How to Find Time to Write When You’re a Parent
You want to write. Your newest idea or draft has been sitting there for days, accumulating dust and regret. You’re wondering how to find time to write.
You have to write.
But you also have a family. The kids need picked up, dinner needs cooking, and that living room isn’t cleaning itself. Your spouse has an event tonight (that you forgot you agreed to go to), and don’t forget the children need help with their ever-increasing load of homework.
How can you ever hope to write a book and be a parent at the same time?
Is it hopeless? Or is there a way to pull it off?
The Real Meaning of “Busy”
The problem, of course, is that being a parent means you’re busier than you’ve ever been.
Before I became a parent, I had no idea what “busy” truly meant. Now that I’m daddy to a four year-old girl and a newborn boy, things are much, much different. There’s busy, and then there’s Parent Busy.
Parent Busy means time is your most precious resource. If you waste time, it’s like a domino knocking over every part of your life.
Parent Busy means you’re under constant pressure. Failure seems like it will surely result in a maimed child or an angry creditor cutting the power lines.
And Parent Busy means you’re exhausted in a way that no two-week vacation could ever heal. You are so sleep-deprived that the universe should give you a medal for remembering to wash your hair.
All this being said, you’re still a writer, driven to the page by purpose and passion. Somehow, you’ve got to find the time and the energy to get the words out.
Here’s something that might help.
How to Find Time to When You’re a Parent: 4 Strategies
I can’t promise that all of these ideas will work for you in your specific situation. Every family, and family member, is different. You’ll have to try things and see what sticks.
But hopefully one or more of these four suggestions will give you the time, space, and energy to confront the blank page and write something awesome. Wondering how to find time to write when your family needs you in so many other ways? Try these.
1. Communicate Your Need to Write
Your love of writing can’t be an embarrassing secret. It needs to be public knowledge and family priority.
In the same way that your partner and children have needs, you have them too, and deserve to have them respected. Parents often get swallowed up in the societal expectation to sacrifice unceasingly for their children.
Yet this is a damaging decision, and will train your loved ones to depend on you, rather than growing in healthy independence.
Without being selfish, but with gentle confidence, assert that writing is a necessary part of your life and that you need some time to do it. Start a conversation in which your needs, and theirs, are equal parts of the family schedule and set of priorities.
2. Make Small Sacrifices to Create Time
When my first child was born, I was shocked by how much time was no longer mine to waste. With this in mind, it may seem ridiculous to suggest that a parent needs to sacrifice even more in order to find writing time.
Yet much of my day is still wasted, even now that I have an additional child. During lulls in my workday, I browse the internet and check social media. I could easily be outlining or even drafting small bits of writing during this time. Of course this varies from job to job, but I challenge you to consider what moments in your daily routine are wasted on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, that could be invested in your writing.
Much of my evening is wasted, too, because I have a foolish vision of “relaxation.” As a 34-year-old man, I’ve come to believe that video games, football, and YouTube lead to relaxation. Yet during these activities I find myself restless, frustrated that I’m not doing what I truly love.
It’s only once I’ve brewed a fresh pot of coffee, forced myself to sit at my workstation, and begun to tackle a specific goal that I not only feel relaxed, but reinvigorated.
And that’s what we need more than anything: Restoration. Your writing can, and should, be a part of what fills you back up after doing so much for everyone else.
3. Bring Zero Rules to Your Writing
Your life is filled with “rules.”
Show up on time for car line. Make sure the car seat is on the passenger side. Bring a dish to share to the social. Wear red for that charity thing.
The last thing you should bring into your sacred writing time is another rule.
Yet that’s exactly what we do. Since our writing time is so rare and special, we want it to be perfect.
But perfection is a lie and the rules we attempt to follow to reach it are nothing but shackles.
Write 1,000 words. Don’t use adverbs. Get the scene right the first time. Stop using “said” all the time.
These rules may seem important, but the only thing they’re going to do is stop you from writing. It is infinitely better to write a ton of crap than to write nothing at all. You can work with crap. You can edit crap, rewrite crap, and daydream all day long about how to turn crap into gold.
You can’t do anything with nothing.
So don’t bring any rules. They’ll only enslave you and poison your already endangered writing time.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Step Away
This may seem strange or counterintuitive, but I’m trusting my gut on this one: Don’t be afraid to step away from your writing when your family needs you.
Yes, they need to respect your writing time. Yes, their problems can and should usually wait. Yes, this time is sacred.
But there will be moments when not stepping away will feel like betrayal. There will be times when ignoring your family for the sake of writing becomes immoral, or even sinful. In the moment you’ll know it, and then you’ll be faced with a crisis.
I can’t stop writing. This is the only time I’ll get.
I know that feeling. That’s why I’m writing about this right now. I’m constantly interrupted, constantly threatened with the thought that I won’t make a deadline or I won’t achieve one of my writing goals.
And sometimes, I have to ask my wife for a few more minutes, or remind my daughter that Daddy is working, but he’d love to play soon.
But I also am growing in my trust. I don’t know how things will go in the future. I don’t know that I’ll “never” get to write again, or that I’ll absolutely miss a deadline. It’s impossible to see the future.
Sometimes I have to trust that I’ll get that time back and step away.
And I’ve never regretted it.
Let Your Family Fuel Your Writing
The other day my daughter had been home all day while my heroic wife took care of our newborn boy, who is struggling with all the things common to fussy, uncomfortable three-week-old babies. I was busy working on something important, and my daughter repeatedly approached me and said, “Daddy, will you play with me?”
Two times I sadly told her “No, I can’t right now,” and she walked away and continued to play by herself.
But she’s persistent. Persistent in believing her daddy loves her, and persistent in believing that playing with me is better than playing without me.
“Daddy, will you play with me now?”
At that moment I took a deep breath, looked down at my work, and said something to myself.
You’ll be fine.
I turned to my little girl, smiled, and said, “Of course I’ll play with you now.”
I’m blessed to have a family that understands my need to write (Except the newborn . . . he’s pretty disagreeable about it, actually . . .). And I’ve taken steps to earn their understanding by making some sacrifices and avoiding anxiety-inducing rules that make my writing time a burden for me and for them.
Your story, I’m sure, has some similarities and a lot of differences. What I’ve written may work for you, and it may not. You no doubt have strategies that have worked for you and your family that I could never think of. And you certainly face challenges that I don’t, and probably never will.
I want to leave you with both an optimistic and realistic taste in your mouth. No situation is perfect. But no situation is hopeless. There has to be a healthy blend of faith and strategy to make the writing life work as a busy parent.
Strategies like these are a great place to start, and it is my sincerest hope that they work for you as well as they’ve worked for me.
Your writing is important. It is a huge part of your life, and your family’s life. Let your family fuel you. Let them be the reason your writing soars. Let them in, even as cheerleaders.
Yes, you’re Parent Busy.
But you’re a parent with stories to tell. And this world needs them more than ever.
Do you have tips for how to find time to write? How do you create productive writing time in the midst of your life’s hectic bustle? Let us know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to write a story about a parent. Focus especially on the third tip: bring no rules to your writing. Just write, and don’t worry about whether you’re getting it “right” or not.
When you’re done, share your writing in the comments section, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!