Summer Writing-Survivor Style

by limebirdkate

Summer is almost here. One more week, and my kids will be out of school and the pandemonium of the school-year will give way to a newer, deadlier reign of chaos. Of this I am sure. I have been through eight summers of motherhood, and each summer I was dragged across the coals in surrender.

But this time, this time, I’m going to beat them!

This summer, I want to enhance my writing routine. But this means I need more writing time. How to do that with kids at home? Some of us cannot afford to send our children to boot…er, day camp all summer long. Some of us have kids who are too old for naps. This means the kids are by our sides. A lot. This means we have to be creative. Heck, we’re writers. We can be creative! Can’t we?

To be creative enough to outsmart your children, you need to do a little planning and prepping. Nothing strenuous, of course, because we need to save our energy for our writing.

My strategy this summer is to exhaust and enrich and excite my kids every day so that they will let me sit in my study undisturbed for my preferred stretch of writing time. You read right: ‘let me’. It’s all about reverse psychology, people!

Lucky for me, I enjoy my children so not only will this be fun for them, I’ll get a lot out of it too—besides, I can’t think of anything more inspiring than children loving life.

Be Prepared: I have long learned to never, ever leave my house for any length of time without writing tools. This goes for summer outings, even day hikes. Pack a notebook and pen—lightweight tools that are easy to stick into a purse, backpack or even a pocket. You never know when you’ll see something that strikes your muse.

Have a Plan B: Plan A, which should be all about fun, will fall through. At least half a dozen times. I guarantee it. You’re supposed to spend the day at the beach, and it rains. Your kids’ friends are supposed to come over, and they cancel. You’re supposed to go to the movies, and someone gets sick.

Kids don’t handle disappointment well. Mothers of disappointed kids get stressed and rattled, and this can drain your writing mojo. Don’t hang all your hopes on one fun activity. Make sure you have a back-up plan which will wash those blues away (fingerpainting the basement floor, playing a board game for jelly beans, have a treasure hunt outdoors, etc.). Remember—the idea here is to satisfy your kids first, make them content as kittens on a sunny sill, so that you can go write.

Stock up for Rainy Days: A rainy day can also mean a day when no one feels like going anywhere. This can either lead to supreme relaxation or monsters-in-waiting. It’s tempting to let them chill in front of the television because they want to be lazy bums. You will think to yourself, “Maybe I can get some extra writing time in.” Don’t be fooled! Kids are notorious for second winds, and fourth winds, and seventh winds! They will wait for you to get settled and strike with “I’m bored! I have nothing to do!”

Don’t let it happen to you. I have a cupboard filled with arts & crafts. I keep sweet-treat ingredients on hand for emergency baking. I own a wide collection of movies and books and CDs. I keep scraps of natural materials for fairy houses or other crafts. Yes, this does mean your involvement, but this way you satiate that terror lurking inside your otherwise sweet, innocent child. Once he is duly satisfied, you’ll get the chance to write.

Reward for positive behavior (i.e., bribery, or as they do in Survivor—strike an alliance) – Because my kids are too old for naps, it also means they are at the perfect age for bribery.  They know the value of money and rewards, and if I promise them something wonderful I am pretty much guaranteed no interruptions during my set time frame.

Warning: Do not abuse this method. Children are like leeches. (I mean this in the most adoring sense of the term.) If you are not careful, they will drain you dry.

The ultimate goal here is to make everyone HAPPY. For kids, that means freedom, play, family time. For us writers/parents, it means daily word counts, mingling with characters, mingling with family. It’s all about balance. Balance lends peace. Peace encourages cooperation and teamwork. Teamwork leads to success. Success makes us HAPPY.


28 Comments to “Summer Writing-Survivor Style”

  1. Great tips there Kate, it’s always difficult to find time to write when the kids are around. One thing that has worked for us if we’re having a whole day at home is what we call ‘Alternating time’. We set a timer for one hour, and during that hour they are not allowed to interrupt me at all (emergencies aside of course!). When the timer goes off, we reset it and I then spend an hour doing whatever game or activity they have chosen, I am not allowed to be distracted by my phone/emails or anything during that hour. And then we switch again. And we do that for the whole day. If either side interrupts the time, then an extra 5 minutes is added on to the hour for each interruption. We have “neutral” time for lunch.

    • Hi Vanessa, love that idea. I would probably want to push it out a bit though, as an hour isn’t enough for me to make headway on anything, lol. Sad, I know. I have run the timer on games with them because they are notorious for asking “another 5 minutes, pleeeease?!?!?!”

