Category Archives: domestic goddess stuff

Sunday ROW80 Update (and also Socks)

When I was a kid, socks were the worst Christmas gift ever, except for maybe underwear, especially when opened in front of OTHER PEOPLE OMG THE HORROR. But really, socks were pretty low on the list of Things That Make Great Gifts for Me.

Now? I got seven pair of socks from my husband for Christmas, and it was fan-frigging-tastic.

Of course, we’re not talking white tube socks. Oh no. We’re talking Cats.

sockcats

We’re talking beautiful koi:

sockkoi

Guys… we’re talking DRAGONS. Red ones, too, which is kind of perfect for me.

Grrrrr.

Grrrrr.

These are all from Sock Dreams, by the way, which is a fantastic website to waste hours on if you’re like me and think fancy socks are just the bee’s knees (or the dragon’s Volkswagen, as the case may be). You can make a wish list while you’re there, too. Mine just got a bit shorter when I ordered four more pair (don’t judge me, it’s an investment to make the ones I have last longer), but it’s still pretty great. I really need those whale and ship ones…

I’ve been informed that I can’t buy the BITCH socks. I say that I need to be able to say “Watch out people, I’ve got my bitch socks on today!” and mean it, but I suppose that’s a bad idea now that the kids can read.

Dangit.

Anyway, I owe an update. I missed Wednesday, but not because I wasn’t working. Things are actually going really well– or they were when the kids were in school, anyway.

EDITING: I did a little restructuring that cut some words and made the story a bit tighter. Didn’t remove as many words as I’d like, but we’ll see how that looks when I read over it. Only one more big thing to fix (involving gender-flipping a character, which I think will be fun). Otherwise, there’s just regular old editing and hunting for pesky over-used and unnecessary words. I got the ms under 110,000 words. We’ll see how much more I can do. Also, Project Semicolon Elimination was a near-complete success. I think there are four left in the entire book, down from… well, hundreds. I lost count.

READING: So, I read that ARC I said I’d read. I’ve been a little nervous about promising reviews on books, because I’m an honest reviewer and I’ve been disappointed in the past (not by any of my readers here, though, just so’s you know). No worries with this one! I’ll review here on the blog next month. Super good book, I’m so glad I did this.

OTHER STUFF: I’m the best wife ever today. I’ve got a pot roast in the slow cooker (thanks to the meal planning I did last weekend), I made chicken salad for AJ’s lunch tomorrow, the kitchen is clean, laundry’s in… lots of good stuff. I still wasn’t able to exercise much this week, but I got Jack out for a walk the other day. Yaaaaaay… Hey, it’s something. And I’m seeing a chiropractor on Tuesday. I’m just a little excited about that, let me tell you.

So there you go, another update. I know, the blog is all updates and Engrish right now. Things will get more content-y soon, I promise.

So, what’s new with you?


Progressive Deliciousness (and ROW80 Update)

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Ginger Crinkles

It’s baking day! In some homes this means hundreds of cookies and several recipes, laughter and songs and… I don’t know, Muppets? Elves? I’m not really clear on what other people’s traditions involve. In my house, I might make a few kinds of cookies, but only one at a time (and somewhat grudgingly). I made chocolate chip for the kids’ teachers last week (using the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, so I had Phoebe Buffay’s voice in my head the whole time).

 

Today, I’m making ginger crinkles.

They’re one of Santa’s favourites. I can’t guarantee that he’ll leave more or better presents if you leave these out for him, but it can’t hurt. And hey, even if they’re for your friends and not the big man himself, they’re fantastic. Gingery and yummy and soft, and they make your house smell FANTASTIC while they’re baking. Wins all around!

Simon (8) just tasted one for the first time this year. His initial reaction was “It’s nice… I guess I like it.” After another two bites, we reached, “MOM. My heart explodes when I eat these!”

Good review.

You want the recipe?  Here you go, with my own substitutions (original recipe calls for shortening, I used coconut oil):

Ginger Crinkles

Ingredients:

2.25 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp ground cloves
.25 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar
.75 cup coconut oil (soft, but not liquid)
.25 cup molasses
1 large egg

white sugar for rolling

-Stir together first 6 ingredients
-In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except for white sugar) and beat well
– add dry ingredients to mixture, beating well (mine came out really crumbly today… don’t know what that was about, but it still worked)
-form 1″ balls of dough and roll in white sugar. Place 2″ apart on cookie sheet
-bake in 350 degree (F) oven for 15 minutes*

*Your oven may vary… mine has been CRAZY lately. Original recipe says 10 minutes. Bake until they’re getting brown on the bottom, anyway.

