Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Summer Writing

Summer is here! As I write this, I've been on summer vacation for (checks watch--remembers I don't have one and checks phone) 1.5 days!

As a teacher-writer-mother, I look forward to summertime all year for the control over my schedule and ability to focus more on my writing life instead of shoehorning it in around school demands. And I've made it! I'm a full time writer, for almost two months in a row.

As a 21st century woman though, I always want more out of my time than I can actually get, so here are my tips for managing a mother-writer summer schedule.

For context, my kids are currently 12 and 19, with the 19 year old living forty-five minutes away from home, near enough that I can see her often, and be there to help her when needed, but not part of my daily dinner plan.

1. Chunk your time: I'd love to have all day every day of summer for my writing life, but that's not realistic given the parameters of my life, so I just snag *part* of each day for writing.

I tend to think of my day in three chunks: morning, afternoon, evening. Because my tween will sleep as late as I let her, it generally goes: morning for me, afternoon for house/daughters, evening for family. This keeps things from bleeding into my writing time too much, but still leaves me pretty flexible during each chunk of day.

I get up when my husband gets up for work even though I could probably get away with sleeping later. I'm a total wimp about the heat, so I get outside for my exercise first: a walk or a run with my dog immediately before the summer sun is fully awake and trying to bake us alive. This has the added benefit of waking up my brain in a pleasant environment.

Then, I start all the appliances, so clean dishes and laundry (and sometimes even lunch: go rice cooker and instant pot!) happen while I'm not looking, and it's breakfast and writing time. I try to stop at lunch time.

Afternoons are for running errands and making sure the tween has some fun and doesn't turn into a total lump of lazy. Often I can write during this time as well, jotting down thoughts in the notes app on my phone and handling the social media commitment of a writing life during the waiting moments. If there's a playdate or mom couch time and my interaction level is lower, I steal that for writing, too.

Evenings are for managing home life aspects that require all of us (after the husband gets home from work) and for enjoying time together: games, movies, outings, etc. Sometimes I sneak extra writing time during this time, if there's dad-daughter time going on.

2. Make arrangements for a few ONLY writing days:

For me, that means sending the youngest away (camp, visiting Grandma, overnights at someone else's house, etc.) or sending me away (writing retreat!). I can usually only manage about two weeks of full time writing life across a summer, but they are heaven on earth when they come.

It requires being strict about protecting that time. If the youngest is at camp, I AM NOT filling that time up with errands, even pleasant ones like lunch with my sister. I grab those hours with both hands and hold on tight, refusing to let anything shy of an actual emergency wrest them from my grip.

I also have to be strict with myself about using the time well when I get it. I set priority lists of what to write in what order and am careful not to let myself fritter the time away on social media or writing the wrong things.

My rules for prioritization are: passion level, publication expectations, promises made, and watching out for burnout. Just like every other part of my life, choosing how to spend my writing time is a balancing act, too.

3. Planning ahead helps.

Generally, we plan and shop on Sunday for the entire upcoming week, making note of al the "extra" (not in the usual schedule) things we need/want to do, and making meal plans.

This really helps, because I don't have to spend time on Monday-Friday deciding on meals or shopping them. Those decisions have already been made; all I have to do is follow the plan. That frees up brain space for more fun things like deciding why my male lead's secret twin was a secret.

I plan ahead for my writing time as well, figuring out which day will be spent writing a blog post, which a short story, which focused on the current novel, which on promotion, and so on. I can't do all those things every day, and it helps me to compartmentalize them, promising each task its spotlight moment in turn.

After all this time, I'm good at figuring out what kind of writing I'll be able to do given the constraints of a day: how much time a row I can get, likelihood of interruption, need to devote extra time to other parts of life, etc.

So, there are my ideas for managing a writing life among the other demands I've taken on. How about you, kind readers? Any tips that work for you? How do you protect and arrange time for your creative endeavors?


  1. That's great to think of your day in chunks and devote one chunk to writing. Happy writing!

  2. I like the phrase "chunk your time." :)