Writing With A Baby – Making the Most of Your Time

For any writer, finding a spare hour to dedicate to writing is a near impossible task. When you are the parent of a baby or toddler, that time is even harder to pin down.

It’s amazing how much more efficient you become once a child enters your life; however applying that to your writing world is tricky. Writing and efficiency don’t always go hand in hand. Long gone are the days when you could afford a five minute break to look out of the window.

So if you are like me and always mining around for minutes to write, here are a few tips for getting creative with the time you have.

Morning Bird Power-Hour

If you have a child who sleeps well into the morning (lucky you!) then you might be able to uncover some quiet, free time before they wake up. Set your alarm an hour early, grab a coffee, open up the laptop and go for a shot of 100 words.

Stay Up Late

I fall into the night owl bracket; 5am is just too early for me! Once the baby is in bed, if I am having a writing evening I completely shut everything else off. Dinner is cereal. Washing up is abandoned. Ignore it. It doesn’t need you. This is YOUR time. The deadline of bedtime can be adhered to, or ignored. Depends how well you can function the next day after pulling an all-nighter.

The Top 200

Write 200 words. Doesn’t matter what it’s about. The point is if you make a commitment that is achievable and after a while you will become more efficient with what you write in that period of time.

Don’t Edit

If your task is to write, just do that. Anything else is irrelevant to the task you are trying to achieve. Editing can weigh you down so free yourself from it.

…But if you have to edit…

Then make sure that the session is just for editing. You need to be strict and organised to ensure the task works out in the best possible way

Go Traditional

While the baby is happily and safely playing then grab a notepad and a pen and jot down ideas, start a story. If you have time later you can explore anything that came do you during the day.

Go Digital

I have an iPad yet always assumed writing on a tablet wouldn’t come naturally. And it didn’t for me. But after some practise it actually worked out really well. I downloaded the Office Word app to ensure I was familiar with the system. It seems more achievable to write the odd thing here or there while the little one plays, or I make up a bottle or prepare dinner. This is how I have managed to write a few short stories and blog posts.

Be Realistic, Rethink and Adjust

Goal paralysis, I get this a lot. I want to do so much, but end up doing nothing because I don’t know where to start.

Get real, you have a child. That fluidity of time you were so used to does not exist anymore. I wanted to blog, write fiction, finish my novel, freelance and start a diploma, while working part time, starting a business and looking after my little one. It was just too much. It doesn’t mean that you have to let go of everything. Just re-prioritise and focus on one thing at once.

Designate a Day

If like me you have too many irons in the fire and juggling just about anything you can get your hands on, then designate one day a week that is dedicated to your one writers goal. It doesn’t need to be a whole day. It can be a morning, afternoon, evening, 40 minutes. Just one day when at some point, you write.

Plan

Planning and preparing as a parent is a beast. The unpredictable nature of babies makes it impossible to plan and or even guess how much time you have available. Yet a plan will help, but keep it manageable, flexible and achievable.  Plan for your day and set it out in bitesize chunks. As I am looking after my boy today, my plan was to write a blog post during his nap time. So far, so good.

Playtime

If you have a little one who is engrossed in a toy then use that time to write – even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes. I often feel consumed with guilt if I’m on the laptop and kiddo is playing. However if he is happy then why not use that time to get something done?

I always make sure if I have spent some time on the laptop, that the little one gets a massive chunk of play time with mummy afterwards. It makes them happy, you feel happy, and you can even chat through your story ideas. I find that babies are very good listeners!

Walk

I take my little one out for a long walk to clear my head and plan my afternoon. It can give your mind some breathing space and you also have the freedom to explore ideas that would probably be lost when changing nappies, making up bottles or running around trying to stop your baby exploring the dark and dangerous corners of your living room.

Quit Box Sets

Netflix, you were there during the newborn days of constant breastfeeding and recovering from a traumatic labour, and I shall never forget the support you gave me. But now we need distance. I am a writer darhling and need space. I shall see you at weekends, but our daily rendezvous is no more.

Be Kind to Yourself

Do not be hard on yourself and stop worrying about your perceived failures. Remember, you love writing and any time spent on it is a massive achievement. Now go get that brownie… did I mention that cake is a crucial part of a writers diet?

