Monday, March 12, 2018

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


by Guest Lindsay Harrel



I’m a planner, through and through. Call me Type A, Uber Organized, whatever—that’s me. I love lists and calendars and scheduling myself to the brink.

But then, inevitably, life happens: a kid gets sick, I get sick, I don’t have the energy for writing, my dog eats our dinner right off the counter (true story), my husband has a work emergency and can’t come home to watch the kids. Et cetera, et cetera.

And I fall further and further behind on my oh-so-lofty goals.

It’s then I’m tempted to say, “What’s the point? I can’t do this! There just isn’t enough time.”

I’m guessing you’ve been there a time or two (or fifty…who’s counting?). But I’m here tell you that it IS possible—you CAN get that first draft done. I’ve written three books in the last three years as a work-from-home mom (I currently have a 3 year old and an 11 month old), so if I can do it, you can too.



In fact, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you work toward completing that first draft.

1.     Understand your weaknesses—and plan against them. We all have those writing pitfalls we fall into when it comes to procrastination and not making progress on our first draft. Do you get too tired to write if it’s past 7 pm? Try waking up early and writing at 5 am. Is your problem getting distracted at home because of all the unfinished chores you see piling up around you (or because of the TV)? Don’t let it be an issue; change up your locations and see where you write best (the library and Starbucks are a few of my faves).

2.     Commit to smaller writing sessions if you have to. I usually write during my children’s naptime and I can hammer out a scene if I write fast enough (and my kids sleep as long as they’re supposed to!). But there are days when things don’t go according to plan—and that’s okay. Train yourself to think in smaller chunks. Can you find 15 minutes before dinner to write the dialogue for that important scene you’ve been ruminating over? Or maybe you can’t manage to get up a whole hour before everyone else in your household, but you COULD manage a half hour. Remember that any time spent writing is forward motion—and all of that time adds up in the end.



3.     Think creatively when it comes to your schedule. Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it that way, especially when you’re trying to write a first draft quickly. For example, if your family is used to fancy dinners that take an hour to prepare, throw in a few crockpot meals here and there. Or, use Evernote to dictate your story into your phone while you fold laundry or are driving to the school pickup line, doctor’s office, or wherever you’re going. Things don’t have to be as black and white as you sitting at your desk in complete silence writing one whole scene at a time. Get creative and make more time in your busy schedule for writing.

4.     Remember that you are only one person. Something’s gotta give—you cannot be Superwoman (or Superman, if any guys are reading this!) all the time. Inevitably, you’ll falter in some area and will feel guilty (even when you shouldn’t). It’s okay to ask for help. Get the kids to do more chores. Ask a friend or family member to babysit. See if someone else can volunteer at church just this once. Of course, you don’t want to shirk your duties in other areas, but there’s a beautiful balance that’s possible when you remember that you don’t HAVE to do it all—and you shouldn’t expect yourself to.

5.     Keep your editing hat far, far away. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s really difficult to write a bad scene and be okay with it. But I have learned over the years that if I don’t just write during a first draft WITHOUT editing, then I’ll never make any progress. If I write something particularly cringe-worthy, I tell myself, “You can fix that later.” Having that knowledge in the back of my mind helps me to pound out the story without worrying so much about the final outcome.

6.     Make sure God is part of the equation if you’re a believer. I recently finished what will be my third published book, The Secrets of Paper and Ink, which won’t release until next February. I have always prayed over first drafts, but not like I did with this book in particular. This time, I felt God calling me to write with Him. That idea came from a session by Allen Arnold I attended a few years ago at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. In this case, “writing with God” meant that I put aside my need for reassurance from critique partners and just relied on Him while writing my first draft. And you guys, I felt such a peace throughout the drafting process. There would be times when I’d question whether I was crazy to do it this way, but when I’d pray about whether to send the story to someone, it just didn’t feel right. I’m not saying you need to do this—critique partners are VERY important!—but just remember to immerse yourself in prayer and ask God for direction as you write. He may lead you to a theme or a story plot you hadn’t anticipated. Just keep yourself open to what He has for the story, even if you had something else planned.

7.     Remember—you and your calling are worth it. It’s easy to let other things in our life take priority over our writing. Sometimes, they should, no doubt. But other times, it’s just an excuse. I firmly believe that if God’s called you to it, He will equip you and give you the time you need to do it. There’s no way I’d get it all done with two little boys and a husband if that wasn’t the case. I have a dear friend who likes to say that she’s actually a better mom because she writes. It doesn’t take away from her life—it adds to it in so many ways. It is worth the time and energy it takes to write stories that will bless others.

Don’t let fear, indecision, unpreparedness, or anything else become your excuse for not getting that first draft done. You CAN do it. Don’t allow anyone—including you—tell yourself differently.



