Eighteen months ago, my husband and I welcomed a baby boy into the world. He’s awesome and adorable and has made my life completely explode with happiness. He’s also…ALWAYS. GOING. From the day he was first born until now, this child of mine has never been able to sit still.
Can I be honest with you? Two weeks into having this kid, I was convinced I would never write again. By that point, I already had my own freelance editorial business and was in the process of growing it to include other fabulous editors. And while I was on “maternity leave,” I could barely conceive of finding time to go back to that job full time, let alone also find time to write.
So I did what any good editor does. I reached out to my community, and my community answered my call. I hired a wonderful freelance editor to act as an author coach and keep me accountable for monthly pages, and I reached out to other badass mama author-types (like Kim Chance and Katharyn Blair) and asked them, somewhat desperately, THE question: how do you do it?
The answer: you just do. You make time, and you do it.
And let me tell you, my uptight, type-A, list-making brain was not a fan of this answer. It was vague. It contained no boxes to check. There were no…steps to color code. But therein lay the problem: I would never again (or at least, not for many, many years) have the perfect workspace, the perfect up-to-date playlist, the perfect time of day to write. I would have to write when my son was napping, because after he went to bed was for editorial work. Which meant writing without first doing the dishes, or answering emails, or after doing an hour of research on what corsets were made of. I would have to write when I could hogtie an hour down and make it mine, all mine.
With that pretty metaphor, I give you some tips on how to make the most of short amount of time to get words down:
1. Don’t go down the research rabbit hole. You know what I’m talking about. You go to look up the climate in Bucharest, Romania in mid-July and three hours later, you can barely remember your name.
Brackets are your friend, friend. [insert "duh" noise here]
2. Don’t look at your phone. Or your email. Or social media. Something will always lure you in. And even if it only happens for five minutes, all you need is for it to happen a few times and that’s a big chunk of your writing time, gone. If you can help it, turn your wifi off completely.
3. Don’t go back and revise. This was a tough one for me! Have I mentioned I’m an editor?! But there’s no faster way to not get new words down than spending thirty minutes polishing words you’ve already written. Go back and do a quick read of your last five pages, max, to re-familiarize yourself with where you are and get in the right frame of mine—but no stopping allowed.
4. Don’t let your outline stall you out. If you’re an outliner like me, sometimes you spend more time thinking about how to make your words fit your outline than actually writing. But the work will be more authentic, and the words will flow faster, if you use your outline as a loose guideline rather than a mandate. Allow your words to wander; it will make them happy.
5. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, the baby wakes up thirty minutes into the nap and decides it’s time to samba just when you’ve found your groove. And inwardly, you weep for the loss that was surely the most brilliant creative hour in your literary career. But be kind to yourself—you hit your stride once; you’ll hit it again. Good thing that baby’s cute.
Kate is a full-time freelance editor and writer who writes at least five days a week from 11:30-1 PM. Unless her toddler wakes up to samba. Kate is available for editing or author coaching, and especially loves helping busy people find their ideal writing routines. Find out more about Kate here.