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Write What You See – Bus 

It’s fair to say that it has been a long time since I have written anything fictional. When you go that long without putting pen to paper the well of inspiration feels a little empty. However I’m a firm believer that you can mine inspiration out of just about anything.  

As soon as I decided to do this, I spotted a bus go past my window. So I used that to start a story. And here it is. Why don’t you give a go? No word limit! Post your links below with the title or the blog post ‘Write What You See – ‘ 

………….

The bus pulled up to the stop and Gray stumbled out onto the pavement. His phone dropped from his pocket and with a clatter landed on the wet concrete. On all fours he searched for the phone but it was dark and he was too drunk to see clearly. Gray stood up and lunged into the lamp post 

“fuck” 

Two girls linking arms under an umbrella tottered past, picking up speed and letting out a giggle as Gray battled with his wooziness. His feet felt unstable, the ground was moving side to side, up and down. Settling on a garden wall, he pressed the palm of his hands onto his knees in a bid to ground his body. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. 

“You l’right mate” 

Gray opened his eyes. A smartly dressed man with headphones round his neck, reached out and gently placed his hand on Gray’s shoulder. He was no longer sitting on the garden wall and there was a rotten stench in the air. 

“Where am I?” asked Gray

“What was that mate?” The man leant in closer

“Where am I?” 

The man shook his head “I can’t understand you. I’m calling an ambulance” 

Gray’s heart thumped, he still felt drunk. I didn’t drink that much, did I? 

He tried to get up but his legs were like jelly. He managed to move his eyes just enough to see that he was lying next to some dumpsters. Probably at the back of some flats. He wriggled his toes. His socks felt soggy.  

That’s good, thought Gray, I can feel something. 

“Where are my shoes?” Gray asked the man who was now on the phone. He couldn’t make out what he was saying. It was like listening to a conversation through a wall. 

“Don’t try and talk mate. They’re on their way” 

From nowhere the man produced a blanket and wrapped it round Gray. The warmth offered a crumb of comfort. 

Gray tried to focus his eyes again. A figure stood behind the man. It was possibly a woman from the infiltration of perfume overriding the smell of  decaying food. They were talking but Gray couldn’t make out what they were saying. That damn wall. 

Flashing blue lights and a siren made its way closer. Gray immediately felt foolish. Just another drunk. Even though he hadn’t drunk that much. What, four pints?

Gray wanted to close his eyes again. The tiredness was hard to fight and his body craved restorative rest. Suddenly all the questions from a lady in a green came at once, with lights and wires probing his body and mind.

What’s your name? Do you know how you got here? What have you taken? How much have you had to drink? What day is it? Who is the prime minister? What is your star sign? What’s 2 + 2? What is your mothers maiden name? 

His head felt like it was being pummelled with a giant steel bar, caving under the weight of  the questioning.  A bolt of lightening shot through his body, a bright light flashed a crossed his vision. Just some more sleep.

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When I’m Not Blogging

Time sure does pass quickly. One minute I’m blogging and the next it is 10 months later and I’ve dropped off the face of the web. It’s fair to say I haven’t been as productive as I hoped however I am delighted that during my blog blackout, my first poetry submission was accepted and is now published in a journal.

The Catch was published in November in the Fall Issue of When Women Waken. The poem is an adaptation of a short story of the same name I published here a few years ago. Since conception in my very first creative writing class, The Catch has been through many reincarnations so I am happy that it has finally found success within a medium that suits it.

