Sticking to a daily schedule will benefit any writer. For Stay-At-Home Writer/Parents it’s a matter of life and death. Coming up with a routine that optimizes your child’s sleep cycles for maximum engagement and highest writing output is the goal. Your effectiveness at sticking to a schedule can mean the difference between a happy writing home and burnout.
If You Don’t Schedule
You do a thousand things during nap time and when you sit down to write your kid wakes up again. If you don’t schedule your day you will find yourself flitting from temporary task to temporary task without ever finishing the big goals you’ve set out for yourself. You will always find a decent reason not to write. You will never write if you don’t make time for it.
How to develop a schedule:
1) Assess the Situation
During your first couple weeks at home you will want to pay attention to your child’s natural rhythms. When does he wake up? When is he hungry? When and how long does he nap? The easiest way to track this is through meticulous note taking. Put a desk calendar up on your refrigerator and mark times for naps, food intake and output, and the how long it takes you to complete chores like cooking, laundry, or whatever else you and your spouse have worked out together.
This may seem laborious and time-consuming at first, but it will yield some useful information. Stick to it. Estimate only when you have to.
2) Bust Out the Bell Curve
After two weeks, average out the data you’ve collected. Come up with median figures for a “typical” day. You may be surprised to discover how much down time you have, how many hours a day junior is really sleeping, or that you’ve got too much on your plate to realistically tackle writing during the day.
3) Tune it up
Now move your stuff around. Keep your child’s activities more or less the same, but move yours to be more efficient. If you did laundry after the second nap will it have time to finish before she goes down again? That sort of thing. Occasionally, you may want to try to slowly move nap times around to compensate for scheduling issues, but if possible, optimize your own activities first.
4) Optimize the Calm
Naps are a great time for writing, true, but everyone is different. I use naps for writing blog posts or editing/rewriting content, but I do most of the heavy lifting in the early morning when I have time to get into the nitty-gritty of world building and character development. Naps are good for reading too. Just don’t waste them. They are more precious than your next novel advance.
5) Don’t Go OCD on Your Kid
Kids get sick. They have bad nights. They puke on things. Don’t get upset if they mess up your schedule or interrupt your writing time. You’re a Stay-At-Home Parent. You (hopefully) signed up for this gig. It is sometimes appropriate for you to tinker with nap times and feeding schedules, just be sensitive to how they respond.
What does a schedule look like?
Currently, Taquito takes two or three naps in a day that range anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. This blocks off my time pretty well. Here is what a typical day looks like for me:
|6:00- 6:30am||Sleeping||Wake up, Coffee up, Shower up, Breakfast|
|6:30-8:00am||Sleeping||Writing: “Big Goal” Project|
|8:00-9:30am||Awake||Dishes / Cleaning|
|9:30-11:00am||NAP 1||Writing: “Big Goal” Project|
|11:00-1:00pm||Awake||Go for a walk together / Lunch|
|1:00-2:30pm||NAP 2||Writing: Blog Post / Magazine Article|
|2:30-5:00pm||Awake||Read together / Play / Teach|
|6:00- 7:00pm||Bath / Bed||NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams|
|8:00-11:00pm||Sleeping||Netflix / Reading / Internet|
Morning or Night Writing?
While I worked a 9-5 job, I would write at night. I had no kids at the time, so I could write to my heart’s content into the wee hours of the morning, sleep some, then caffeine up a few hours later until I went to work. This is the typical post-collegiate working style. For me, though, that no longer works. Having two full-time jobs means that I have to be alert and in motion for most of the day. Sleep deprivation isn’t the option it used to be.
So, now, in spite of my natural inclination to night owlry, I’ve started writing in the mornings and during nap times.
What about you? How do you organize your writing life and other responsibilities? 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!