This is a guest post by Sarah Walker Caron
You wake up and the summer sun — so much brighter and more joyful than the winter sun — shines in your windows. You feel inspired. The words are practically spilling off your fingertips as you begin typing, penning thoughtful prose and inspired essays. Your kids are still asleep, like little angels in their beds.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life was a Hallmark moment like that?
Maybe, maybe not. Really, if it were, we might not have as much to write about.
A more accurate description of a parent’s summer writing life is more like waking up to a crash (what was that?), finding the kids already awake and awaiting you — their cruise director — to tell them what exciting things are going to happen today. You want to sit down and write, but there are breakfasts to sling, diapers to change, arguments to referee and lunches to make. By the time the evening rolls around, you feel lost because you didn’t have a second to devote to work — and you’re exhausted to boot.
How can you find time to write when the kids are around ALL. THE. TIME? Creating your summer schedule starts with two important decisions:
Your workload will determine this number. Will you continue working at the same pace as during the school year during summer vacation? Or will you pare back on your working time? Quantify this with hours, which you can determine by using the average time it takes you to write one piece times the number of pieces you intend to write each week.
Once you know how much time you need, consider how you can break it up during the day, or does it need to be one block of time?
When my kids were very little, we spent summers at the beach staying with family. But I had to do my writing work too -- and within reasonable business hours. So I arranged my schedule so that I worked in the mornings and played in the afternoons. I needed 2-3 hours every morning to keep on top of things. How long do you need?
Now, it’s time to ensure you have writing time by filling up your kids’ summer schedules.
Does your local bookstore offer a free drop-in camp? Are there storytimes at the library? How about a nature walk at the preserve? Look for free or inexpensive kid fun in your area and sign up. Often, the fun is just for the kids so you can set up at a nearby table (or coffee shop) and get some work done while the kids are entertained.
When I was 11, a neighbor hired me to play with her son so she could work at home (she was a professor and needed time to grade papers). That sort of help -- the kind that keeps kids occupied and safe while not expecting full-on babysitting -- can be invaluable. Find a local middle schooler and see if they can help you out.
Rise early or stay up late? Whichever works for you can be a summer schedule saver. You may choose to plan your working hours for these nontraditional times.
This one is a win-win. Give your kids daily chores. Tell them when to do them. Get some work done while they do. Easy peasy.
Here’s the simple truth: There are two kinds of tasks in a work-life. The ones that must get done and the ones that should get done. Focus on the musts. Do the shoulds when you can -- but forgive yourself when you cannot.
Now that you know how much time you need, when you want to fit it in and have arranged some schedule openers, it’s time to make your summer schedule very public — and mesh it with your kids’ schedules. Using a big calendar, you can keep track of where everyone will be and when. Better yet, use different colors for each family member for at-a-glance ease. Visualization — not unlike using a vision board — will help you keep your writing on track all summer.
Start by writing in your work times. This might feel selfish at first, but you are really making a statement about your time and your writing work: it’s valuable.
Now, add in any appointments, camps, classes and other times that are planned. Ideally, this should overlap with your work time, freeing you up. If it doesn’t, take another look at the calendar for spaces when you can either shift your working time or fill in something else to help (like a mother’s helper).
Summer break doesn’t have to be a stress on the writing life. Instead, get organized, plan some things for the kids so you can be productive and enjoy the time. Your bylines will be your thanks.
P.S. Wanna read about writing craft and grammar with a little of the time you’ve carved out this summer? Our books Write Compelling Content and Grammar for Writers & Bloggers are full of writing exercises that will help elevate your prose!
Sarah Walker Caron is a freelance writer, editor and author based in Maine. She is the creator of the popular food blog Sarah’s Cucina Bella and the founding editor of HelloHomestead.com. Her latest cookbooks, The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, are available where books are sold.