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What to do When Our Writing Routine Gets Disrupted

One of the greatest struggles writers face is finding TIME to write.

I opened up my blog for questions a week ago, and many of the questions had to do with the TIME factor.

So, I wanted to start the week by tackling Liza Carens Salerno's question: “What do you do when your writing routine gets disrupted? How do you get yourself back on track? I'm struggling with the changes that the summer schedule has introduced and am curious how others adjust.”

Oh, Liza, thank you for asking that question! It’s one I’ve been struggling with a LOT this summer. And I’m sure others are as well.

At the beginning of June, I heaved a huge sigh, grateful to be done with the school year and the hectic daily schedule of mothering and teaching my five children. Now I would have more time—extra long days to work on my writing-related work, clean my house (finally), take the kids swimming, and maybe enjoy a day or two doing whatever I wanted.

Boy was I wrong! I only had to take one look at my summer calendar to realize I had suddenly become Taxi-Mom. Pottery class for my twins, computer class and guitar lessons for my oldest son, swimming lessons, basketball camp, piano lessons, and on and on it went. Between my five children and all their fun activities, I suddenly found myself with more interruptions to my writing time than during the school year.

I started to stress. How would I finish the edits on Book #2 and get them to my publisher by the end of June? When would I find the time to comb through my Galleys for The Preacher’s Bride? Would I still have time to write up interviews/guest posts I’d planned on doing in my “free time” during the summer?

I can’t claim that I’ve resolved all my stress or come up with a perfect solution to the problem of having disruptions to my writing time. But here are just a few of the things I did to adjust to the new routine:

1. Have a meltdown and gain sympathy from those we live with. Okay, so NOT really. Try to avoid this one, if possible. It didn’t work very well for me.

2. Look at my schedule and block in times to write. Maybe I won’t be able to write at my usual times, but when I looked hard enough I could find chunks of time most days where I could schedule in concentrated time.

3. Let my family know my work schedule. The fact is most writers work from home, and we all know that working at home presents all kinds of challenges. We battle our own distractibility as well as the interruptions of others. But if we schedule “work” time and take it seriously, our families will likely follow suit.

4. Let some good things go. We’ll have to make some sacrifices because as much as we’d like super powers, we just don’t have them. We can’t go everywhere and do everything. And as much as my kids would love to go to the pool and park to play with friends every day, it won’t hurt them to stay at home, ride bikes with each other, and run through the sprinkler in the back yard. In fact, maybe those are the moments that will stick with them the most after the classes and lessons are long over.

5. Lower my expectations. I’ve had to realize I just can’t do everything the way I have in the past. Maybe I won’t get all the projects and cleaning done over the summer that I’d hoped to. Perhaps I won’t have time to write up all the interviews. I have to remind myself to set realistic goals, ones that I actually have a chance of meeting.

So, that’s what I do when my writing routine gets disrupted. What's your writing schedule like over the summer? How do you get yourself back on track when you face disruptions to your routine?

45 comments:

  1. Time... UH HUH! And where did mine go I would like to know?! Anyone seen it? My three year old decided not to have day time sleeps or even decent day time rests! So now my writing time is spent running him to the toilet for the 100th time. And who can say no to a child who is barely toilet trained! And then there were the countless 'I need a drink' and 'Can I get up yet?' cries from his room. Finally I closed my laptop and banged my head against the wall. Okay, not quite.

    So yeah... time. I am in need of some of it. Can't wait to hear what your readers have to say.

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  2. I try to do a little bit each day. Though my girlies are both grown, I find it hard to work when the family is home. Was a lot easier when they took naps and went to bed at 7pm LOL

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  3. I want to take pottery class with your twins.

    My summer has been a little crazy. Getting ready for vacation number two around the bend. I ease up a bit with blogging, etc. but I'm in the trenches w/ editing and now characters have introduced themselves for next novel...so I'm researching.

    ~ Wendy

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  4. Jody, thanks for your wishes over on our site :) You're so sweet!

    As for as time, whew, don't I know it. As a teacher, I kept thinking I'd have much more time to write once summer came. No matter what, there's just not enough. I love your tips to chunk your time into blocks and let some good things go. I think these are spot-on!

