Welcome to Becca Puglisi, co-host of the blogstastic The Bookshelf Muse, SCBWI member, historical fiction and fantasy writer, wife and mother. I got in touch with Becca after hearing she'd returned to blogging after a break for that mothering thing and, as a writer-mom myself, I asked her to share some thoughts (and tips) about juggling all those hats!
Are you one of those enviable people who makes a comfortable living solely from your income as a writer? If so, this post is not for you. And you should probably be writing it instead of me.
I think most of us are better defined as Writers Who Also _____. I am a writer who is also a wife, mother of two toddlers, and active in ministry at church. As important as writing is to me, no one is starved, neglected, or endangered by mountains of dirty laundry when I don't get around to doing it. As such, writing tends to fall to the bottom of my priority list.
As I connect with more and more writers, I find that the majority of us are in the same boat. Here are a few tips I've found to stay focused on writing while not abandoning the rest of my responsibilities:
What are the priorities in your life? What things demand and deserve your attention? Make a list—yes, an actual list—and order it by importance. Everything can't carry the same weight, or you'll end up fulfilling that age-old cliché: if you try to please everyone, you'll end up pleasing no one. Or however it goes. A physical list lets you see which items absolutely must get done and which ones are more forgiving. Once you've determined where your time should be spent, schedule it out.
2. Be Flexible
I'm a scheduler. My calendar includes not only birthdays and appointments, but also which days of each week I will spend writing, dates that blog entries have to go up, and which evenings my husband and I will pray together. Seriously. Prayer Time with Spouse = Scheduled. That being said, I've found that rigidity is the biggest enemy of creativity. Make your schedule, but be flexible. If you were planning on writing during naptime but found ants parading through the closet and now you have to spend an hour calling pest control companies (hello, last Tuesday), don't sweat it. Write that evening instead, or write on one of the days you had left open for unforeseen catastrophes. Or simply write one day less that week than you had planned. Missing a day here or there does not the end of the world make.
3. Be Realistic
Know that your goals are going to take longer now to reach than they did before you had kids, or got married, or took on more responsibilities at __. You're not going to accomplish your writing goals as quickly as a full-time writer, or even many part-time writers (insert name of that writer friend you know who's in a different stage of life and can devote many hours a day to writing). But you will reach your goals if you keep moving forward. Remember the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. I saw this on Elmo just last week, so it's clearly still relevant. Stick with it and you'll get there in your own time.
4. Don't Forget the Magic Word
Channel Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. In other words, don't over commit. Granted, situations do arise that we have to take charge of (see ants, above) or that we really should involve ourselves in (a need that you are uniquely gifted to meet and can devote time to). But if your week is already full, if you're emotionally tapped, if you know that your current responsibilities will suffer if you take on whatever new opportunity has come your way, then respectfully decline. And refuse to feel guilty about it.