It's hard to write consistently. You have to show up EVERY DAY and put in the time. You have to make the choice to sit down and start writing instead of watching television, reading a book, sitting with a cup of coffee, or chatting with a friend.
And when you’re at home with kids, and you spend all day giving, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to write consistently.
What’s worse is that when you’re a mom at home with kids, no one seems to realize just how crammed your days are. When people think about hard jobs, they think, the President. They think, CEO of a Big Company. You know what I think? Those guys have staffs. They have people who handle the details and provide support.
Moms at home with kids don’t have staffs. We don’t have support. We have kids. Who need help to wipe their tushies. Who don’t sleep. Like, ever. And they only want to eat fish sticks, right up until you buy the jumbo size box of fish sticks, and then THEY DON’T LIKE FISH STICKS.
This is a HARD JOB, and finding time to write consistently is not easy.
When you’re a mom with young kids, it’s really hard to know where you time is going, because it feels like you spent all day changing diapers and washing dishes. Where does the time go? How can I find the time to write in the middle of all this chaos?
Start Tracking Your Time To Figure Out Where It’s Going
The first thing you need to do, if you want to find time to write, is to track your time for a full week.
You need to know exactly where your time is really going. When you track your time, you learn all kinds of amazing (and potentially horrifying) things.
Like, you might find out — and this is totally hypothetical, mind you — that you are spending over four hours every day playing Words With Friends on your phone.
You might think, That’s impossible! I don’t HAVE four hours a day. But here’s the thing: when that game is on your phone, and your thumb automatically clicks it and you play your turn and then you keep playing, sometimes half an hour goes by. And if you do that a couple of times a day, it starts to add up.
Or — and again, this is totally hypothetical — you might discover that you go to CVS three times a week, and every one of those trips takes at least 90 minutes. NO WAY, you say to yourself. I am IN AND OUT. Takes me 20 minutes, TOPS.
But then you look at the time you have tracked and you say, oh, in a very small voice with lowercase letters. oh. yes. ok. ninety minutes.
Sometimes there is good news to be found. For example, you might think that you spend hours upon hours washing dishes and cleaning up your kitchen, but when you track your time, you might learn that you are actually only in your kitchen for a total of five hours every week. In other words, you are spending less than an hour a day in your kitchen.
That can’t be right, you say to yourself, but it IS right, because you’ve tracked your time and you know it’s right.
When you track your time for a full week, you will learn where your time is really going and then you can make smart decisions about how you want to use your time, and where you can find that time that you want to use for writing.
You won’t be making incorrect assumptions and cutting out the wrong things, the things you might THINK are taking up your time. You’ll find those hidden time wasters that you think are totally innocent, but are actually EATING UP your time.
Create Tiny Habits to Write Consistently
When you want to establish a writing routine, it’s tempting to just plunge right in. I AM GOING TO WRITE 1000 WORDS EVERY DAY, you announce, and then the first day, you whip out your sharpened pencils and your shiny laptop and your lovely notebook with the pristine pages that are far too nice for just regular writing.
You clear off the space on your desk and you sit there and you wait for inspiration…
… and then somehow, some weird fissure in the universe has happened and you are watching Friends reruns and eating those damn fish sticks because the kids won’t touch them.
This is not the way to establish a writing habit.
Instead, you create a tiny habit. You say to yourself, After I make my coffee, I will set out my notebook on the table.
And that’s all you have to do.
The beauty of the tiny habit is that it doesn’t require motivation or energy. You can do it no matter what. And then the notebook is out on the table, and you can cross that off your list, because you DID what you said you would do, and that is a WIN.
After a few days, setting out that notebook is automatic. You don’t even remember going to get it from its spot on the bookshelf, but there it is, out on the table.
Then you tell yourself, After I put my notebook on the table, I will write one sentence.
All you have to do is write that one sentence to win. It doesn’t have to be a good sentence. It just has to be one sentence. And you can do that. You don’t need motivation to write one sentence.
It takes time — not a specific amount of time, not 7 days or 21 days, or whatever the Internet says now — but time. A few days, sometimes. Longer, sometimes.
But eventually, you realize that writing that sentence every day is a habit. And you notice that sometimes you write more. Sometimes you even write for 15 minutes. Sometimes you write 1000 words.
It starts with a tiny habit that you link to something else — that cup of coffee in the morning, for example.
This TED Talk from Stanford professor BJ Fogg explains the amazing powers of tiny habits.
When you have kids, it’s a good idea to link your tiny habit to some different activities over the course of your day so that you have more than one chance to make it work. Life with small children is unpredictable at best, so you want to give yourself plenty of opportunities.
So you might say, After I drink my coffee, I will set out my notebook. After we come back from the park, I will set out my notebook. After I put the baby down for a nap, I will set out my notebook. After we eat lunch, I will set out my notebook.
You give yourself lots of times throughout the day when the notebook is there, on the table, waiting. You have plenty of activities that you link to the notebook, so you’re reminded, again and again.
And little by little, you start to write every day.
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Be Honest About Your Priorities
Here is a hard truth: you will never be able to write consistently until you get really honest with yourself about your priorities and your time.
For the next week, every time you want to say, “I don’t have time to write,” instead say, “Writing is not a priority for me.”
Think about how that feels in your mouth. Does it hurt to say those words? Or is it kind of a relief?
We all have priorities, and they shift and change with the seasons of our lives. When my children were very small, when they were babies and toddlers, cleaning the playroom was not a priority for me. I saw no point in organizing a space that would just be tossed moments later.
I did spend hours lovingly making homemade baby food for my beautiful snowflakes when they were tiny. This was, at one time, a huge priority for me. If you told my children that today, they would probably not believe you, because in this current season, I am a BIG FAN of ordering pizza for dinner.
Priorities shift and change.
I don’t mean to imply that you have to choose between your children and your writing. I truly believe that you can have it all. But you have to decide what “all” means to you.
For me, having it all means that I can:
- spend time doing things I enjoy with my kids and husband
- spend time with friends
- do work I care about and earn good money from writing
- give generously to causes I care about
- read A LOT for pleasure
- take daily walks
- sleep enough to feel good every day
- learn new things and explore random interests
For you, having it all might look very different. That’s completely okay, but you need to decide what your all is, and then live your life consistently with that.
When you say, “Writing is a priority for me,” but you reach for the remote whenever you have a free block of time and you never write a word, you are not living consistently with your priorities.
Those things that I listed as having it all? Those are priorities for me, and I do all of them almost every day.
Yes, there are times when I have a lot of work and I don’t read as much for pleasure, but it is a rare day when I don’t read at least a few pages of something just for fun. I almost always go to bed before 10pm. I make time to learn new skills — playing the guitar, drawing, cooking Indian food, and more.
And I write. Every day, I write.
But if I have the choice between sitting down and washing dishes, sitting down will win EVERY SINGLE TIME.
When I spend time with my kids, I spend it doing things I like to do. For example I love to read with my kids. I am happy to read to them, to read with them, to sit next to them and read separately, but next to each other, their limbs tangled up in my lap. But I would rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than play Monopoly with my kids. Monopoly is DEFINITELY not a priority for me, and owning that has made an enormous difference in my life.
If you have the time to be reading this, then you have the time to write. But it has to be a priority for you.
Sometimes, it’s the idea of writing that’s appealing, and you might find that really, you love READING, but writing isn’t your priority. And that’s okay, even though it can be hard to accept.
If writing really is your priority, then you have to acknowledge that writing matters, and you have to figure out what else is not a priority.
What’s the biggest challenge you find with writing consistently? Let me know in the comments!