You’ve crunched numbers, had discussions, and examined your soul. Now you’re standing with toes dangling, ready to take the plunge into the double fulltime job of caring for your kids and nurturing a writing career. This is neither an easy road, nor a well-traveled one, but it’s certainly enjoyable, and can be extremely rewarding. I commend you.
Suddenly unhooking from the 9-5 corporate life will need some acclimatization. Here are steps you should take in order to maximize your effectiveness both as a father and a writer.
If you want to be a writer, you can be. You just need some goals. Ask yourself: A. Why do I want to write? and B. When will I consider my writing successful? Once you’ve determined your personal definition of success, you can then reverse engineer your goals to find the best path to them.
You will also want to examine your end game for stay-at-home fatherhood. How long do you plan on doing this? Until junior goes to kindergarten? To college? Getting back into the job market after a long hiatus is a tough gig. It’s not easy supporting yourself as a writer. Come up with a plan.
Balance is the name of the game here. Men tend to be driven creatures. It’s easy to lose sight of your priorities when trying to attain a goal. You need to be 100% present with your child physically, mentally, and emotionally during the day. Don’t slough off your parental duties because you think you’re writing the great American novel. But don’t use your kid as an excuse for lazy writing either.
The first few weeks away from the office are great. You feel like a retiree. Just you and kiddo. No worries. No stress. You decide to take up shuffleboard. Hey, wake up. You are the boss of your writing career. You are also responsible for how your child spends her day. Set up a schedule and stick to it. Teach her something useful. Get stuff done. Sticking to a daily routine of chores, feedings, naps, and writing times keeps you on track to meet your goals and is good for your child’s well-being.
See the retiree paragraph above? Totally true. If you don’t treat this like a job you will spend every day in a Saturday malaise, in your underwear, scratching yourself, wondering where you’re life went. Get up, get showered, get dressed, go to work. That’s just as necessary now as it was in your last life at a 9-5 job. Slaughter Saturday malaise.
You have to learn how to sleep. Late night writing binges are over. As are binges of every other kind. You can’t afford to get up after just three hours of sleep and be terrible to your own children because you lack self-discipline. Get a decent night’s rest. If your kid is keeping you up all night, just get as much as you can. There are techniques to dealing with this that are unique to stay-at-home fatherhood, but I will save them for a later post.
You are a man. Get off your butt. Go to the gym. Go for a run. Get in shape. Your mind is housed inside your physical body. The less you move, the less creative you are, the more your writing sucks. Sounds dumb, but it’s true. Get moving. It will help you capture your children as they flee from the scene of the disaster they’ve just created. Also, children can be frustrating. Frustration leads to anger. Anger leads to the dark side. You need to release your anger by pounding pavement and pumping iron.
You need to read way, way more than you currently do. Your writing will never improve if you don’t read. Intellectual malnourishment quickly sets in when your brain diet consists of nothing but Yo Gabba Gabba and Dora the Explorer. Challenge yourself. Read a genre or an author you hate. Go to the classics. Fuel your mental inferno. Plug it into your schedule. Don’t slack. Also, read to your child. In silly voices.
Frequent readers of the site will recall that getting out of the house is a unique perk of Stay-At-Home Fatherhood. Volunteer for expeditions to the grocery store. Go for long walks. Plan an occasional trip out of town. You need to be away from your home and your child on a semi-frequent basis. Otherwise you start hallucinating.
I meet with a writing group once a month. We read each other’s stuff and give comments. Sometimes their comments are scorching, painful, and not what I want to hear, but it’s good for everybody. Having someone take you down a notch reminds you how much you need to learn. It keeps you from getting soft. It challenges those euphoric feelings you get after writing five hours straight where you believe that you have become a demigod and your writing can cure cancer.
Audit a college class (I try to get in one a semester). Hang out in a coffee shop. Have face to face interactions with real people that don’t hold up the walls to your echo chamber.
Step 10) Enjoy Yourself
Remember to have fun. I know too many parents who hate their kids for taking their independence and/or destroying their promising careers. Don’t be that guy. Take lots of pictures. Do fun stuff with your kids. They grow up too fast to deserve anything less than your undivided affection.
You get to write and be a Dad all day long. You’re living the dream. Your kids will love you for it. The least you can do is have a good time.
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