    Thanks Jody!
    Marissa

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  5. Summer is hard. I def. don't have as much time. I'm trying to readjust my goals to fit my schedule.

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  6. I am a teacher, too. I was counting down until summer started and I would have "all this time to write"! Yeah, well, not sure what happened to all that time. If I find it, I will let you know!

    I loved your number one suggestion. Very, very tempting...

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  7. I love your suggestions, especially number 1! Only joking.

    Lowering expectations helps me cope. Only Jesus is perfect, and He doesn't expect perfection from us. When I let my list of goals replace my peace, I'm headed for the meltdown.

    Ask me how many decades it took me to discover this!


    Love you, Jen

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  8. Thanks Jody! Here is where I am so far...the blocking off thing hasn't worked due to schedule changes. However, with the weather warm and the sun up early, I find that I can get up an hour early and get some good things accomplished. In the winter, I know that would kill me, but for now, I'm going to keep trying it. An added bonus is that I'm so sleepy when I get up that I'm still kind of engaged in my dream state and that helps with the writing some.

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  9. yes, I do these things too. This summer, I have taken to leaveing the house after dinner and heading out to the library or even the hospital (it is quiet there and its open all night) with my laptop.

    summer is tough on a writing schedule!

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  10. I used to get very stressed and annoyed. Now I try to go with the flow and appreciate my kiddos while they're young. That said, I have NO deadlines so I can do that. :-)
    I hope I never become Taxi-mom. I want my kids to have fun stuff to do, but I also want them to know how to entertain themselves, and how to be comfortable staying home.
    You guys sound busy! Hope you all have a great summer and that you finish everything on your plate. :-)
    Oh, thanks for the tip on meltdowns. *grin*

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  11. My writing schedule, year long, is write when my partner is gone to work or sleeping. Trust me, when he takes vacation, it disrupts the heck out of my writing schedule. I just do the best I can with those disruptions. Okay, I count the days until he goes back to work, but I'm allowed . . . aren't I?

    For me, everything boils down to maintaining a balance between writing and life. Sometimes, life interferes so much that I can't write like I want to write. Yes, I become frustrated, but I know the balance will return and things will get back to normal.

    S

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  12. You do an awesome job with all you do! I'm impressed with how well managed and productive your time is!

    Pacing yourself, enjoying the moments with your family, and being nice to yourself are all important as is your writing.

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  13. Time is an issue for almost everyone I know. And you are so right. It's about prioritizing it in a way that works for everyone. Time is less of an issue for me than it ever has been because I don't have children at home and I no longer have elders I am caring for. It's been an interesting transition. I don't know how you do all you do with five children. You are amazing, Jody.
    Karen

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  14. I sure appreciate this post, Jody. This has been the busiest summer ever, with company, company, company and taxi services galore for my teen daughter. I've had more than one meltdown over the lack of uninterrupted writing time in my schedule. (And you're right...it doesn't work so very well. ;) )

    The ONLY way I can fit more writing into an already crammed schedule is to wake up early and sneak it in first thing. It usually doesn't work for me, though, because then I'm just cranky the rest of the day. *grin*

    So, I've lowered my expectations for the summer. It's taken a LOT of pressure off of me, and I'm pouring myself into the things God has clearly put before me for this time and season.

    Fall is just around the corner. Hopefully a decent schedule will ensue.

    Blessings to you, Jody!

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  15. I'm a huge fan of #3 - it's so important! But I still find that people don't really "get" it. I mean, my husband does, but that's about it.

    We were just on vacation with his folks, and I explained several times that I needed time to work on my MS; yet, they still marveled whenever I was working on it (which was a lot).

    I guess just sticking to your guns and not getting guilted into NOT writing is key.

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  16. Here's my terrible confession: I get less done during the summer when I have more free time. I find the busier I am, the more productive I become. Weird, but true.

    (Using timers also helps me compartmentalize my time and keeps me from spending too much time reading blogs, facebooking, etc.)

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  17. Time. (Sigh) Time and I go round and round. I grab at it trying to slow it down as he (time)is rushing by.

    I try try try to write every day for at least an hour. I wish I had more "time" to write. Even if you work outside the home, an hour a day of writing will add up. I promise.

