only have so many things you can devote your time to. Your priorities should revolve around your children, your job (if writing isn’t your full-time profession), and your writing if you are going to get your book written. Other things should fill in the space between, but shouldn’t make you lose focus of your priorities. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin in an effort to do it all!
2. Keep a consistent schedule. If you wake up an hour earlier than your child to get writing done, do it every day. If your child has a bedtime of 7 pm, make sure you stick with it. Routine is good for you, and for your child. When your time is appropriately scheduled, you will be able to see the small gaps of time you might not have known you had in order to get some writing in. Scheduling your time will also allow you to have a stopping point that you shouldn’t try to work past. If you schedule yourself two hours of writing in the evening, from 7pm to 9pm let’s say, but you don’t go to bed until 11pm, don’t try to work your way through until the end. Your schedule needs room for relaxing too!
3. Teach your kids about your work. When you explain to them what you are doing and how important it is that you do it, they’ll be more respectful of your writing time than they would be if you just locked yourself away with no explanation. Children are curious people! If you’re writing a children’s novel, read chapters to them as you go along. If you’re writing more adult content, simply tell them that you’re writing a book and that it’s very important to you. This will teach them to value passion and work, and is an important lesson for them to learn, even at a young age.
4. Sometimes it’s okay to do things the easy way. If you signed up to do a bake sale with your children’s school, you don’t need to bake dozens of cookies from scratch if you don’t have the time for it—this was what pre-made dough was made for. It’s easy to fall into the trap of always trying to be the “superhero parent,” but sometimes it’s okay, even necessary, to grab a pizza for dinner, tell your kids that they need to entertain themselves for an hour, or ask someone else to host after-school playdates. Being the best parent you can be is important, but being the best parent is an unrealistic goal to achieve, especially when you have writing to get done!
5. Don’t be afraid to enlist help if you need it. Author Sarah Dessen hires babysitters for the afternoons to watch her daughter, even though she’s doing her writing from home. If you can afford childcare, or your family members offer to watch your child for an afternoon, it’s not admitting defeat to accept the help! Everyone needs help now and then, and if your writing is important to you, accepting help in order for your writing to not suffer is something you should never feel bad about.
Just remember, being a parent is not an excuse to not achieve your goal of being an author. Whether you have time to write for four hours a day, or only twenty minutes every morning, you’ll be able to get that book written as long as you stick with it!