How to write around children (video)

Viewing time: 4 mins. 55 secs.

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #115, which addresses how to write around children. The post first ran on Nov. 8/19.


Can you still manage writing if you have children in your household? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. 

I have a question from Rachel Kenny, a writer based in Des Plaines, Illinois. Here’s what she’s asked via email: “I have to work around young children with unpredictable routines – how can I fit in writing when I don’t know when or how much time I’ll get to write?” 

Thanks for the question, Rachel. I think I’m particularly well qualified to answer it because I’m the mother of triplets. When my kids were young — really young — I did no writing. No reading, either. For the first year, it was a full-time job feeding them and changing their diapers. 

When they became one, I returned to paying work for — get this — one day a week. It was all I could manage, but I was desperate for the chance to get out of the house and speak to other adults. 

As I recall — and much of that time is a total blur — I wasn’t able to start reading and writing again until my kids were two. I left my job at that point — so I could work from home — and became self-employed. 

This move presented a whole different set of challenges because my office is in a loft at the top of my house. It has never had any door, but at that point it was separated from the bedroom floor by a ladder. Fortunately, I convinced our kids they couldn’t climb it. 

If you are trying to write while your kids are very young — I mean younger than five — you need to schedule your writing time and have someone else look after the kids. My husband has always worked a four-day week with Mondays off, so I took Mondays as one of my writing days. And I hired babysitters for any other days I needed to work. 

I suggest you negotiate with your partner and try to find times when they can look after the kids and let you do your writing. Get out of the house, if you need to, perhaps going to your local library or a nearby coffee shop. 

Be explicit about the deal: For example, you might say, “Can you be in charge of the kids every Sunday afternoon between 1 and 4 pm so that I can write?” 

If you don’t have a partner, see if you can identify someone else — a mother, a sister or even a friend — who might do the same thing. 

Then, when you sit down to write, be sure to take full advantage of whatever time you have. Turn off your phone. Unhook from the internet. Just write. 

Understand that it is possible to write in very small chunks of time. Even 15 minutes should allow you to write at least 100 words. And every 100 words counts! 

You DON’T need larger chunks of time until you are in the editing phase of the project. Email me again when you get to that place! 

But in terms of writing, my last tip is going to be the most useful one for you. And it’s this: Break the habit of editing while you write. If you find yourself writing a sentence and then stopping to read it right away to see if it’s any good, you are making a tragic mistake. 

Many writers approach their work in this stop-and-go fashion and it’s seriously damaging. It causes them to doubt their own ability and it slows the writing process to an acutely painful level.   

I’m attaching a link to a blog post I’ve written on how to break the habit of editing while you write. I suggest you read it and follow whichever strategies you feel will work best for you. 

Rachel, as a mom who’s trying to write, understand that you not only need to protect and care for your kids, you also need to protect and care for yourself. If writing is one of your core values, don’t put it on hold for 18 years while your kids grow up. Instead, find small ways to meet your needs every day. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from American tennis great Steffi Graf. “It’s amazing how quick life goes by when you have children.” 

Rachel, don’t feel guilty about your desire to write. We all have 24 hours in every day — 168 in every week. That is more than enough to give your children the time they need AND allow you to write for yourself, too. 


7 ways to stop editing while you write 

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