photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

I’ve been fortunate not to have to work at a “day job” for most of my writing career. But pretty much from the start I’ve juggled writing with other responsibilities. I was still in college at Stanford when my mom and I wrote our first book and started on our second. I’ve worked on various freelance projects while writing, I’ve worked on two books at once, and I spend a lot of time doing volunteer work, mostly for the Merola Opera Program. All of which turned out to be excellent training for writing as a new mom.

One of the wonderful things about writing is that you can do it on your own schedule, at whatever time of day or day of the week works best. But the very fact that it is so flexible means that unless you have no outside commitments to family,school, other work, volunteer support, etc…, you tend at least to some degree to end up fitting your writing schedule around your less flexible obligations. While Mélanie in many ways is wonderful about adapting to my schedule, of course I also adapt to hers. We’ve settled into a good routine of going to a favorite Peet’s Coffee & Tea most afternoons, where I get as much written as I can while Mélanie takes in the crowd (she loves being around people) and has a snack. When she starts to get restless, we go to the nearby playpark for some activity and interaction with other kids. After that, she usually nurses and settles in for a nap, and I have another latte and another writing session.

Of course that sometimes means I often break off my writing not when I’m at a good stopping point necessarily, but when Mel is ready for a break or wakes up from a nap. But I find the break from writing can be useful. Lauren Willig had a great post recently about Writing in Fits and Starts. She cogently points out the advantages of time away from a story, including very much for me “Gaps between writing time give your subconscious the chance to gnaw away at plot problems.”

I’ve always found that I do my best work mulling over and resolving plot problems when I get away from the computer – driving, exercising, vacuuming. Or now, watching a small person crawl or steadying her as she pulls herself up at the playpark. Whether I consciously think about the book or let my subconscious mull, I tend to return to the book reinvigorated. There’s also nothing like knowing one only has so long until your child gets bored, finishes her snack, wakes up from her nap to really focus one’s attention and get words down on paper (or rather computer screen). Although speaking of paper, I used to hand write in my daytimer when I had unexpected breaks on a day of meetings and appointments and didn’t have my laptop with me. Now I tend to use my iPad at those times (even on occasion at the playpark).

What tricks do you use to find time for writing or other activities while juggling other aspects of your life?

In this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition, Mélanie/Suzanne writes to Raoul about balancing her life in post-Waterloo Paris while not being a spy.

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