Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating a Writing Environment

Tristi Pinkston

One of the most common questions I'm asked has to do with children and writing, most specifically, how to get your kids to let you write. This is a tricky one indeed, especially if writing is a new pursuit for you. It's difficult to add a new thing into the mix and get everyone on board with it.

My situation is a little unique. I had never intended to be a writing mommy, actually. I knew I'd write someday, but when I started my family, I figured I'd put off writing until my kids were grown. I didn't see a way to write and be a mom at the same time. Well, that changed for me in 1999, when my oldest was three and my second child was seven months. I had a dream that would become the basis for my first novel, Nothing to Regret, and I felt very strongly that I needed to write that book now. That's when the funky roller coaster that is my life began. I started out by writing during my baby's nap time. He'd sleep for around an hour and a half, so I'd get him put down, turn on Dragon Tales for my daughter, and then I'd write.

When he woke up, I'd shut everything back down, and that's what we did for a couple of months. But then that short writing session during the day stopped being enough. I'd been bitten by the writing bug, and I wanted more. You know how it is - you get on a roll and your characters are talking and you can't stop thinking about your book - that was me. So then I added a second writing slot in my day, which was after everyone else was in bed. But that brought about its own problems in that sometimes my daughter would wake up in the night, and I couldn't hear her from downstairs, which was where the computer was at the time. So we rearranged some things and put the computer in my bedroom, where I could hear her. Of course, that's also where my husband was asleep, so I'd work with the light off ... hey, that's why computer monitors light up, right?

So you can do that. As my kids got a little older, I moved the computer into the living room. By now, I had started my editing company, so I needed to be on the computer more. I set it up right in the middle of everything so I could keep an eye on them and work at the same time. It wasn't unusual at all for me to make lunch, edit a page, get out some toys, edit a paragraph, change a diaper, and so forth. As time went by, I did put the computer back in the bedroom, and kept my bedroom door open so I could hear what was going on in the house at any given moment. My kids knew that if I wasn't in the living room or kitchen, I was in the bedroom, and they could come find me with whatever they needed. I'm telling you this long-winded story for a reason. :  )

Creating a writing environment is something you do a little at a time. Because I got started when my kids were so little, they don't remember a time when the computer wasn't a part of my life. It's just how it's always been. For those of you who are starting now, you'll want to introduce it slowly so as not to totally whack out your whole family schedule. I suggest looking at your day and finding moments that are already free. Just like I started out using nap time to write, is there a time during the day when your family is already doing something else - maybe a play date or preschool or soccer practice or something? Then, as your need to write more increases, can you stay up late or get up early to get it done? Can you train yourself to work in the middle of playing children? It takes practice, I won't lie.

Being able to hold a train of story thought while also talking to your little boy about his cool new train is an acquired skill, but the more you do it, the better you'll get. I used to think I could only write in total silence. *snort* I have four kids. How much total silence do you think I get? Your brain can learn to adapt and filter. The most important thing is balance. If your kids know that yes, you're writing, but that you'll drop everything the second they need you, that's a great thing.

We love writing. We want to write. We want to do it all day, every day sometimes. But the best fulfillment comes when we're well balanced in all areas of our lives. I didn't start writing during the day until my kids were a little older and more self-sufficient. We do what we've got to do to make it work for our own families. And I have to be honest - when you get that first book published and you're holding it in your hands and you can show it off to your family, that makes it a lot easier for them to "get" why you love writing so much. It's tangible evidence they can process. Until that moment, "writing a book" seems sort of vague. Hang in there, find what moments you can, and above all, be sure to take lots and lots of time for kisses and snuggles. That's the best part of the day ever.

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