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When Your Schedule Changes And Writing Suffers

For four years, I was a stay-at-home-mom. Then, this summer, I started working full time. I still think being a stay-at-home-mom is one of the toughest--and, of course, most rewarding--jobs there is, but my time was more flexible then than it is now*.

And in those first couple months after the change, I thought, How do people even do this? My time management had to change, enormously. I felt like my writing time had been cut to nothing. It was very frustrating to me to have my whole day spoken for, to not be able to take a moment when I felt inspired to go write what I wanted.

But I got it figured out, mostly, and I thought that maybe it would be a worthwhile post to share some of the things I did to make my schedule work for myself.

1. I started writing during my lunches. This was actually a more recent thing, but one of the most helpful changes I've made for myself, I think. I am sure that not all workplaces are as scheduled as mine, but I have two ten-minute breaks during the day, and a half-hour lunch. And during them, most days, I sit at a corner table in the cafeteria and write. I've found that I can pretty well tune out the background noise, and without the internet or other distractions of my house, I'm very focused. In fact, I think I finally understand why so many people go to cafes to write. It's probably the same principle.

2. I cut out activities and TV shows I don't truly enjoy. This probably sounds really obvious. But you know how there's always that show, or couple of shows, that you keep watching because you loved it so much and you just cannot let it go because even though most of the time it bores you to death, every now and then it has a glimmer of that old charm and lures you back in? I got rid of those last lingerers, finally. If I'm not excited to watch it each week, I don't watch it, simple as that. It's a bad use of my half hour--or hour--otherwise. And I did the same with other things, like Farmville on Facebook, which took up a shameful amount of my time and which had started to feel like a chore rather than something fun and cute to do with a few free minutes. I considered cutting cleaning and dishwashing as well, but unfortunately I think those things are kind of non-optional.

3. I altered my self-expectations. There is only so much a person can expect of themselves. I try to write every night because it is the thing I love doing the most, but at least once a week there's a night where this just isn't going to happen, and I've made myself be okay with that.

Have any of you experienced huge changes in your writing schedules like this? I mean, there are so many ways your schedule could change--not working to working, working to not working, pregnancy, change in work schedule, the list goes on. What did you do to ensure you still had time to write your beloved novels, while not forgetting your other obligations? I'd love to hear!

*this is obviously not a sweeping statement about stay-at-home-moms and their time. I am speaking only from experience here.
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. I've always had to squeeze in writing with a demanding full-time job and doing everything at home and for my daughter, who is a swimmer. I do try to write for part of my lunch break. I walk for exercise the rest of it. And I get up early and try to write some then too as by night, I'm usually too tired. And I have a popular blog that takes up a lot of writing time.

    To be a writer too, I have to be productive 99% of the time. I watch very little TV most of the time and read before bed instead.

    I have had to lower expectations and accept until my daughter graduates from high school in two years that my writing will be slow. I go through periods where I blog but don't write. After the new year, I'm going to try to commit to work on writing or researching agents to query at least 10 minutes a day most days. That I can commit to and I know will result in me working even more on writing. Hope this helps and Happy Holidays!

  2. Always during lunch or break. But right now I'm taking a break, family first. once things get under control I'll take up that laptop again. Best of luck-

  3. Pen and Ink includes two working mothers and their time is stretched so thin. I'm awed any any writing they get done. Lupe and I have time constrainsts, but not as severe as a working moms. You are writing and you still manage a blog post. That's great.

  4. This makes me wish I had a lunch break! Oh the life of a grad student. It seems like I never get to stop working, which makes writing hard at times, but I am also able to control my schedule more than most, so I'm lucky that way. The most difficult part isn't the time though, as the ability to switch off my brain from work, considering I still have to keep thinking and working on it when I get home at the end of the day.

  5. Two years ago a got a great break (literally) when, playing soccer, I broke my elbow. Not a bad fracture, but it meant I could not work out at the gym before work three days a week like I had been doing for a while. So, instead of getting to the gym at 7 a.m. before heading to work at 8:30, I went to the Starbucks across the street during that time. Wrote an entire novel in those sessions (plus a few airplane stints on business trips).

    Then my elbow healed, and I had to decide how I would split my time. A year later, I'm still conflicted every day. Do I bring my gym gear or my writing gear when I leave the house at 6 a.m.? Since I work full time and coach my son's soccer team and help out with scouts, there's not a lot of other time for me. During NaNo, it was writing every day. Since NaNo, it's 50-50. Today was a writing day.

    (And I agree that SAHM is one of the hardest jobs. Mostly because when your workday is over, your second workday is just beginning, and when you go on vacation, you take your work with you.)

  6. When I moved jobs my writing schedule too a huge hit. I used to work with fewer people and had my own office and such, so it was much easier to sit down and scratch out a few paragraphs throughout a slow day, and to get a great deal of work done during lunch. Now my job is much busier than I'm used to, so there's little down time during the day. And I actually have friends that I have lunch with every day.

    I still carve out half an hour during lunch to write, but I need to be more focused on getting a daily schedule down. Thanks for the suggestions!!!


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