So what else has kept me away all this time? Here are my top five distractions

  1. My Kindle – Back in November I got a Kindle for my birthday and I have since become absorbed in a new literary journey. I still love to read actual books, nothing can beat that new book smell or the feel of a well loved novel. However for some reason I read much quicker using a Kindle.
  2. The Wire – When I’m not reading or working, I’m watching box sets. They are my vice. My husband and I have been visiting Baltimore for the past six months and we are just about to finish the series this week. I’m going to miss our nightly catch ups with McNulty, Bunk and Omar.
  3. Freelance Writing – Due to a change in circumstances (more on that later) I am now looking at setting up my own freelance copywriting business. Freelancing is still something I do on occasion to fit around my current job but with my life set to drastically change in a few months, it seemed the perfect time to work toward that becoming a more permanent fixture.
  4. Housework/DIY/Gardening – Yes, this does seem like a very lame excuse but since my husband and I moved into our house three years ago, we have never really made it our own. Despite being together ten years, we had never lived anywhere for more than a year or two so we got used to not bothering with making a house a home. It’s taken a while to get out of that mentality, but we are finally there and have enjoyed weekends of unpacking (yes, it’s taken us three years to unpack everything), painting, decorating and gardening. But there is also a pretty big reason for this nesting activity.
  5. The Patter Of… I am delighted to announce that we are expecting our first baby! We are so happy with the news and thrilled that at last we are on the way to having a family of our own. I haven’t got long left of the pregnancy and by mid-late June I am hoping to be able to put my feet up before the little one arrives at the start of July. The first five-six months of pregnancy were rough and it often took every bit of energy I had just to make it into work. Unfortunately that left me little desire to do much else, let alone blogging.

So here’s to a new start, more writing and more posts. I would like to continue with developing my poetry and maybe even completing the final draft of my novel which is currently gathering dust. Maybe the sleepless nights and endless dirty nappies will inspire a new kind of writing. Or maybe that will be the delirium after having not slept for weeks. We shall see, it’s a new adventure and one I cannot wait to start.

 

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Is It Time to Put Night Writing to Bed?

Recently I have been thinking about what motivates writers and how old habits can dictate your writing routine. At some point we were all that young writer, scribbling away in bed with nothing but a torch, Biro pen and a notebook.

Over the past couple of weeks my writing efforts have dwindled to virtually nothing. Feelings of frustration toward my lack of motivation has prompted me to look at whether daily distractions are providing me with excuses not to write or if it’s just old habits. There is always something more important to do such as work, cooking tea, housework, gardening, food shopping, catching up with friends and family. Then when you do manage to steal away a few minutes, a phone call or a knock at the door pulls you out of the ‘zone’ you had struggled to get in, in the first place.

Yet when clock is pushing midnight, all the words stream out onto the page.  There is nothing left to do with the day. The house is silent, the outdoor world is peaceful, the night belongs to you and nobody else. Writing at that time of night puts me into a meditative state and is cathartic release of everything that happened during the day.

The only thing to stopping me is knowing that in less than six hours I have to be up, dressed and ready to go to work. So I crawl back to bed feeling unsatisfied and annoyed that a plot line won’t be written as well at 7pm the next evening.

When I was younger I would write until the early hours and not care that I would be falling asleep during class assembly. The stolen hours were magical and I would (eventually) go to sleep dreaming of new worlds to create in fiction land. I sorely miss those days and I wish it was that easy now, but it isn’t. That’s just part of being a grown up.

Finding time to write is a treat and I wonder if I don’t spend more time writing because I just don’t feel like it’s a priority. It should be a priority. To me, writing defines who I am and the satisfaction of working on a story is unparalleled to anything else. So why don’t I feel motivated? There is no answer to that. We all have peaks and troughs during our periods of writing, set backs and failures. There will always be distractions and something else more important to do.

You just have to keep on going despite the chaos around you.

“Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement” Cory Doctorow

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Friday Fictioneers – Old School Dirt

It has been a long time between now and my last Friday Fictioneers effort. I am more than a little over the word count so I may edit this again later on. If you want to play, head over to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and have a go. Thanks to Rochelle and also thanks to Danny Bowman for the image.

As always, I am open to constructive criticism.

http://rochellewisofffields.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/danny-bowman.jpg

Old School Dirt

The truck hissed as it drew to a halt behind the long queue of traffic.  Tony adjusted his gaze to search for the accident over the never ending line of red lights.

He looked down at his mobile and pressed down hard on the power button. It had been dead for the past hour. Dashboard read 20.30. Late again. Cara would be waiting alone, on the evening of their anniversary, for the third year running. No making up for this one.

Tony turned off the ignition and hopped out onto the sidewalk. A beaten up payphone offered little hope before he could even dial her number. A handset broken in two, he could talk but not listen.

“About right” he mused, before returning to the cabin.