    Teresa

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  18. I gave up my garden this year. I'm barely keeping up on the weeds right now. And I've had to say 'no' to my children on things they wanted to do because I don't want to be a taxi mom 24/7. It is not my divine purpose in life. Well, I guess it could be.:)

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  19. Schedule? What is that exactly? Well, this summer having a schedule has been impossible for a multitude of reasons so when a free ten minutes shows up I grab it and go crazy.

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  20. meltdown? check. lowered expectations? double-check. letting some good things go? yes, for both me (um, sleep?) and the kids (endless playdates, classes, and structured enrichment activities, etc. Instead they play in the backyard while I peer out the window or plot in a lawn chair. I think you're right--they're gaining from this time AND seeing their mother follow a dream!)

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  21. As a homeschool mom I can so relate, too. I thought I would have tons of time to write over the summer. Between ballet classes, science classes, church activities, family health issues, etc....you get the point. Honestly, as a new homeschool mom that comes first...so sometimes writing just gets the boot. I try to write a bit every night when everyone goes to bed. And for me facing the fact that I have the rest of my life to write, but my children will only be little for so long.

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  22. My biggest problem with disrupted writing time is myself. I work at home all day, but after dinner, I have time to write. I just need to focus and get it done. No excuses...just do it.

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  23. There's this misleading concept of "lazy summer days" that convinces me I'll have so much more free time to accomplish things I didn't get done during the winter... but it never happens! The only truly lazy days are the ones where I park myself in a lawn chair somewhere remote -- could be a camping trip or a week at our cabin or just a day trip. DH often goes walking with the dog or kayaking and I write, with the only interruption being the need to grab an occasional cold drink from the cooler. It's an expanded version of your #2, called scheduling a personal mini retreat, and I don't think it's selfish at all. Everyone else looks forward to their summer indulgences so why shouldn't I?

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  24. Great post, Jody. It rings with authenticity and humility. We are all works in progress.

    What I'm doing right now is working for me. Although it's still an effort to protect the time. I posted about it today. I think you'll enjoy seeing how another writer is making it work.

    I read about several other prolific writers who make it work. One writes from 5-10 AM and lives the rest of life beginning at 10:00. Another hands the children to her husband or a sitter for several hours each afternoon after school. (Susan Wise Bauer -- she homeschools, too).

    My daily habits are working well for me now. I think the main challenge is more than an issue of finding time, though. I think my biggest need is to make a space in which I can be fully present.

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  25. I'm not doing very well with that schedule thing yet. I wasn't even very good out of summer. And my children are grown. But my older grandgirl is around a lot, and I've had my little one several times. (Who can resist the tug of baby scent?) I tend to take my paper and pen everywhere.

    I doing okay with the blogging thing. It's the WIPs that languish.

    I do find that leaving some household tasks undone is draining energy. I distract myself with procrastination on all fronts.

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  26. I SO feel this! Welcome to the mommy taxi club! Between shuttling the kids around and getting my own errands done, a small part of me is longing for fall. Nevertheless I've managed to increase my word count ever so slightly. I've been piece mealing my writing, stealing bits of time here and there. Plus I'm still marveling over the fact I haven't fallen behind on laundry once this summer. I think the laundry is throwing my routine off a bit as well. ;)

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  27. My "baby" just graduated from high school, so I don't have to worry about the "mom-taxi" thing anymore. YAY!!! I love being able to schedule my days as I wish - it is such a great gift.

    Good luck w/your five little ones - I don't know how you do it!

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  28. Hi Jody -

    While I don't have any kids, it doesn't stop the summer distractions or life from throwing a monkey wrench into my schedule.

    Gardening means watering, weeding, and harvesting. Sunny days beckon me outside. Oh, and did I mention a broken tooth sent me on a round of dentist visits? Ugh.

    I'm learning to work at times that normally are not as productive as mornings. While I'd like to visit with friends more, I'm careful. It's easy to lose an entire day socializing.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  29. This has been a huge challenge for me this summer. My writing has been disrupted by family events and emergencies that have popped up. It's been disrupted by sickness and a few other things. It's been HARD. I definitely have to lower my expectations. I have to realize some days I just CAN'T get everything done. And sometimes, I simply have to give myself a break. Unfortunately it's been a break from blogging mostly, but there are also days where I need to rejuvenate and I will ONLY spend time with family or doing things that aren't writing related so I don't feel so overwhelmed.

