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How did you write while having small children?

March 2011

I have a contract. I have a fast-approaching deadline. I have a manuscript that needs revision. I now need to hear from people who have successfully written your book while having small children (I have two under 5; still some night wake ups etc.). Mine is an academic book, but that's not so much the point. What I'd love to hear are stories of inspiration (I did it!); tips and strategies for getting a book done amidst the demands of parenting and working full time; any other words of wisdom that could help me on the road to publication. I have writing time carved out in my work schedule, but there always seem to be other work demands that take precedent. I have a strategy of going away for writing retreats that has been successful in the past for writing projects, and that I will be using for this. I just need some serious inspiration, as I am feeling completely overwhelmed not just by the thought of bringing it all together for the book, but doing so as a tired, stretched, still nursing, often cranky mama who has little time around the edges or flexibility. I want the impact on my children and family to be minimal, but already feel the strain of my lack of presence on my relationship with my oldest child (perhaps also a function of the 1 yr old). Inspiration, please!

It can be done. I've written seventeen books since my first baby was born 14 years ago. The going-away model never worked for me, partly because I have a disability that necessitates a finicky hardware setup, but also because the avalanche of obligation and guilt upon return made it more trouble than it was worth. What I've learned to do over the years is use all that weird parenting time where your presence but not your entire mind is required. While I was sitting on the rim of the sandbox, I was planning what I was going to write next; sometimes I wrote sentences in my head. This makes the pickup on your next work-time way faster. Try to stop working at a point where you know what you're about to write. Essentially, you cannot have a divided self--you've got to want to work when you finally get into the office. Regarding the guilty feeling about being disconnected from your child: every parent I know feels that way sometimes. No one is 100% present all the time. It has more to do with the fact that you're a grownup and your baby is a baby than it does with writing. Good luck. Annie