Saturday, February 26, 2011
I've asked permission of my author colleague, Mayra Calvani, whom I featured last fall on my other blog, "American Latina/o Writers Today" (http://www.latinowriterstoday.blogspot.com/ ) to cross-post this wonderful article she wrote about balancing her professional writing career with raising her family. This blog originally appeared on the Utah Children's Writers website on February 6, 2011. Enjoy!!
* * * * * *
(Guest post with Award-winning Author Mayra Calvani: How to Set Writing Goals with a Family)
“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environment
and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
--C. G. Jung
You want to start your career as a writer, and you have young kids at home. How do you find the time to write and actually produce something while your children ask you for sandwiches, demand you play with them, or refuse to take a nap? Writing with kids at home isn’t easy, but it can be done.
The following are 7 tips to setting writing goals with a family:
If you set your goals too high, you’ll crash and you’ll be left with feelings of failure, frustration and bitterness. This will have a strong impact on the way you feel about yourself as a mom and wife, and will affect the time you spend with your loved ones. Face it, unless you have a nanny, you won’t have a lot of free time until your kids are old enough to go to pre-school. If you’re not able to set your writing goal to one hour a day, or even half an hour, what about 15 minutes? Start small. Take baby steps. Persistence is vital: If you stick to it, a lot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes a day over a long period of time. In 15 minutes, you can plot a scene, profile or interview a character, write dialogue, do research on a specific topic for your book, etc. Everybody can set aside 15 minutes of writing time.
This is the key to succeed! Buy a planner or calendar and schedule your week in advance every Sunday. This way, come Monday morning, you’ll know what to do. What’s the best time to set aside those 15 minutes? Does your child take a morning or afternoon nap? Do you have the type of child who would be happy playing in a playpen by himself while you write? Could you hire a teenager to look after your child twice a week for an hour, while you write in the next room? Perhaps you know other moms who are in a similar situation and who would be interested in taking turns taking care of the kids? Brainstorm various possibilities. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
You might not always be able to follow your daily writing goals. You know what? That’s perfectly fine. Life often gets in the way. In fact, it feels as if life always gets in the way when you have a family, doesn’t it? The planner is there to keep you motivated, focused, and steered in the right direction. However, those words aren’t set in stone. If you can’t meet your writing goal for that day, just try to get back in track the next. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I tried my best.” It’s like with a diet. You don’t have to quit the whole diet just because you broke it one day by eating pizza.
Books are made of words, sentences, paragraphs. Depending on how fast a writer or how inspired you are, you can write words, sentences and even a whole paragraph or paragraphs in 15 minutes. The key here is to keep doing it regularly over a long period of time. You have heard it many times: write a page a day, and one year later you have a 365-page book.
If only I had more time!
I’ll write when my kids start school.
I’m always so busy!
When I’ll retire, that’s when I’ll write that book.
Blah, blah, blah. Listen: there’s never a perfect or right time to write. You just have to stop whining and you have to do it. Why leave for later what you can start doing now? Life is short and unpredictable. You have no control over the future. However, you have control over the now.
You work hard. You’re always there for your children, husband, parents, relatives and friends. Why is it that you so often forget about yourself? Treat yourself like a precious jewel. And I’m not talking about being selfish—though being a little selfish is often the best thing you can do to be able to give yourself to others. Reward your accomplishments, however small. When you love yourself, you’ll find the time to set aside those writing times because you know your goals and dreams are important. When you do what’s important to you, you feel accomplished and fulfilled emotionally and intellectually. When this happens, you’re able to give yourself to your family without reservations. Mostly importantly, the quality of those family moments will increase because you won’t resent them.
Set Your Priorities
How badly to do want to become an established author? Can you live with your home not being spotless or dust-free at all times? Or with letting the laundry accumulate once in a while? Because this is, exactly what will happen once you’ve made your decision of becoming an author. You’ll face times when you’ll have to choose between writing or doing the laundry. I’m not saying you should neglect your family and put your writing first. What I’m saying is you don’t have to be a ‘super’ mom at all times.
You have the potential to make your dreams come true. Nevertheless, you have to believe in them and you have to follow a plan. You also have to make them a priority in your life. Keeping these tips in mind will help you achieve your dreams and become a happier writer. As I always say, a happy writer is a happy mama.
You can learn more about Award-winning Author Mayra Calvani, her books, follow future guest post, interviews and her World of Ink Virtual Author Tour at
About Mayra Calvani:
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and co-editor of Voice in the Dark ezine. She's had over 300 reviews, interviews, stories, and articles published in print and online. Mayra is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Children's Writer's Coaching Club. Visit her website at www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com. She also keeps a blog at www.mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com.