There you go. My gift to you. Enjoy!

Now, it’s Sunday, so that means…

ROW80 Update!

I guess this will be my last one for this round, unless I manage to post on Christmas Day. Wow. Well, I’d call this round a success. I won NaNoWriMo, but more importantly I finished a re-draft of the second novel in this series. I wrote most days, though not all. I’ve been slacking off a lot this month, but still edited and posted a story, something that wasn’t on my goals list, but I’m glad I did it. So far it’s getting some lovely comments.

Next round is going to be insane, but I’m trying not to think about that right now. Nope, as of right now it’s just deep breaths, get through Christmas, and hold off on worrying about all of that until the new year.

And then, presumably, freak out. That’s a sound business strategy, yes?

So, what have you been baking? Or buying? Or scraping off the soles of your shoes to serve to your guests? I won’t judge.


ROW80 Update: Cat Legs Edition

First, the good news:

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Harriet’s got her legs back.

I hit 50,000 words on Thursday, thereby winning NaNoWriMo, and celebrated with a delicious box of Count Chocula cereal (thanks, Jae!).

I can’t call it official until I validate my word count, and we can’t do that until tomorrow. Until then, I’ll be on edge, waiting for every computer in the house to simultaneously self-destruct, thus thwarting my victory.

But still… feels good. 🙂

The bad news is that I haven’t got anything done since Friday morning. We have some people coming to look at things that need to be fixed in out house (yay!), but that means that we had to clean the house to make it presentable (boo). Most of it wasn’t too bad, but the kids’ areas (their bedroom and most of the basement) looked like they got hit by a toynado. I had to go into mean mommy mode and spend my days helping them. And then there were little, unimportant things like cooking, dishes, groceries, cleaning everything ELSE…

It’s left me in a REALLY bad mood. As torturous as writing is sometimes (and as good as I am about procrastinating), I do notice a change in my mood when I’m kept away from it for a few days.

If anybody’s going to screw up my writing schedule, it’s going to be me.

In any case, the weekend is almost over. We’re going to go do some Christmas decorating right now, before the boys go to bed (yay!) and watch the Grinch (boo).

What are you all up to this weekend?


Random Dialogue, The Hulk, And a NanoThon

Someone recently said (and I’m really sorry I can’t remember who it was) that a writer’s brain is like a junk drawer.

It’s true. We’ve got character flotsam and setting jetsam floating around in there like nobody’s business, waiting for the day when they’ll find a home in a story. Ideas just rattle around until the day when two or more crash together to make something new, and we can pull out the tangled ball of string and paper-clips out and go, “Yeah, I can McGuyver something out of that.”

It’s stuff that many people would throw away, but we train ourselves to remember.

And there’s the dialogue. I know I’m not the only one who finds myself in a situation where suddenly comments from unknown characters are floating in my head, talking about what’s happening. I don’t usually know exactly where they’ll fit into a story, but they hang out, filling the junk drawer, waiting.

This one is re-surfacing for me today:

Him: “I don’t get why you girls make such a big deal about it. Cramps can’t be that bad.”

Her: “No? Imagine that the Incredible Hulk is grabbing your uterus and wringing it out like a damp dish rag, and you’ll have some idea of what it feels like.”

Him: *snort* “I don’t have a uterus.”

Her: “That’s right, you don’t. So just shut up about it.”

Something tells me she’s the one with the cramps. 😉

In any case, here I sit on the morning of the November 9 NaNoThon (or whatever they’re calling it), chugging a hot tea and Advil cocktail, about to start on my to-do list. It’s like I’m the protagonist in a story where my goal is to write, and the author just glommed on to the whole “throw obstacles at your protagonist” thing.

We’re going to visit the in-laws around supper time. AJ is working, so I have kids to keep busy all day (and I should probably feed them, too). I have laundry to do, suitcases to pack, birthday cards to fill out, cat litter to change, scenes to plan, and various aches and pains making me want to say “screw the world” and crawl back in bed.

Are we going to place bets on how much writing I get done today?

*cracks knuckles*

*finishes tea*

Let’s do this.


Writer’s Guilt

(Dedicated, with love, to all of my passionate, creative friends, and my NaNoWriMo buddies who will be neglecting… well, everything this month)

I wonder…

If I weren’t a writer, would my children have fresh-baked cookies and beautifully decorated cupcakes to take to school on holidays, instead of whatever I could throw together at the last minute?

