About Me

Hi, I'm Debbie. Sometimes, people like ask me what I do. Good question. I'm not always sure how to answer it myself! I'm hoping this blog helps me answer that question, or is at least fun to read along the way.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Just One Question: So What Are Your Kids Doing?

These days, I have Stephen King's On Writing sitting by my bedside table.  I've read it before; mostly, right now I'm in a reading lull, so I just grabbed this book one random morning when I felt I needed something to read.  By in large, it's a good read, and a decent book about writing.  Okay, social media and blogging and what-not have taken over the world enough that it feels sufficiently dated in parts--worry about the paper you are printing your work on? why are you printing anything?--but the nuts & bolts part is still pretty solid.

In the meantime, in between time, a friend--okay, Pam again over at Starbucks--shot off a little link-a-doodle about "12 Musts of Blogging."  Currently, I follow about, err, zero of them.  Some are technicalities that I haven't gotten off my "to figure out" list.  Others are things like "be patient" and "be consistent" and "have a focus."  Not sure if I'm nailing any of those right now.

Why do I mention both this Bloggin Guru and Stephen King?  Well, it's that consistency thing.  Both seem to think I should be writing more often.

I'm gonna' make a bold call right now, which might just be an excuse:  I bet both these guys aren't the ones taking care of any kids in the house. 

I don't really know about Blogging Guru, but Stephen Kind mentions having two children in his book, and at least has the grace or good sense to make a passing comment about his wife's writing, saying that she'd have broken through if she had 2 more hours in the day, but she has the same 24 as everyone else.  (I believe Tabatha King may have some books out there--and surely, by now, she has some good connections, lol!--but King makes this comment discussing his early, not-yet-mainstream career.)

About 6 months after my daughter was born, I went to a local writing workshop entitled "Writing for Money," or something like that.  (I'm guessing the workshop made the money, at $100 a pop, but I was desperate to get out of the house and feel human, plus there was another published writer there I was stalking, and it was worth it: I managed to get one article published in a local parenting mag.  I think I broke even.)  The keynote speaker was Michael Ruhlman, a guy I'd call a "foodie writer," except really he writes about much more; non-fiction journalistic stuff that reads like a story.  Anyway, I sat next to him with my own copy of Soul of a Chef and had him sign it, so I was feeling pretty cool.  Soon after, he gave the keynote address.

Honestly, I don't remember much of it, lousy listener I must be!  I do remember him talking about his day.  It sounded pretty damn idyllic.  Do some yoga in the morning, have a nice breakfast, write for 4 or 5 hours, break to make an elegant lunch in gourmet kitchen with skills acquired from interviewing Thomas Keller, do a couple hours of revisions and marketing stuff, wind down with a cocktail and some nuzzling with the golden retriever.

Yes, I'm exaggerating.  Some. 

My day at the time looked something like this: Wake up.  Nurse baby and change.  Eat breakfast.  Try solids.  Fail.  Nurse baby.  Start laundry.  Put baby down for morning nap.  Do some transcription from random side-gig I'd picked up.  Baby up.  Nurse baby.  Stick baby in exer-saucer in bathroom and shower.  Get dressed.  Try feeding baby solids.  Eat peanut butter sandwich one handed.  Take call for side-gig.  Turn on the "Wiggles" while doing interview; eventually throw napkins at baby and make funny faces while finishing up on phone to keep her quiet.  Ignore mess of napkins on floor to go play with baby in family room.  Ignore mess of toys in family room and mess of napkins on floor to go fold laundry. 

I'm not exaggerating.  Nope.  Pretty much not. 

So I raised my hand during the Q&A time.  While other folks where asking all sorts of writer-ly questions like "how do you find your material" and "do you like adverbs?" and stuff, I asked this:

"Umm...you mentioned having two kids.  What are they doing during all this?"

I think he said they were in school or camp all day, or discreetly being nurtured by a sexy, off-stage au pair.  We had a brief back-and-forth on the age of his children, and the age of my baby.  Finally, Mr. Published Keynote Speaker said, "Oh, six months?  You won't really have a whole lot of time to write until your kids are around eight."