YOUR TURN: What is something that’s held you back from writing in the past? What can you do to overcome that? Is there some way we can be praying for you in this regard?

Thanks for having me today, Seekerville! To show my appreciation to all of you lovely readers and fellow writers, I’m giving away a copy of The Heart Between Us (U.S. residents only), which releases TOMORROW! This book is a testament to the fact that anyone can get a book completed, as I wrote it with a toddler running around trying to eat up all my attention and edited it when I was seven months pregnant with my second son. J

Please let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered.

About Lindsay
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2017, and her second, The Heart Between Us, releases this month (March 2018).

When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.



Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.
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56 comments:

  1. Lindsay, I so needed to read this today! I’ve been struggling lately, stuck in a rut. After chasing around a two year old and a four year old all day, it’s a battle to find the time and/or energy to write. These are some tips I can really use!

    And I love your main character’s name ;) I’d love to read Megan’s story!

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    1. Megan, I totally feel you when you call it a battle! But you’ve got this. The little snatched of time might be particularly important for a mom of littles!

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    2. Megan, I know how difficult it is with small children! Hang in there. And don't miss a minute with them! They grow up so quickly. (I say this because mine are all grown now.) :)

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  2. Great post, Lindsay. Your boys are adorable. I come up with way too many excuses for writing, so I always enjoy reading how others do it.

    Your book looks good. Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Thanks, Sandy! And they’re cute little distractions, aren’t they? ;)

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  3. Welcome to a fellow Arizonan! WONDERFUL tips, Lindsay. I must admit I don't know how anyone with kids does it. I'm always in awe of those of you who manage it. Thank you for joining us today!

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    1. Ah, where in AZ are you? And I think it helps that i started doing it before having kids. It was something that was important for me to keep doing, and you find a way to do what’s important to you!

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  4. Hi Lindsay, I enjoyed reading this post today. I admire your stamina and determination and i look forward to reading your books. Congratulations on your new release tomorrow and I would love to be entered in your drawing.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. Hi Lindsay, and welcome to Seekerville!

    Congratulations on your new release! The story sounds intriguing and thought-provoking, and I can't wait to read it.

    And you have given us great tips for getting that first draft done in the midst of LIFE CHAOS. It seems like I struggle with the first draft of every book. Each season brings its own challenges, and I know I won't get anything on the page without relying on God every step of the way.

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    1. Thanks, Jan. And I totally agree about relying on God. I’m definitely learning how to “write with God.”

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  6. Lindsay, THE HEART BETWEEN US sounds like a powerful story. I admire anyone who can write while raising little ones. Best wishes on your book launch! I'm entering a phase where life is going to make writing difficult. My mom has battled cancer for quite some time now, and the doc advised starting hospice. My sister and I are going to try to keep her home, so that will require creative scheduling since we both work. I live a little over an hour from Mom, and my sister is five hours away. So prayers for stamina and wisdom and peace for us all would be so appreciated. I hope to write some words here and there, but that's low on my priority list right now. :)

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    1. I’m so sorry, Karen. My own mom battled cancer in my teen years and was at home on hospice for awhile. It’s so rough emotionally. I think you’ve got the right approach. There are definitely seasons when we simply don’t have the emotional depth to write. On the other hand, it can be so helpful to help process emotions. I’m praying right now that God will give you strength when you do right, and peace when you can’t. Hugs to you!

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    2. Oh, Karen, I'm so sorry. I'll be praying for all of you, that you can get it worked out. Hospice is wonderful. I've been absent lately because my dad just passed away this past week after a couple of days on hospice care. (I'm just now able to find the strength to talk about it online.) You'll be in my prayers as you make arrangements for care. Please email me anytime if you have questions or just need to talk. missytippens [at] aol [dot] com.

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  7. Lindsey, this is an AWESOME post! I so agree with everything you said, and I SO ADMIRE your can-do spirit and determination to make it work. You're not whining that you have two babies at home and so you can't write. No, you're making a way to make it happen. You will go far, and you can say that I predicted it! :-)
    I started writing when my kids were 4 and 1. Like you, I wrote during nap times. Now that my kids are 19 and 16, I'm finding it harder to write at home (strangely enough) and I end up going to coffee shops, libraries, and my friend's house. I take my laptop with me everywhere, even doctor's offices where I know I'm going to have to wait a long time, to the hairdresser's, and even to the school pick-up line. (Though, Lord willing, I won't have to take my daughter to school any more after this year.) If I can get 15 minutes of writing time, that will usually yield 200 words, and that's helpful. Especially now, since I have less than three weeks to write about 30,000 words, and that's for my extended deadline. The original one was the end of Feb.
    So . . . I probably should be writing! But I knew this post sounded like something that would remind me how to get words in, and it has. What's the best tip of all? Doing what you're doing, which is being DETERMINED to get it done, and coming up with creative ways to make it happen. Awesome! Cheering you on, Lindsey.

