Friday, June 19, 2015

Writing with Kids (and Other Distractions). Help??

Posted by: Jax Garren
We have children! Again. My husband and I fostered two girls a couple years ago, and they're unexpectedly back in our lives for at least the next few weeks. We're thrilled to see them again and have them in our house--they are awesome young women, ages seven and (almost) ten and the four of us make a rockin' family, if I do say so myself. But we hadn't planned for them to be here and don't know how long they're staying.  We've planned no summer camps. Created no padded budget for food or other kid activities. Acquired no childcare on the two days a week I work outside the house (luckily one day is on the weekend when my husband can watch them).

Also, I have no plan for how I'm going to get a book to my editor by July 15 with two children underfoot and no school or other place to occupy their time while I write. What's an author to do? I'd like to give you a list right here of wonderful suggestions, except I'm actually asking. I just acquired two children a week and a half ago unexpectedly. Really. How do I write a book?

Does anyone else work from home? What household rules and structure do you put in place to keep you going while the kids are home? Do you scrimp and save for camps? Do you banish them outdoors? Do you let them watch more TV? I'd love to hear any and everyone's suggestions for how to survive summer vacation with your job (and sanity) intact. Extra bonus points if anyone's got suggestions for summer education plans. I think our hooligans are a bit behind in their schooling, and I'd like to help them catch up. But mostly, this is about me. And my readers. And the next book.


  1. So happy for you!

    I do write from home and am faced with this every summer. My two older boys mostly amuse themselves, but my daughter is only seven and requires a certain amount of attention.

    Before kids I had a Sacred Writing Time from 8-11pm. Now I write between the cracks. This means, unless the kids are sleeping, giving up on the idea of an office with a shut door. I type on a laptop on the dining table. Sometimes my daughter colors at the same table with me, sometimes she plays with her Barbies elsewhere (and frequently runs up and updates me on what those silly dolls are up to now). I write 100-200 words between interacting with her. (I once wrote 300 words while we took turns playing Angry Birds on the tablet). You can train yourself to write this way.

    For those times when you must get a scene down, there's TV/movies or telling the child to go play outside for awhile--my mother's favourite method.

    For education stuff I do have one trick. Bedtime is at 9 pm--but the kids can stay up half an hour later if they spend it quietly reading. (I also read to them every night)

    Hope that helps!

    1. Ha! The frequent run ups to tell me what the dolls are doing sounds sooooo familiar. :) I have a hard time sometimes because I don't know what's typical age-appropriate behavior and what's a product of the unstable life they've led. It's good to hear that a 7yo with a need for feedback every few minutes is on par! :) I like the up late reading idea. My mom used to do something similar with me. They share a room; I suppose I could get them book lights in case one or the other wanted to stay up later.

      The 300 words during Angry Birds is hilarious! :) I need to get better at short term attention chunks.

  2. Hooray for unexpected blessings! I am happy for the girls and for you.

    I echo Nicole's suggestions. I do all of my writing on a laptop so I can work in the kitchen, living room, or wherever. My boys love to make crafts, so I have a craft bin full of random supplies: paper, markers, pipe cleaners, stickers, paint, pom poms, etc. They sit at the table and craft while I write. Sometimes, they read or play games with each other.

    During the hottest part of the day, we have quiet time. The boys stay in their room on their beds and read for an hour. I almost always use this time to write. Because the summers are so hot, we do our together activities in the morning and during lunch. Afternoons are inside activities that they can do on their own, watch a movie, play games, craft, etc.

    The major thing for me after kids was changing the way I defined writing time. I used to need large chunks of hours to write and those just do not exist anymore in my life. Now, I write when I can. If I have 20 minutes, I write. I get up early. I stay up late. My husband and I have "computer nights" where he plays video games and I write after the kids go to bed.

    Be creative and flexible. Don't despair. It can be done.

    Good luck.

    1. Craft bin is a great idea. My girls love art projects, too. I've been trying to start a quiet time. I need to keep working toward that! I'd like to establish the sort of regularity you describe here. I definitely think we need more of a daily pattern. I got so thrown by having them suddenly show up that I hadn't prepared a plan for structuring our days. Thanks for the advice and the luck. :) I'm so happy to have them, but also confused and trying to rein in my own anger over what's been going on that led to them being here (again). I know a lot of kids grow up under circumstances other than what they deserve, but seeing it up close like this just makes me sick. :( Anyway. Thanks for the advice and the luck! We can all use as much of both as we can get! ;)

  3. I'm happy the girls are with you again. It's really hard to have set routines in the summer. I'm just going to echo what everyone else said about writing in short sprints and being flexible. Also, if there are any neighborhood kids around their age, you should introduce them. The biggest chunks of free time I have is when the kids are playing with other kids, even when they're at our house. I've heard really great things about Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k book about writing more efficiently. Haven't read it yet but I plan to. Good luck!


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