Eight.  I actually can't recall if that was the exact number, but it was something like that.  Basically, I got redeemed by a professional for claiming (okay, implying) that finding time to write was really, really challenging with young tots underneath.  So no, over the past 9-ish years, I haven't had the Stephen King/Blogging Guru discipline that these pros have advised.  I've been busy.  Raising a family.  But if you are a mother looking to find some time to write--maybe 15 minutes a week, say--here are some tips:

1.   Skip showering.  Your kids probably don't notice, and it's kind of over-rated.
2.   Skip blow-drying your hair or putting on makeup.  People don't see you when you write.
3.   Order pizza.  Cuts down on dinner prep.
4.   Ignore the laundry.
5.   Win the lottery.
6.   Let your kids watch Go Diego, Go!  (If you're really kickin' it, let 'em watch a few.)
7.   Install an iPad keyboard at your sink.  (Let me know how that works.)
8.   Pretend to "color" with your kids, but actually write.
9.   Have your kid dictate stories to you; sometimes they come up with stellar ideas.
10.  Fill the sink with water, pull up a stool, and let the kids have at it.  This will buy you up to 20 minutes.  It might destroy surrounding cabinetry, but hey, it's for your craft!

Until then, to all you genius mommies who periodically ignore their children to write find any time at all to write, kudos to you!  Keep it up--I'm sure you'll go viral or write a bestseller soon!


  1. Hate to discourage you, but you'll probably find ways to get distracted from writing even when your kids are older. If it were feasible, I think all writers need to rent space somewhere and actually go there for a specific number of hours each week, as though it's a paying job and your family depends on your (non-existent) income!

  2. Pam,
    First of all, thank you for commenting, and sorry this took so long to respond. I got kind of interrupted by kids wanting to update things on their kindles, and then the neighbors strolled along and I had to catch up with them, and then it was nice out, so we decided to go to the pool, and then there's been back-to-school shopping, and...
    Oh wait, that was your point, eh? You're going all "Let's Get Real" Dr. Phil on me, huh? I think I'm just inventing a whole new form of mothering-guilt; instead of feeling guilty for going to the office, I'm feeling guilty for a currently (in most forms) non-paying, err, habit. Which probably needs to be more habitual to get better.

  3. Debbie,
    I enjoy your writing -- and your blog brings back great memories of my younger mom years!

    First, I loved SK's "On Writing" -- which I finally read after noticing that many writers include it in their "top 10 writing books" list. Though I blog and use social media, I have found in recent years that online writing has actually gotten in the way of my print publishing. I used to published A LOT more when I wasn't noodling around online, like I do now.

    But I wanted to address your "kids and writing time" issue. I was a weekly family newspaper columnist (print) for 14 years, in addition to freelancing regularly for several other publications. (Many of those essays are published in my book, Writing Home, which focuses on that time in my life.)

    Surprisingly, I accomplished so much more while my son was in school -- even more than I do now that he's grown and out of the house! I would knuckle down at my desk as soon as I returned from driving the morning carpool, and I kept writing until the afternoon carpool shift, around 2:30. I'll admit that weekly deadlines kept me glued to my seat, but I also made myself pitch stories to magazines several times a week. However, like I said, in those days there wasn't the focus on Facebook or Twitter or blogs -- those distracting time-suckers that fool people into thinking they are actually doing something besides spinning their wheels.

    I keep telling myself this now -- because I need to hear it too: Writing begets writing. The busier you are, the more you accomplish. It's counter-intuitive, but for me it was true, and I am trying like hell to get back into that groove. Just gotta check my email and a few more Tweets first :-)

  4. Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for stopping by again and your encouraging comments! Now that I'm back to a fall school schedule, I'm telling myself that I need to establish a better writing routine. Of course, as Pam above points out, I bet I can still find tons of "distractions"! Guess discipline is called discipline for a reason.