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  30. I thought summer would be easier, but it turning out to be harder. :O)

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  31. OMG you just described my life exactly! I had the breakdown (#1), couldn't find a way to block out time (#2), and skipped right to lowered expectations (#3). Slowly, I'm getting a few more segments of time to write. But it has been waaay more of an adjustment than I expected. By the time I figure it out, I think the summer is going to be over!

    Thanks for the great post! :)

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  32. Amen to this! I can see that a lot of us juggle the same daily lives and interruptions. I especially liked your solution #1. Meltdowns have their places too!

    I've tried to keep a summer schedule of morning and afternoon writing, with hanging with the kids in the middle. It's not always perfect, but mostly it's up to ME to make it stick.

    Life happens, and I figure I'm lucky enough to be able to be at home during the day, and not having to work a day job AND juggle writing.

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  33. Excellent post! I struggle with finding time to write in the summer as well due to all the traveling. I managed to get my plot revision done right before we went to NYC and Princeton. But now I'm back, cleaning house, and scrambling to get my full ready. And Nationals are right around the corner. I am trying to take it one day at a time, do what I can do and not worry about the rest. Somehow it'll all come together when I need it to.

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  34. This hit WAY too close to home.

    I tend to shoot for the moon and when I dont' even come close, I get SO upset at myself.

    I had such grandeur plans about what I would get accomplished before baby came. I didn't even get a teeny bit of it done.

    It stinks to realize we aren't superwoman and can't do everything. With baby, I finally decided that writing wasn't as important and I needed to set it aside. After baby comes, I have a feeling I'll be sitting for long hours by her side at the hospital, so maybe I can get some done then.

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  35. Wonderful advice, though, I worry I let a little TOO much go when I start writing sometime. I've never been too good a juggling.

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  36. I appreciate the advice and will try to implement some of those ideas into my work schedule. Summer is hectic for everyone I'm sure. Best of luck.

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  37. Honestly, I still haven't figured out how to be a great mom, full-time employee and writer all at once. It's tough, but I'm learning every day how to be better. Thankful, I have a supportive family who helps me!

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  38. Jody, I am really impressed with all that you do. My schedule has got disrupted badly; with my creative writing classes in college, writing for newspapers, blogging as well as working on my WIPs. I am trying to concentrate on my books atleast for few hours each day.

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  39. I am struggling with this very thing now, and working to reassess what needs to be done. One of my issues is making time to work out a plan, for many unexpected things have arisen. Thankfully, I have few absolute deadlines right now, so till I work through it'll be okay. Thanks for the tips; I need to move forward with all of these in mind. And I'll take your advice and skip the meltdown. In public anyway. :)

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  40. I second what Jessica says:) I have learned to make weekly goals, and if I don't get writing time one day I try to catch up later:)

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  41. That is generally my solution to most thins...lower my expectations :D.

    Great blog. Really brightened my day.

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  42. Keeping a schedule isn't always an easy thing.

    I don't do well with schedules. I just write when inspiration hits. However, I try to put in at least an hour or two a day.

    Good luck and keep writing!

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  43. I am so hearing you all. The worst thing is when you comment on posts like these tired after a long day with the kids and no writing done and the frustration just leaches out. Here's to some chilling out, a bit less net surfing and some unashamed writing time. I will write when my in-laws stay for four weeks. I will, I will, I will.

    I do have one tip. If you have a day out with the kids, like we did to a splash pad with fire trucks (it was so cool!) then the next day stay home and let the kids make their own fun while you grab some paper and a pen. I have cut back on play dates, usually too many anyway. Good luck everyone :)

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  44. I am so hearing you all. The worst thing is when you comment on posts like these tired after a long day with the kids and no writing done and the frustration just leaches out. Here's to some chilling out, a bit less net surfing and some unashamed writing time. I will write when my in-laws stay for four weeks. I will, I will, I will.

    I do have one tip. If you have a day out with the kids, like we did to a splash pad with fire trucks (it was so cool!) then the next day stay home and let the kids make their own fun while you grab some paper and a pen. I have cut back on play dates, usually too many anyway. Good luck everyone :)

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