I have covered this in a previous column but this is School Holiday season and it’s particularly hard. Children are like limpets but with a more advanced sticking ability.
First of all don’t feel guilty about wanting to spend some of your hard-earned holiday time on your writing – IT IS OK. The children will get the lion’s share of your time, which goes without saying. It’s most likely that soggy middle that needs some attention now (soggy middle of your novel that is).
So the big question is how do you find the time when the offspring are demanding your every waking moment and a few of the night-time ones too?
No1 – Be prepared. I know you love stationery so make sure you always have a notebook and a pen (one that actually works not that free one) with you at all times. (I will excuse you in the shower/bath but have one ready for when you come out). This means you won’t miss an opportunity to write, even if it’s just the odd sentence of brilliance – they all add up.
No2 – Be vigilant. Time is a crafty little thing and these childfree moments creep up on you. So you have to recognise them and grab them quickly. Usually they occur when the child/children are unexpectedly distracted – Loom bands is working well in our house but the length of time they hold child’s attention is varied. They can be unexpected so watch carefully for those ones. An example would be ‘Picking fluff out of Daddy’s tummy button’ bought me 9 minutes the other day!
No3 – Be creative. Set them up with tasks or games that they will hopefully become engrossed in and will leave you in peace for a few minutes without trashing the place. Make sure you sell this in at the start e.g. “Mummy/Daddy (I do have some male followers and I am all for equal opportunities) has some work to do so instead of you having to sit quietly and be bored would you like to…?”
No4 – Creative suggestions. I thought about this bit long and hard and it was too tricky. Children of all ages demand your time so I just couldn’t cover off all age groups. However, in my experience there is very little that can’t be made out of a Tesco Value paper plate but for some reason they lose interest in this (personally, I haven’t yet. My list of things I can make with one is up to 104!) For the older primary children tasks that sound grown up work quite well – my daughter likes to plan out the menus for the week and then attempt to construct the shopping list, it’s great because it takes a while and the only downside is the dodgy diet of pizza, sausages and fish fingers but it’s worth it! Older ones they generally like to eat the contents of your fridge, download ‘stuff’ or ‘hang out’ – note this may cost you money. Although a subscription to Net Flicks may prove cost-effective (other film rental companies are available).
No5 – Cheat. You don’t have to be creative all the time. Despite what the media and perfect parents tell us, a little bit of television/iPad/computer game is not going to render your child a social retard with the IQ of a Malteser (a week-long stretch might, so bear that in mind). If you are worried then set the kitchen timer that way you both know when your time is up. If you have one like mine (child not kitchen timer) that insists you sit and watch the Disney film with them, that’s fine, just explain that you will be doing a little work whilst it’s on. Then you can scribble away whilst they are entertained and happy in your company – best of both worlds.
No6 – A little bit of bribery. Offer them a small reward at the end (tell them in advance so they have their eyes on the prize or the kitchen timer). By reward I mean some one on one time with you (or one to five if you are Jane Lovering or anyone else that brave). It might be something simple you can do together like make a milkshake, have a cuddle on the sofa or a million other things.
In the end you will have found a bit of time to scribble down a few valuable words that might just be the spark you needed to kick off that bestseller or sort out that soggy middle, but whatever it was it was a few more words than you thought you’d get done.
Foot note – If you have a baby I’m afraid none of this works – really sorry and trust me that it will get better eventually but good luck anyway!
Bella has just finished her first novel, Acting on Impulse, which earned her a runner-up place for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance. Every fortnight, Bella will be sharing her experiences and advice as a new author. She also has her own blog – www.bellaosborne.com
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.
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