How do you balance writing and family? Writing requires you to be self-motivated, which means negotiating competing priorities. At a 9-5 job someone makes priority decisions for you. At home you have to be disciplined about how you spend your time.
The question is especially relevant for Stay At Home Writer/Dads. Your writing and family time are dictated by the flexibility of your schedule. With the effort and commitment it takes to care for a child and nurture a writing career, when you boil it all down, Writer/Dads have two full-time jobs.
So what is a writer to do? How do you make space for writing, but not let it rule your life?
The Main Thing
When you are in charge of the kiddo, that is your full-time job. Don’t write or research unless she is asleep. You need to be 100% present physically, intellectually, and emotionally while you are with your child. Doing an occasional chore while she toddles around on the floor is fine, but if your mental CPU is bogged down with heavy world-building or character development then your kid is getting the short end of the stick. Your child is more important than your writing. Give her your undivided attention.
The Secondary Thing
Commit to your writing. Stop convincing and unconvincing yourself that you’re a writer. Come hell or high water you are going to put words down on the page, even if they all suck. You are going to revise those words until someone will pay to read them.
Set a writing goal. What do you want to accomplish? Reverse engineer that goal to give you yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily benchmarks to hit. Setting a clearly defined goal and daily benchmarks puts healthy boundaries around your writing life. You get done what you need to, but it won’t rule your world.
Develop a daily schedule. This is important for any writer, but it’s life or death for the Stay-At-Home Writer/Dad. Figure out your kid’s nap routine. Organize times for you to eat, sleep, write, and hang out with your family. I try to catch up on some writing while Taquito is napping, but I get most of my work done late night or early morning.
Protect the Space
When it’s writing time, it’s writing time. It’s not email time. It’s not sundry chores time. It’s not minesweeper-until-I-think-of-something-to-write-about time. WRITE. Put words on the page. Even if 90% of them are garbage. Writing is your job.
This requires personal sacrifice. You can’t watch TV as much. You can’t tinker in the garage as much. You can’t raise prize fighting turtles anymore. Your spare time is for writing now. You have two full-time jobs. Write until you meet your benchmarks.
On the Flip Side
Men are notorious for workaholism. We tend to find tasks easier than relationships. Just like you’ve scheduled time for writing that nothing is allowed to interrupt, do the same with your family. Schedule hang out time and protect it. I don’t mean everyone plugged into their personal distraction devices either. Go outside. Do fun stuff together. Enjoy your kids. Ignore your deadlines for a while. It’s good for you.
Write to meet your benchmarks, but no more than that. Literary history is littered with boozing deadbeat dads that ostracized their children and spouses for ephemeral writing fame. Don’t waste your life that way. None of those things matter when you’re wheezing out your last breath. Upside down priorities lead to regret.
So, how do you find balance for writing-work and family? Give your child your complete attention. Commit to writing. Set goals. Find Benchmarks. Make a Schedule. Protect the Space. Write during writing time. Be with family during family time. If presented with a conflict of interests, always side with your family. They are worth more than your words will ever be.
How have you negotiated the balance between work and family? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you liked this post, go ahead and sign up for fresh updates from this site. Just click the +FOLLOW box on the bottom right of your screen. Thanks!