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What I’m Working On – Click

Stephen’s eyes flickered open as the sleep gave way to a blinking light. A bleeping machine brought him back into consciousness. His blurry eyes tried to focus on the white ceiling and the light bulb swinging back and forth.

Easing his head to one side he watched the green lines jumping like tadpoles up and down the black screen. Wires and drips fed both his heavy arms. Stephen attempted to initiate movement, slowly lifting up his hands. It took it out of him. There was a white gold ring on his left index finger. He tried to picture his wife’s face, but drew a blank as if the memory of being married had been erased.

Stephen tried to move his toes but they failed to engage with his brain. He looked at the clock on the opposite wall. It read 7.30. Damp light seeped through the misty window. Stephen couldn’t be sure if it was morning or early evening. The seconds no longer ticked by, time had ceased a long time ago.

Pulling the wires out of his skinny and pale limbs, he massaged his thighs and willed the blood to bring them back to life. Stephen could not tell when he had gone under or why but he was acutely aware the world was not as he had left it. It was too visceral, surreal and for all he knew he may still be in that coma.

Stephen lurched aimlessly out of the sterile room and into a corridor. Boxes of medicine emptied over the floor, overturned wheelchairs and abandoned trolleys created obstacles for his ailing legs.

“Hello?” Stephen croaked, but only his echo responded. His throat stung.

There was a chill in the air, Stephen felt the cold zip up his spine. He staggered  his way through the hospital corridor in bare feet and a gown loosely hanging over his frame. Recognising the urge from his bladder, Stephen headed to the nearest bathroom. Looking in the mirror, he searched the reflection for something familiar, but it may as well have been a stranger looking back. Pale, gaunt and in need of a clean shave.

His stomach twisted into knots. Stephen knew he needed to eat and drink. He felt lightheaded and his heart pounded. Leaning on a nurses station to rest he helped himself to a chocolate digestive. It tasted like soil.

On the floor were a few handbags and a camera nestled in between them. He picked up a camera, a good looking one with a screen and big lens. There was no film inside nor a place for it. He had never seen one like it before. There was a lead attached which led to the power socket in the wall. Stephen unplugged it and hung the camera and strap round his neck. There was a TV on a wall bracket, he tried switching it on but only got static. Not tuned in, he thought.

Stumbling out into the street, Stephen took a deep breath, refilling his lungs with air. It was not at all as fresh as he remembered, the smell was sulfuric and made him gag as it hit the back of his throat.

Stephen walked into the park with the camera hanging loosely around his neck. It was a placed he remembered, but didn’t know why. He recalled how it was usually brimming with people picnicking and sun bathers. What was once an oasis in the middle of the city, now lay abandoned and not even the hum of traffic lingered in the air.

Knees weak and ankles ready to buckle, Stephen let out a long scream. He wasn’t sure whether it was terror, frustration or an attempt to eject himself from the nightmare. He collapsed on the grass and looked up at the sky. It was blue, but the clouds were yellow. A small rumble rippled across the grass, just as a beautiful rainbow cascaded past the clouds. Stephen stood up, a deep hum demanding his attention. He lifted up the camera and adjusted the zoom. In the distance he could just make out a figure standing near a group of trees. Zooming in closer he saw two more figures in blurry outlines. They were running towards him.

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Friday Fictioneers – One Two Three Four Legged Friend

Copyright -Douglas M. MacIlroy

Copyright -Douglas M. MacIlroy

One Two Three Four Legged Friend

I unsaddled Mystic and felt around in my bag for an apple. One left, it was a little brown and bruised from the ride but otherwise perfect. I rubbed it on my thigh and fed it to Mystic. The sun was heating up, telling me to head back to the air conditioned truck waiting to take me home without my horse. I looked around the large paddock. It was more than I could ever offer. She would be happy here.

“We’ve had some good times, haven’t we?”

Mystic tossed her head with a snort.

“Yeah, I know, I’ll miss you too”

I found this one hard as there are so many lovely stories this week, I have found it hard to follow. In fact I was tempted not to post up as was struggling to put something together. Head over to Rochelle’s place if you want to have a go at Friday Fictioneers. Pop over to Doug’s to get the moving story behind the picture.

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