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    1. I mean, Lindsay!!! Sorry for misspelling your name. Lindsay!!!

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    2. Thanks, Melanie. (And no worries. My name gets misspelled all the time!). You are so sweet and encouraging! And I will take your prediction! :P Good luck on your deadline. I know how stressful that can be. I just wrote my first book on deadline and it was another beast altogether!

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  8. Great post, Lindsay! I'm not a writer, but can totally relate to the "work-at-home-mom" trying to juggle life with little kids. :)

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    1. Thanks, Beth. I think no matter what we do, having little kids is just tough! They take so much energy.

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    2. They most certainly do. Totally worth it, but totally exhausting!

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  9. Lindsay, good points. I have trouble with 4 and 7. I'm not published yet, so I feel funny asking people to do things for me. This is MY dream, not theirs. But I'm looking ahead to when I am published and have real deadlines, not self-imposed ones, so that's one of the things I'll be working on.
    Life REALLY got in the way this winter. I don't have little kids or even kids at home, but we had an almost mind-boggling series of disasters and catastrophes on top of the regular rigors of winter in New England. I had drawn up a beautiful writing schedule for myself in late December, and I've only been able to work it a handful of times. Stuff still got done, but it was around the edges. But you're right, anything that moves us forward is good.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, I hear you on asking people for help. I had some trouble with that too. But I think it's good to think of it as (1) self-care and (2) more than a hobby--at least, that's what I did. :) I definitely feel more justified in asking for help now that writing is actually something that's earning me money, but I know my family and friends were so instrumental in helping me get here too. I guess just look at the reasons you aren't finding time to write, and if some of it is that you are too busy, see if you can eliminate something or ask your spouse, kids, etc. to help out a bit (even if just occasionally!). Everyone has such different situations, though, so of course it's an individual decision. Good luck to you!! And yes--onward!

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    2. Kathy, you're right that any words on paper is moving forward (like Lindsay said). I sure hope you're able to settle in soon to your wonderful schedule.

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  10. Hi Lindsay!
    You never know what new technique will help until you try :-) When I was first introduced to timed writing sprints I thought the idea was nuts. But about that time I was having trouble getting myself to sit down and write for a half hour after work at night. So I got a cheap kitchen timer, set it for 20 minutes and told myself I only had to write until the timer went off and then if I was just too tired to keep going I could quit. Some nights, I really was too tired to write for more than 20 minutes. But most nights, that little bit of writing just got me started and I kept on going! You are so right. Just because you've done things a certain way for a while doesn't mean you have to keep doing them that way. This post is a great reminder. Thanks!

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    1. Jenna, what a great idea! I love that, because it gives you an "out" if you truly are too tired...but most of us can manage to write for 20 minutes. And sometimes, I'm surprised at what I can actually accomplish in that amount of time.

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    2. Jenna, I'm so glad the timer worked for you! I got an timer app and have tried that in the past.

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    3. I find that it really helps me ignore the old internal editor and just get words on a page.

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  11. I've seem the word EVERNOTE on my laptop and never known what it is.

    I SHOULD TRY THIS!!!

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  12. I downloaded Evernote. It makes no sense.
    I can't see where I could record a book by talking.
    Don't worry about it. I'll ask Google for more info. :)

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  13. Lindsay, The Heart Between Us sounds wonderful. Such an interesting premise!

    Loved your blog post. A tight deadline forced me to write a book in a month. I had just attended a workshop on that very topic. (Love how God provides what we need, when we need it!) I met my deadline and the editor loved the story. Sometimes we learn something new about ourselves when we're backed into a corner.

    As you mentioned, prayer is my first stop when it comes to writing, whether meeting a deadline or brainstorming a new story idea.

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    1. Debby, I'm still amazed by that!

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    2. Wow! That's seriously impressive. Great job!

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  14. Oh Lindsay!

    I'm one of those who want a quiet house and write in my bedroom. I want to be alone. I want to be alone.

    Okay, I only have 2 kids at home and they're both teens. One works fulltime M-F so I really have it good. My 18 year old daughter is a big help around the house and is pretty much self-sufficient on her homeschooling. But just hearing the front door open and shut or hear her in the kitchen rummaging around, and my brain picks up on it.
    I'm really a big whiny baby when it comes to my writing. I've gotten better but I still need to get more adaptable.

    Thank you so much for this post!

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    1. Connie, maybe try headphones! ;)

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    2. I know what you mean, though. When my son is in his room and doing quiet time instead of napping, I'm on edge...like he will come down and interrupt me at any time. It can take awhile to get my head in the game!

