Okay, so my headline is somewhat misleading. If you are attempting to write more than the occasional thank you note or note to the teacher about how very disappointed you were to learn of your normally charming daughter, Jenny’s decision to cut friend Mary’s hair in class, or why the teacher shouldn’t be alarmed when your son, Danny demands an extra seat at his desk for his imaginary friend, Mr. Hinklesworth, chances are your mind is already a little. . .well. . .off.
But according to my headline analyzer, “How to write with kids under 10 without losing more of your mind,” was considered too wordy.
1) Set boundaries
Set aside a little place in your world where you can go where you write uninterrupted. It is best if the only way to enter this place is by passing through a mystic portal accessed only by answering a series of three challenging questions administered by increasingly menacing figures, but I suppose any office, bedroom, or garden retreat or closet nook can do too. Just make sure that everyone knows that when mommy or daddy go to write they have effectively traveled to China (unless you already live in China in which case Kansas might do).
2) Actually enforce those boundaries
Children can sense when adults want to do something that doesn’t involve them and it drives them mad. The little buggers will let loose a type of wall piercing shriek the likes of which the Department of Defense would pay billions to develop. Fight the urge to leave your writing sanctuary with every ounce of willpower you possess. You are supposed to be in China/Kansas, remember. Besides, it can’t be all that bad. As long as they are screaming, at least you know they are still breathing, right?
3) Schedule your writing in realistic chunks that fit your lifestyle
Yeah, who am I kidding in that last tip? No mind can withstand more than a minute or two of that sort of mental assault before caving. But once you leave your sanctuary, it unlikely your little
hellions cherubs will allow you go back anytime soon, so you might as well plan accordingly. If you thrive on two to three hours sleep, writing in the early morning or late at night may work for you, but for those of us who require a few more REM cycles, it is easier to break up a day’s writing goal into a few fifteen to thirty minute sessions per day and can be an absolute sanity saver. Another blogger, Sacha Black, introduced me to this tip, referring to these micro sessions as writing sprints. She has written up a helpful piece to help you determine what size sprint is best for you.
4) Cut your cable
Better yet, turn the TV off altogether, but if you are like me and still occasionally need to veg out, do it smart. While the EU limits the length of commercial interruptions to no more than twelve minutes per hour of programming in the US, commercials can make up about 30% or more of air time. As much as it pained me at first, I’ve stopped watching live TV. Thanks to streaming without commercials, I can watch my favorite hour-long show in forty-five minutes. (It’s magic!) I now have an extra fifteen minutes to write if I so choose. Sure, it means putting up with some delayed gratification and extra heavy spoiler evasion, but we all must make sacrifices for our art.
5) Keep your deadlines long and your notes close
Even with the best of intentions, you aren’t going to be able to hit your goal every day, even with micro-sessions. You’ll have summer break or have to deal with yet another round of the bug that’s so fun to share that everyone in the family gets a turn. These things happen. The thing to keep in mind is unless you were offered a contract, the only one who cares about your deadline is you (yes, I know – I have a hard time accepting this too. I am all twitchy just to write it). Sure you might disappoint a few fans by failing to deliver as quickly as they would like (cough. . .cough. . . George R. R. Martin, I am looking at you), but they aren’t exactly lighting up your phone with offers to babysit (for free) so that you can write in peace, now are they?
6) Back-up everything!
Say you do all of the above. The children are blissfully asleep. Even better, they’d gone down with hardly a fight. Your partner is off taking a run (or doing whatever it is he or she does when you go all writerly on them). The house is wonderfully quiet as you revise the third draft of your latest novel. Only a few more chapters to go. You are in the zone. Suddenly the cursor on your screen moves and an ‘a’ you know you didn’t type appears on the page. Then another. And another. Suddenly there is a whole line of ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas’. Panicked, you bang on the ESC key. The cursor blinks at you as if it is not only aware of your fright, it is amused. Then the whole room is blanketed in a bright blue light coming from your screen.
You feel like Darth Vader just told you he was your father. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Sounds horrible? Yes. It. Was. I was able to recover my file. That time. But thanks to the school system exposing the young to computer skills at a young age, I can no longer trust that my children won’t download a virus or click on a ransomware link. Heck, I can barely trust myself not to do that.
7) Remember why you started in the first place
Were you doing it for the money? The fame? The accolades? (If so, I’d love to see your marketing plan. Really – I would! Please contact me). Occasionally take a step back so that you can see how far you’ve already come. You can do this.