The Story Of My Chaotic Writing Life

My internal alarm wakes me in the blackness of cold dawn. I make my blurry way downstairs to the kitchen, following the scent of timer-brewed coffee. The lop-sided hamster wheel is clunking, the only noise in the yet sleeping house. I sit down at the table and flip open my laptop. As the screen sputters to life, I wrap my work-worn fingers around the coffee mug and take a deep breath.

How much can I get done in my hour and a half of daily silence?

I take thirty minutes to respond to emails and read early-bird blogs. Then I force myself to focus on my writing. I desperately need the morning jump start. The quiet centers my creative energy and I race against the clock on my screen to squeeze out every possible second of writing time.

Then I hear the patter of footsteps above me. Doors open and close. Toilets flush. The noise begins. For a few minutes I try to block it out. My fingers refuse to leave the keyboard, desperate to eek out the precious words hovering in the silence of my mind.

The slap of little feet sounds in the hallway. The kitchen door swings wide and I'm greeted by the sunshine of a smile. "Good morning, Mommy." My heart warms and now my fingers slip easily away from the keyboard and I reach out to my little man for a hug.

It doesn't take long for another child to appear. More sunshine. Then another, and another, and another. Until the room is bright and alive with laughter and squabbles. My quiet dawn has slipped away. Another vibrant day has begun.

The voices of my large family surround me. The passion of their joys, tears, anger, and excitement follow me throughout the day. I am indeed a wealthy woman for the richness of their love and the treasures I find in motherhood.

And yet, a deep part of me is made richer from the writing life too. That writing soul calls to me until finally it demands I sit down again. By mid-afternoon, I'm ready to give my writing it's due time, another two hours of solid, no-internet writing time.

No matter what plans I've put into place to occupy my children, my two afternoon hours of writing are a jumble of mothering and writing. I write for five minutes then stop to listen to my daughter share her excitement about the book she just finished. I write for another short burst before I must clean up the child who didn't make it to the potty in time. I type out a paragraph and jump up to rescue my son's favorite football from the teeth of the dog.

And that's the story of my chaotic writing life. Each of my children need me in their own way and I struggle to be both mother and writer at the same time. Much of my writing is squeezed into the every day moments of ordinary, chaotic life.

However, recently I have attempted to bring more order to my chaos. Here are my top 5 time savers:

1. Stop striving for perfection: I can't perfectly keep up with reading the blogs I'd like to, or always respond with perfect, thought-filled comments. My emails have spelling and grammar mistakes. My housework, cooking, and parenting are less than perfect. And that's okay. Nobody else expects me to be perfect, so why should I?

2. Involve family: I pay my oldest three children to take turns babysitting during my two hour writing block in the afternoons. On the rare evening when my husband isn't working or coaching, I head to the library to work uninterrupted. And on Saturdays he takes over child and house responsibilities so that I can have extended writing time (mostly at the library).

3. Sacrifice: I sacrifice sleep, hobbies, TV, free "me" time, and my social life. Even in the evenings, after the kids are in bed, I usually try to squeeze in another hour of writing work. Fortunately for me, with having five children, I've already had plenty of practice sacrificing many of my own interests. So it hasn't been too hard to give up more.

4. Work faster: I don't have the luxury of dawdling anymore! Whether folding laundry or fixing dinner--I work efficiently. Same with my writing. I can't linger over a troublesome word or fixate on a particular phrase. I fix it and move on.

5. Set work hours and stick to them: My working conditions aren't always ideal. If I waited until my life is perfect and quiet, then I'd never get anything done and I certainly wouldn't be where I'm at today. Instead I make the most of my scheduled writing time, even if it's less than ideal. Each two minute burst of writing eventually adds up.

What's the story of your chaotic writing life?

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