An author’s life is a delicate balance. Writing time is precious, and many times, difficult to come by. It’s especially true when you have children, a spouse, a full-time job, the laundry, and (for me) graduate school.
As the single mom of two boys, I’m often in the midst of writing, revising, or doing homework when I hear “Hey, mom?”
My younger child, who’s ten, will ask about an upcoming play date, a lost toy, or if I can help find the popcorn when he needs a snack. My older son, who’s 17, often wants the car keys, has a question about his upcoming college courses, or needs advice on installing anti-virus software on his computer.
I was thinking about balancing writing and interruptions while in church this morning. Interestingly, our pastor’s message hit home. His message was “Made to Serve,” the fifth of a five-part series on popular summer movies. This week’s film, Pixar’s The Minions, tells the story of the adorable and precocious yellow creatures who seek the dastardliest villain on earth to obey.
Using the movie as a humorous example, our pastor’s point was this: We are created to serve. We are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works – Ephesians 2:10. He spoke about Jesus setting an example for all of us—after all, the Son of God was never too busy to perform miracles. Jesus paused in the middle of a wedding celebration to serve the bride and groom, turning water into wine. And Mark 10: 48-49 tells us, Jesus stopped and said, “Call him,” taking time to cure Bartemaeus’ blindness on the way out of Jericho.
So, how do we, as authors, write and serve? Here are my thoughts about writing, goals, interruptions, and life:
1. Keep a schedule – I write best in the morning, before I go to work. I try to keep a firm schedule of writing from 6 am – 8 am, but on weekends, my schedule is a bit more flexible. That said, life happens. Children get sick, your boss calls an emergency meeting, or your car needs an oil change and new tires. Give yourself permission to stay up until midnight to finish a chapter or revisions.
2. Set goals – While working on the first draft of a manuscript, I set a daily goal of 1500 words. Sometimes the sentences come fast and furious; sometimes, it’s a major effort and I need a handful of M&Ms to get to word 1499.
For me, it’s also helpful to make my writing time “official.” I block off writing time on my calendar, add my publisher’s manuscript submission and revision timelines, and send myself reminders when deadlines draw near. If you need an extra push, send yourself a daily iPhone or Android message telling you it’s “time to write!”
3. There are never perfect conditions – Ecclesiastes 11:4 tells us, “If you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done.” Until your children leave the nest, and sometimes even after, there will always be “Hey mom” moments. If you don’t have kids to worry about, a neighbor will be outside mowing the yard when you need to edit, there may be a crisis at work, or your hot water tank may decide to quit in the middle of writing the final chapter of your manuscript.
Roll with it. Learn to write with noise, head to the quietest corner of the local library, or buy a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. All in all, it’s better to write with a bit of chaos than not at all.
4. Lean on other writers – If you are lucky enough to belong to a writers’ group, or have author friends, don’t be shy about asking for help. Beta read each other’s manuscripts, offer to critique chapters, or swap ideas on titles and cover designs. If you’re releasing a book, inquire about writing up a guest post for your friend’s blog, promising to you will return the same kindness when his or her next novel is released. If you have lots of experience, pass it on to new authors. It’s my hope they will do the same.
5. Lend a helping hand – When your children or spouse interrupt, they may have a question they can answer themselves or they may really need your love and attention at that moment. Give it freely. Your best friend may need a ride to the doctor’s office or a neighbor may be grieving over the loss of a loved one. It is okay to “Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand” – Phillippians 2:4. You never know when you might need the same kindness.
As Jesus tells God in John 17:4, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” So, complete your work as a writer as best you can, keep a schedule, and set goals. But remember that we were also created to serve.
So, embrace the “Hey moms” and your inner Minion. Sharing your talents in those stolen moments might spark a story idea. You may meet someone new and wonderful, experience the unexpected, or be given a blessing in disguise.
What are your thoughts? How do you handle writing and interruptions?
Bio: Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.
You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. After July 14th, Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.
Comment today to win a copy of Center of Gravity. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
The truth could cost her everything.
Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.
Or is it?