Thursday, March 3, 2011

Finding Time To Write- With A Baby

How do you find the time to write?

After questions of sleep habits, and diaper bags, its the question I'm asked most frequently since between sleep deprivation, pureeing baby food, and the numerous other seemingly endless tasks that can quickly eat away at a day, many new mothers find their writing taking a back burner to all the other things that must be done.

 Yet, since his birth, I finalized a manuscript, wrote a second one [which I am in the process of editing] and blog several days a week. Writing is my release, my escape- it is frankly, necessary. So how do I manage to create the time and space to ensure I write? These are five tips that worked for me which I share in the hopes they may be of benefit for you:
  1. Write when your child is sleeping. The laundry, the dishes, the phone calls to return; these are all different forces that will beckon you when you see your beloved baby dozing away. A chance to catch up on all that remains undone. If you value your writing- let all that go- sit down- and write. A friend shared that she tried this and completed a short story while caring for a young baby. Now that my son's naps are less lengthy and frequent, I  set aside one hour after he sleeps for the night to find a quiet space and write. Following this simple rule, I completed the first draft to my current project in six weeks.
  2. Allow for a 'less than Martha Stewart' home. As I write this, there is dust gathering on the nightstand, sheets not perfectly folded, and toys scattered across the living room. While I do make sure the floors are swept, and the counters cleaned- I know I must accept my home is a living organism in which there will always be something to upkeep, fix, or dust, and if I spend my time devoted to perfecting it, my writing will suffer. I accept that while my son is young, this house will never be a Martha Stewart showroom, but if I want to find time to write I have to let go of perfection. 
  3. Get help- and then- get out: Even if I ask my husband to watch my son while I write upstairs in the guest room, I never succeed. I'll hear a cry- or a giggle- and and instantly hit the stairs to see what the problem is, or the fun I'm missing out on. Instead, I now hand over my son and head to a coffee shop where I won't be distracted by wanting to help when I know my son is already in capable hands.
  4. Make the most of the time you can't get out: Some days- and weeks- when you simply can't sneak away to a coffee shop and the nightly writing isn't enough- don't be afraid to take advantage of snippets of time here and there. The biggest hindrance for most people who feel they have a novel in them, but can't seem to complete it, is the illusion that there needs to be a wide expanse of time within which to write- no. The ten minutes you're waiting for the baby carrots to steam while your little one is distracted by a plastic bowl? Write. The five minutes your baby is sitting on the high chair giggling at his finger food? Write. It all adds up.
  5. Use what you have at the time. I write on my laptop. In my moleskine journal. On the notepad I scratch out my grocery list. Behind envelopes that carried bills and credit card offers. Because I am not always right next to a computer- or easily accessible one- when an idea hits- I use what I have and I write. There's always time to record your thoughts permanently later- but I take advantage of the material around me when I have an idea that I don't want to lose.
Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you- Zadie Smith

 [Photo Image Source: Here]


  1. I love the way you approach this, Aisha. It is great that you have made this a priority, and it just speaks to how much you know that this is your passion and your talent. Not everyone is so lucky -- not sure many people feel very strongly about their career/field/hobby :)

    I agree that one should take the help one can get! Husband, mom, mother-in-law, anyone!! Pretty soon after we buy and download your book, you can even splurge for that cleaning lady you've always wanted to get -- then you can have a third book AND a Martha Stewart home! Am really looking forward to reading your finished product...great job on the blog!

  2. Hajar- aw thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting such awesome words of support- they mean more than you know! :)

  3. You are an inspiration. And I am guilty of #1. He naps once for 40 minutes and I scurry around doing chores around the house instead of writing.

    Thought you'd enjoy this tweet from one of my favorite philosophers:

    @alaindebotton Alain de Botton
    Some bits of books take an age to compose, others trip out, readers are never any the wiser. Babies are born between paragraphs.
    9 Feb

    Nice Zadie Smith quote ;)


  4. Fantastic. Love the blog and love the fact you have them linked, because they do balance each other. If you weren't agented, a separate writing blog wouldn't be so important, but right now is exactly the right time to establish your writerly persona. Great blogpost! Love the Zadie smith and Alain de Botton quote above.

  5. I LOVE that quote Baraka- its true sometimes I feel guilty at the hodge podge way my writing all comes together- but the reader doesn't know- they see the final fruit of my labor. Thanks for sharing that!

    Anne, thanks so much!!! I appreciate your advice about all of this- it was pivotal in deciding to take the plunge and set up a separate writing spot- I feel nervous about it since I already blog regularly at my initial home, but I'm glad that I have a space I can write about writing too now. Thanks again for your advice on all matters blogging :)

  6. "babies are born between paragraphs" - I love that sentence! And they learn to crawl and roll over and eat solid food in there, too.

    I love your new blog - you're an inspiration in more than one way! I'm trying to decide whether to rejoin the fantasy/SF crowd over at LiveJournal or strike out on my own - real name! - writing blog. I think it might help me focus if I mentally make the writing as much of a priority as I did the baby-stuff...

  7. Thanks Susan. You definitely need to strike out on your own with a blog with your name- AND rejoin the fantasy/SF crowd by interacting at Live Journal but sticking to your own name. I wanted to save my name's dot com because I wanted to give myself a measure of faith in myself that one day I will use this place to tout my book tours and publication information :) In the meantime I share the road to that journey. Sarah Hockler [who I've added as a bookmark to the right] did that- and is now working on her second book slated for publication :) Sometimes they say if you send out the good vibes to the universe- they will shower you back- I hope so :)

  8. I especially love #3 - as a fellow mom, you are SO RIGHT! If my son isn't asleep, there's no hope of me doing anything, even when I try to lock myself away....the mommy guilt is too much. I might just try your coffee shop tip! ;)

  9. I'm glad this was helpful to you Kristi- and I personally think coffee shops and some time and space to yourself are always good writing or not!

  10. Congratulations on finding your life balance. That Zadie Smith quote really ties it together, the need for both space and time. As the father of two teenagers, I can attest the time distractions will change -- bring that moleskine journal to his soccer games -- but you've already learned the tools you'll need.


  11. Thanks Patrick- and I appreciate the reminder that the busyness of today will pretty much continue with a child, though taking different forms as he grows up. Better stock up on them moleskines! :)

  12. Thanks for this post! I am not a mother yet, however I'm getting married this summer, and my fiance and I hope to start a family in the not so distant future. :)

  13. I'm glad this was helpful for you Octoberrose, having a kid changes the way one writes, for sure!!

  14. What an inspiration you are! I don't have children but finding enough time to write is something I must make a point to keep a priority. There are so many other things to push us away from writing. I am truly humbled by your commitment!

  15. Aw Catherine you're making me blush :) Seriously. Thanks for your encouragement- in some ways having a baby has focused my writing even more, whereas before I thought "I can write whenver" and then spend an entire doing everything but, now because my time is so limited I make the time I can write- really count!