Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write-More Tips for Busy Moms!

Since Ethan arrived in 2009, my long days of writing are over. Unless he's out at the park with Athos on a weekend, and even then, I've got to pick up clothes off the floor, wash diapers, clean the streaks he made off the glass, buy bananas, pick up toys... and so on.

If you're a writer without children and reading this, ENJOY YOUR TIME! Write all you can, because it might end soon.

If you've got a two-year-old like I do, or maybe more than one or two kids, you've got to be extra-creative because they won't just lie on a blanket anymore and play with toys while you happily type away. As we say in the South, "that dog won't hunt!"

Here are some tips that have helped take me through three full-length novels (100,000+ word count each) in ONE YEAR:

1. Shower at night. Then when he sleeps during the day, you can use your time to write rather than dry your hair.

2. Peg at least half of his naptime for writing. Fix it in your mind or write it in an agenda. I don't set an actual time count, because I never know exactly how long Ethan's going to sleep. But I estimate and try to write at least half the time he sleeps. That means about one hour per day, since he only sleeps around two hours. In fact, most of the time I spend Ethan's *entire* naptime writing and clean when he wakes - while he helps me!

3. Write early in the morning. I find my creative juices flow better if I start writing before he wakes up (I know, it's hard... Ethan sometimes wakes up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., and we are TIRED!). But the reason for early writing is two-fold: 1) Your mind is less cluttered from stuff ("Don't put the shoe in the toilet!") and 2) you can continue to plot and think of story details, even lines, while you do your daily work. More often than not I find my lines fixing themselves, or the breakthrough I need in plot, while I'm changing diapers or standing over a pot of spaghetti. (Just preferably not at the same time).

4. A side note: This also works for Bible readings, too! I like to read and pray quickly in the early morning, if I can get up before Ethan wakes up, or if not, as soon as he takes his morning nap. Then write. Then you can have both of them flowing in your veins the rest of the day. Or until he drops a basting brush down inside his bed, and you forget everything else. (This actually happened).

5. Try to stay up and write at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. My mind is pretty much shot at this point, but the more I sit there, there are still a few ideas that sneak into my brain. Athos and I like to end weekdays by sitting on the sofa together, he with his international politics book and me with my laptop. If nothing else, reading over what I've written during the day, or brainstorming for titles (this is how all my titles "Southern Fried Sushi" happened, in a beat-up spiral notebook). Just a little focus can get a few last gasps out of your tired brain.

6. Write something - anything! Even if you can't write the novel you're currently working on, write something. Journal. Write down a recipe. Do some writing exercises from a writing craft book like "The Art of War," an absolute wonder book. Create lists of suitable names and last names for characters, or a bank to choose from - like "Mennonite names" and "Redneck names," both real examples open in my laptop right now. See? You're already thinking it: So what if there was a redneck Mennonite? What would he be called? Would he wear suspenders? What if he was out plowing his field, looking for love and his lost heifer, and...

7. If you're too tired to write, and I understand this (Ethan's first year was EXHAUSTING), then read. Read books in your genre, or a genre you'd like to write, and then think/write about what you liked and didn't like. What you could use in your own books, like a well-developed character, a verb tense, a style, a... something. Or read a good craft book like "The Art of War."

8. Don't get distracted by email. Try to write with the Internet OFF or you'll probably just morph over into Facebook and forget what on earth you were trying to work on, and did she write back yet? Do you think she's read your post? And what was the name of that actress on...? (Are you believing me yet?)

9. Snatch bits and pieces of time to write - while your child is in the bath, while you're in the car riding to the in-laws' house, or sitting in the empty conference room waiting for your students to arrive before you teach a class. WRITE! Open your laptop, reach for your writing notebook, or grab a sheet of paper and start putting down paragraphs or ideas. No place for a laptop? Then brainstorm titles on a piece of paper (all the titles for my "Southern Fried Sushi" books came this way), or plot out your next book chapter by chapter. Write ABOUT your book as if explaining it to someone else, and watch the unsolved twists suddenly straighten themselves out. And if you've got no pen or paper, THINK through the plots while staring out the car window or stirring that spaghetti. You'll be surprised how much you can invent/create/fix just by focusing your thoughts on what you're writing (or want to write)!

10. Incorporate a "down time" into your kids' afternoon or morning - in addition to his nap. Ethan sleeps late in the morning, so I've built a one-hour rest time into his afternoon schedule - rest for him, and rest for me! He doesn't sleep, but he plays his crib or bed quietly with toys while the microwave timer goes for one hour. (Older kids could just stay quietly in their rooms). We worked with this gradually from little up using the "blanket time" method, starting with five minutes, with some gentle reinforcement and rewards for obeying. Now he actually looks forward to his quiet time and is cranky if he doesn't get it. And what do I do while he's playing quietly with tractors? Go in my room, shut the door, and WRITE!

Happy writing!

Jennifer Rogers Spinola is an ESL teacher and author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series - her first book released this October! Jenny lives in Brasilia, Brazil, with her husband and two-year-old son, Ethan, and has a sore throat, a mess in the kitchen, and burned sausages in the fridge. Today's net writing time? An astounding three hours. See more of Jenny's crazy life at and click on BLOG!


  1. Great tips Jenny! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I like the burned sausage in the fridge tidbit in the bio. Totally believe you, email is a distraction, I need to find a way to lock it during my writing time. My writing time is I actually stay up after everyone goes to sleep, my brain has always functioned better then. But the plot percolating thing etc. throughout the day works well for night time writing . . . . as long as that email and facebook thing doesn't kill me. I blame them, all their fault! :)

  3. You've got some really good ideas, Jenny. I find writing early in the morning is particularly helpful for the rough draft stage. If I get a good hour or so of writing in the early morning, then my brain is thinking of how to extend the scene throughout the day and I can sit down at my computer for five minutes here and there. Before I know it, I've got another 1000 words. :^)

    Melissa, just for that email comment, I think I'm going to go send you one! Or ten.

  4. Thanks, guys! I commented yesterday, but it seems like my comment disappeared...? Along with some of my other work? Really weird. Not sure what happened, but anyway, thanks for reading!