How to Follow Your Dream to Be a Writer When You Have Kids and Responsibilities

Written by Chantelle Atkins | February 20, 2015

These days most parents work, and if on top of that you are trying to make your way as a writer, how on earth do you find the time needed to dedicate to it, without totally neglecting your offspring? Personally I have a horrible fear that when my kids are adults, they will turn to me and say; ‘the thing I remember most about my childhood, is you being on the laptop!’.

The guilt is there every time I try to write whilst they are chattering in the background, and every time I snap at one of them for lolling all over me whilst I am trying to work. Guilt is the familiar burden of the working parent but it is even harder to justify the time and energy you need to put into your creative tasks.

How do you explain this to your children? How do you follow your dream without jeopardizing their short childhoods? Well I think I have found a way, so here are my tips.

Be realistic about the amount of time that you have and what you can achieve in it. Accept that everything is going to take longer if you have children. I got back into my writing when my youngest child started school. I had another job as well, but was easily able to get some writing done in the day and some more in the evening once they were all asleep.

Since then I have had another baby and have had to accept I simply have way less time. Every part of the process of writing takes longer. From simple tasks like answering emails and sharing my books on social media sites, to more complex things like actual writing, editing or formatting. It’s just the way it is and it is best if you accept this early on!

Seize your moments. You need to be quite clever and quick about this, and chances are you won’t always be in the right mood when an opportunity arises. However, if a moment to write pops up, don’t waste it.

For example, I keep a notepad and pen next to me when I am feeding the baby. I can make notes to embellish on later, or make to-do lists. Sometimes during the weekend I am tempted to sleep in if the baby has gone back to sleep, but I don’t. I get up, sneak downstairs and turn the laptop on.

I might only write a paragraph of the new novel I am working on, or I might only manage to tweet my other books, but it all counts. Sneak off whenever you can. You don’t have to feel guilty is no one is missing you.

Stick to a loose routine. I say loose because you can’t have a rigid one when you have kids. They are by nature unpredictable beings. They fall ill. They get sent home from school. They have birthdays, appointments, and shows. Things pop up all of the time that make your day even more hectic.

But on the days that are generally the same, try to keep to a routine. Mine tends to go as follows; after doing the school run and the dog walk, I put the laptop on around 10 am. I deal with emails and then go onto social media, sharing and promoting my books. If the baby is still relatively entertained then I will grab a bit more time to check out some more promotional sites on my list.

If I get to do this all again later, I will, but usually this morning slot is the only time I get to deal with the marketing side of being an independent author. Once the baby is in bed, I hit the keyboard again.

As the older kids are still up, I have to explain to them that I am working. I do whatever calls to me the most. Working on the new book, writing for my blogs, writing articles, or more time on social media and networking. I do this until I go to bed. I do not watch television!

Be disciplined. Treat writing like your main job. Even if it just something you are doing on the side, explain this to the children. You need time, space, and peace to work. Yes, they come first, but you do need time for yourself as well, and writing is what you choose, and need to do. Be disciplined and don’t slack off.

Yes, parenting is exhausting. Sleepless nights go on forever. It is so tempting once they are all in bed, to sit down, have a glass of wine and watch some nonsense on TV. Don’t do it. Write. Be you. If you are a writer, then write. Stick to it. Write as much as you can as often as you can. Once you get out of the habit it is so hard to get it back. Days turn into years. Believe me, I know. I’ve let it happen myself.

Remember, you are allowed dreams too. So you will feel guilty anyway. I can’t tell you not to. You’ll feel guilty if you start writing while your kids are playing in the background. You’ll feel guilty if you are tapping into your phone or checking social media while pushing the buggy, or pushing a swing. You’ll feel guilty when you hurry them to bed because you are desperate to get back to your writing. You might as well get used to it.

But even so, remember to tell yourself that you are allowed dreams too. You had dreams as a child, dreams that meant something to you, and why can’t now be the time to do something about them? You tell your own children to believe in their dreams, to strive for them, work hard for them and be whoever they want to be. You tell them to follow their dreams, so what is the best example you could provide for them? You following yours.

Bio:

Chantelle Atkins is the author of four novels including The Mess Of Me and recently released This Is Nowhere. She lives in Dorset, England with her husband and four children. Atkins work is often described as gritty and character driven, and she writes within both the adult and young adult genres. Connect with her on Facebook.