  2. Good luck for the summer! Sounds like it will be fun and rewarding for you all!

  3. AWesome post Kate. That’s great for day one, now what about day two? LOL

    • Haha, you know what, Neeks. That same joke ran through my mind after I submitted the post. There are some days when nothing will work, I suppose. Those are the days I drink a leetle beet more 🙂

  4. Sounds like great advice! Unfortunately for me, if I don’t sit down and write/revise/edit, I’ve probably got no one to blame except myself! Although husbands can get bored easily too…. 🙂

  5. Hi Kate – sounds like a win-win strategy for your summer. Meet your needs and then you’ll be able to meet the children’s as well. You have so much energy and drive, I am in awe. All this, and getting up at 4am? Vanessa’s tip is great, too – I wish I’d thought of that when mine were small.

    Now my eldest is at university, I still get very distracted when she’s home, and the house is a lot busier. However, I’m much more aware of how very fleeting the years are, and I want to make the most of every minute, so I don’t mind writing less.

    So, make sure you enjoy every precious second of your summer, if you can. You’ll have the writing forever, but the children, not so long. Here’s hoping you get good weather as well.

    • Hi Amanda, I am hoping for great weather, also, because rainy summers are the worst when you have children at home. Oh yes, I plan to mmake the most of my time with them. I’m actually down a job this summer (one I’d have had to drag them to) so even though it means funds are down too, I will still look forward to every day with them. They grow up too fast.

      Yes, I’ll still get up at 4, this way I’ll get the 2 hours in the am plus an extra hour (or so) in the pm. Right now it’s the best I’ve got. I don’t know if it’s energy that pushes me or sheer determination to see this through. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Wow. I can totally relate to this. I’m loving having my kids home (ages 9 and 11)… they are helpful and want to do lots of things I consider fun, too. However, I almost never get time to sit in front of the computer like I do during the school year.

    Your tips are good ones. I’ve learned that, because we’re a very active family, my kids are used to LOTS of physical activity (they’ve built up stamina ; ), so I know if I want to get anything done, action is my friend. Action, then writing. No action, no writing. Probably a good rule for all of us adults, too!

    • Hi Anne, I love how you put that: action, then writing. No action, no writing. It’s really true. If we work the wiggles out of all of us, then sitting down for a couple of hours is like a dream. Right, the summer is a completely different schedule from the school-year. Without that routine, I am floundering. I hope that this will work out the way I’m envisioning it! Thanks for commenting.

  7. This is an excellent post! Re-blogging for all of my writer friends with kids! 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Laura Lee Anderson and commented:
    For all of my writer friends with kids- You need to read this post! It’s really quite awesome!

  9. Yes, someone once told me that kids are like savings bonds: you have to invest to get a pay-off.

    My 8-yr-old son is going to day camp for a portion of the summer, but for the remainder? It’s Momma Boot Camp.

    Nice post! Lucky for me, my son LOVES to read. So he disappears for at least 2-3 hours a day doing just that. And he gets a half hour of a web game called Bike Baron. So there’s half a day right there! Then he’s got his “projects” going in the garage, taking apart old electronics, building a hovercraft from scratch, building RC robots with Lego, etc. And we also go out to “blow the stink off” by playing catch, touch football, or soccer. Thanks for your suggestions

    • Hi Jilanne, I love that analogy to savings bonds. Sounds like you and your son share a very agreeable relationship, lol. Fantastic that he loves to read–that’s a huge bonus. It also sounds like he’s quite independent, which is also another huge bonus.

      Best wishes for a productive summer of writing!

  10. Okay, sounds great, Kate. As a famous man once said. Let us know how that works for you. 🙂

  11. Oh, how I remember those days. I guess I was lucky I didn’t write when the kids were little. Well, I wrote grocery lists, but you know what I mean. It is a busy busy time. And then poof! It is over. Off to college they go. Cute post.

    • Hi Robin, yes, I know what you mean. Balancing full-blown writing and kids is like building an explosive device. It’s a very stressful, very intricate job. But I still do it, so I must love it–somewhere deep, deep, deep down inside, like, super deep.

      Thanks for swinging by 🙂

  12. I nominate this post for the Mommy Manifesto. Smart, funny, practical ideas. Your children are very lucky!

  13. Nice post, Kate! These are all great ideas, notably the sweet-treat ingredients. My sister and I loved making our own treats. I’d totally forgotten about that one! I also liked the little nod to bribery…and the fair warning about it, too. 😀

    Our dad used to bribe us with first-preference (money was always tight). If we were good, settled down, did some chore or other, we could choose dessert, get TV control, maybe even stay up a little bit later. 🙂

    • Hi Mayumi,

      You have a smart dad! I think life pretty much works like this in general, anyway. I know all the know-it-all child psychologists say to never bribe children because it will ruin them. As long as my kids aren’t getting called into the principal’s office, they’re making friends, they’re being sweet to me and each other, and all around just being kind and generous and joyful–then I’m going to keep up the bribes as long as it works! 🙂

      Thanks for swinging by.

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