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:~: Sunday, March 12, 2006 :~:


I have three children, affectionately known as The Gremlins. You remember that 80's movie, right? Those cute little fuzzy creatures that looked so adorable, but turned into evil little monsters when they got wet? Ah, those are my kids. I love them dearly, but they have several sides.

Being the successful struggling writer that I am, my days are centered around my Gremlins. The oldest - who just turned seven - is in school full time, loves anything art-related, and is developing her own unique attitude (a bit early, I think, but then she's always done things early). The middle Gremlin goes to preschool two mornings a week (not long enough in my book) and loves some new show on Nick Jr. called Wonder Pets. (Um . . . don't ask. The show centers around what I think is a guinea pig that flies around rescuing other animals. Just forget the fact guinea pigs don't fly. We won't even go there. Friday's episode was about a cow stuck in a tree. How on earth does a cow get stuck in a tree???? And what the heck is a flying guinea pig going to do about it??? As much as I want to question the believability of this show, I don't argue with him about this because when he watches it I get thirty minutes of quiet time. And his science-teacher mama will set him straight about all this at a later date.) Did I mention he bounces off the walls? Yep. Definitely a middle Gremlin like his mother. And then there's the youngest Gremlin, a mere thirteen months, who likes just about everything and anything he shouldn't have. Of particular interest to him at this point in time are the kitchen cupboards - which he enjoys emptying - and my laptop cord - which he's always trying to eat. Go figure.

When I quit teaching three years ago to stay home, I *foolishly* thought taking care of the Gremlins would be a piece of cake. I mean, going from one hundred and fifty teenagers a day to three small kids was no contest. How hard could it be? Oh, I was so naive. It didn't take long for me to realize if I didn't do something creative with my brain, I was going to end up in a loony bin. Enter writing.

A lot of writers got their start this same exact way, so I feel I'm in good company. I also know reaching my goal of publication (Okay, that's not my real goal. Being a successful continuously published author is my goal.), is doable even in my situation. It's all about budgeting my time, going after what's really important and following through on my dreams.

Not exactly an easy thing to do when you have small kids, but just like everything else in our lives, if we want something strong enough, we figure out ways to make it work. For me, I manage to get most of my writing done in the evenings after the Gremlins go to bed. You'll hear writers say over and over that they gave up TV to write. I've done that. Most nights I sit in the living room with my laptop and work while the DH watches TV in the other room. Occasionally I'll sit with him if I'm researching or blogging or checking email, but for the most part I have to have a little quiet to be productive.

I'm not productive during the day. If I need to edit or print or crit chapters for my CPs, I can usually do that during the day when I have a free moment. But I can't write. I need a good block of quiet to get any serious writing done, and that just doesn't happen with my Gremlins. And now that the youngest is mobile and in to everything, even my occasional fifteen-minute quiet time is limited.

I also have to have at least thirty minutes of down time to get "into" my story again. To feel the flow and move forward. A lot of times I do that by playing solitaire on the computer after the kids go to bed, IMing with a CP or reading blogs. I can't just jump from chaos to writing like a lot of other people.

On an average writing day, I get about ten pages written, another twenty or so edited. Some days I can pump out twenty pages of new stuff. Other days writing just two pages is like pulling teeth. I stopped making daily page goals for myself a long time ago because I realized the muse flows when it flows and nothing I do or don't do changes that. I'm constantly working through my plot in my head as I'm going about my day, so generally by the time the Gremlins are all in bed, I can move forward on the WIP. But if I can't, I admit that and throw in the towel for the night. Forcing myself to write has never resulted in anything good. (And it usually results in lots and lots of cutting, hacking, slicing and eyebrow pulling.)

I have fantasies about what my writing life will be like as the Gremlins get older. Hours of uninterrupted writing time when they're all in school. I know that probably won't happen, and that my life will be filled with constant distractions - from sick kids to sporting events to volunteer work and field trips. The nice part about what I do is that I can do it at any hour of the day, and I can adapt my schedule to fit my goals. And the very best part about it is I get to be with my Gremlins and watch them grow up while I'm going after my dream.

It's a pretty cool thing to be a writer, even if you do have lots of little Gremlins running around wreaking havoc like me.

What kind of writing schedule do you keep? How do you stay focused with constant distractions? And if you have (had) young kids, how do (did) you make it through?


Blogger Amie Stuart said...

>>I have fantasies about what my writing life will be like as the Gremlins get older.

Elizabeth mine are 10 and 12 and I fantasize about what my writing life will be like when they're older. When they were 7 and 9 honestly it was easier. Somehow or another they've gotten more demanding and my production has steadily decreased. I don't get it.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Ditto what Cece said (mine are 11 and 8) -- somehow, they make bigger messes, the demands on your time are different but the same.

You *are* productive, girl, despite the distractions, and that's what counts. I *know* you're going to make it.

Great post!

2:59 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Okay, I third that motion. Mine are 9 and 13 and I swear they just keep getting harder and harder in different ways. (eye roll) Everyone tells you to enjoy it because the time flies...but that's only AFTER they're gone, when you're looking in the past. It doesn't fly when you're living with them. :-)

8:00 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Argh. You girls are shattering my fantasies!

LOL. Reality is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. So when IS the magic age? 7-9????

Sounds like there will always be struggles when you are a writer with kids. Good thing we're all so damn flexible.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I think you have to teach them to respect your writing time. I don't know HOW to do that, but it sounds good in theory. LOL

I thought a bigger house with TV's in their rooms would help. I was wrong. They watch MY TV in the living room *sigh* which backs up to my bedroom. But anyway we're working on it.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

When my kids were small, I volunteered at the school and they were all in activities all the way through school. You make your volunteering fit around your writing. Pick the part of the day which works best for you - morning or afternoon when they are all in school. Take 2-3 hours which ever works and write. Forget the laundry, forget the dirty house, forget the phone. WRITE.

Then when you are carpooling kids to activities, have a notebook to jot down ideas or take along stuff to edit while you are waiting.

AND- make sure your kids and DH understand how much the writing means to you. Tell them about dreams and this is your dream. It wasn't until I couldn't write due to my mom's illness that my husband understood - writing keeps me sane. Now if I get cranky or crazy, he says "Go write".

If you want to be successful you have to set guidelines for yourself and your family. And stick to them.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Paty. You have a smart DH.

And Cece, funny how that happens, huh? The kids always want to be where we are. Probably why I can't get anything done until they're sound asleep.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Allison Brennan said...

I love the pictures of your gremlins :) . . .

There is no magic age until they are no longer living under your roof. Then you can worry more.

I'm just looking forward to when ALL of them are in school. Then I might have a few hours . . .

10:21 PM  

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