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  15. Your book sounds so interesting. You have got me thinking or rethinking my daily schedule, thanks.

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  16. Lindsay, so nice to see you here! Your tips are great! I've wondered how you do it, with two young boys. :) Your tips are great!I've been doing what I can to write with God on my current WIP. It's quite the adventure. :)

    I have to remember that my calling to write is worth the investment of time it takes. Thankfully, I have my husband's support to write. He's been great about giving me a couple of Saturday mornings each month to work on my story. This has been such a gift for time to me.

    The big thing I need to do is not give into fear or discouraging thoughts. I need to not be fearful. That's the thing that can hold me back the most. Great post, LIndsay! Happy writing on your current book!

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    1. Jeanne, I'm right there with you. Fear of rejection (or bad reviews or whatever) freezes me.

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    2. You've got this, girl!! I believe in you! So glad your hubby is supportive. That's huge.

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  17. I'm late to the discussion but boy did I love this post!! Especially when you said: Think creatively when it comes to your schedule. I hate when my plans change but this reminds me that I can use what time I do have to get something written. I've never used Evernote. I'll have to check into that. Thank you!!

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    1. I have Evernote but have never used the voice feature. Must try it!

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  18. Lindsay, thank you for this great post. I love when other writers share ideas for productivity. I find it fun to try different methods.

    I think the next thing I will try is to dictate scenes while I'm working around the kitchen, etc. I love that idea!

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    1. Yay! Happy to help others become more productive. ;)

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  19. Great post, Lindsay!

    I think the thing that holds me back the most is health challenges. I would be greatly appreciative of prayers for healing and wisdom.

    Please do enter me in your book drawing. I'm definitely interested in reading it! And amazed that you were able to accomplish so much with so much going on!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Thanks so much, Phyllis.

      I can't imagine having health challenges. I know when I was pregnant and tired and sick, it was much more difficult to get things done. But at least I knew I had an end in sight. Chronic issues would be so hard to deal with. Praying blessings on you and your writing!

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  20. I'm not very good with being organized. I like to make plans, but I rarely stick to them religiously. I just like the idea of having a plan, but actually sitting down, using calendars and... well let's just say my calendars often go whole months without even being touched.

    I would struggle so hard to get anything out on first draft due to editing. Then I tied up my internal editor and locked him in a closet and I haven't let him out until I'm finished with my draft (I'm almost 100,000 words in). He's going to go nuts when he's finally free, lol.

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  21. What a lovely, clear, and concise post, but I would expect nothing else from you, Lindsay! I learned awhile ago that I need to do my writing away from home or I piddle-dink around and don't get anything done!

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  22. Lindsay I just loved your tips so much. I was especially blessed by your mentioning Allen Arnold. I just finished The Story of With in February. It was a real eye opener about doing this with God and also through what we do learning more about our Heavenly Father. So vital.

    I think that fear is one of my biggest issues and then there is time as well. I manage to get so fully engaged in my work which is also ministry focused. I am like a limp rag by the time I get home. I really need to somehow find a way to do what my heart cries out to do.

    Thank you for sharing today. I was really looking forward to your post. :) I really need to find the way to prioritize deeper.

    Thanks again!

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  23. Thanks for joining us today! I too have such perfectionist tendencies that it is paralyzing at times. Finally finishing a NaNoWriMo last fall helped me learn the value of just powering through and writing without editing. It also taught me that if I was willing to make a few changes, I could live my life--be a mom and a wife and an employee--and still write. Great post. And I'd love to be entered to win the book. It sounds fantastic!

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  24. Good morning, Lindsay. Sorry I didn't make it over here yesterday. My grandkids are in, so I was a little preoccupied. Nonetheless, welcome to Seekerville and thank you for such an informative post. My kiddos may be grown, but life still has its share of chaos. You've shared tips we can all use. Congrats on the new release, too!

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  25. Naptime is also my work time. I have two kids, about 22 months apart. It's the only way right now, and some days it's frustrating. But it's totally worth it. I am so glad to know I am not the only one in this particular balancing act.

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  26. Hey, deadlines and work kept me away from this party, but i'm so glad to get over here now! Lindsey, this is wonderful advice, and what a great premise for a story of love and loss and fear and overcoming. I'm in love with it from the get-go, Lindsey.

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  27. Same issue as you, Lindsay, although my kids are a bit older (9, 7, and 5). When my boys were the ages of yours, I quit writing because it just wasn't worth the hassle. Now I write during quiet time (my 5yo doesn't nap anymore, but she can be trusted to stay in her room for an hour or so) and while she's at preschool. She starts kindergarten in the fall, so I'll have much more time, although I fear self-discipline may fly out the window...

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