Would the laundry always be done, folded, and actually put away? Would the floors shine? Would every meal be made from scratch, would they be planned three weeks in advance and would nothing come from the freezer except for the lasagna I made and thoughtfully socked away for busy nights?

Would I have time to exercise for an hour a day, pilates and yoga and cardio, oh my?

Would I be more involved at the kids’ school?

Perhaps.

It’s quite distracting having these characters and random bits of dialogue floating around in my head. This thing that I do, that hurts me when I do it and hurts worse when I don’t, but that brings such joy when it all goes right… well, it takes up a lot of time, doesn’t it?

Time I could use for cleaning, for brushing, for scrubbing, for running, for ironing, for cooking, for planning and organizing and being the perfect wife and mom.

I must be a selfish person to want this time for my work. I must be a waste of space. I must not care, or want to give all of myself to my family.

But here’s the thing:

If I weren’t a writer, I would be a mess inside.

I would have dreams left untended, worlds left uncreated, voices left unheard and choices unmade.

I would do my best to look happy on the outside, but the world inside of me would die. Without this perfect space for my imagination to play, it would wither, and crumble.

And all of that extra time? I’d probably use it to stretch out on the couch and watch daytime TV. I might take up drinking as a hobby to quiet those voices. You never know.

I would resent every cupcake I baked, instead of taking on classroom challenges with joy when I actually manage to remember them. I’m not the type who sees housework as a blessing, who feels fulfilled by a clean home. When I write, I can do these things without hating them, because they’re not my job.

If I weren’t a writer, I would feel like a servant.

And if things got really bad, I’d go back to what I used to be before I started writing, before I let my imagination soar, before I discovered a community of people who share my dream, before I was able to cut back on the antidepressants.

Before I started walking the dog every day, because damn it, I’m worth taking care of.

I would be less than what I am. Less happy. Less confident in my skills and what I can accomplish. Less fulfilled. Less balanced. Less friendly and cheerful and encouraging. There would be less of me, and less to give to my family and my world.

I am a better wife and a better mom for having something in my life that lifts me up and challenges me, even if it hurts and disappoints and distracts and frustrates me sometimes.

So yes, there are dirty dishes in the sink once in a while. Maybe my kids take peanut-free candy to school on Halloween instead of prettily-decorated, Pinterest-inspired bags of home-baked goodies.

When I feel like I’m being selfish for taking this time, for writing these words and imagining these worlds, I will remember:

This is who I am. This is what makes me whole, and this is how I give my family more of myself.

I’m not being selfish. I’m being the best possible version of me.

—–

(PS- I feel like I should add that there is nothing wrong with being a person, male or female, who feels fulfilled by keeping a clean home, who finds creative outlets in decorating and cooking, who takes pride in sending those cupcakes to school. I admire that. Most days, I wish I could be like you. It’s just not me, and I’m done feeling guilty for not being perfect according to standards that don’t fit me. Much love to you all, whether you agree with these words or not. <3)


Total Twitter Turkey Time!

So, I’m planning to make a turkey dinner today. I wouldn’t say with all of the trimmings (which here in Newfoundland often includes salt meat and a side of turnips), but I’ll mash some potatoes, do stuffing (stovetop) and attempt gravy. Why am I telling you this? Because I find cooking boring, so I’m going to tweet the whole thing, starting now. If this turns out to be a disaster, at least there will be entertainment value in it, right?

Feel free to follow along, tweet back with advice or snarky-yet-good-natured comments, and enjoy what will almost certainly devolve into a prime opportunity for schaudenfreude. Someone might as well enjoy this…

(No, this is not my first turkey, but it’s like a wedding. SOMETHING always goes wrong.)

I’m @kate_sparkes, and I’ll use the hashtag #turkeydinner, unless someone has a better suggestion, and only when I remember to use it.

TO THE COOKATORIUM!


Writing and Reading and ROWing, Oh My!

Hey, look at me, being ready to get in on something at the beginning!

Since I already have two posts scheduled for tomorrow (the actual start date for this round of “A Round of Words in 80 Days”), I’m going to post this today. It’s Sunday, right? Regular update day.

GOALS

Writing:

Bound: finish editing this draft and have it out to readers by August 1. This should leave time for the fine-toothed comb treatment if I use my time wisely, but will depend on what I can get done before we go on holidays at the end of the month.

Torn: finish a full draft by the end of this round. This is a challenge for me, as this is another thing that was lost when I my own computer broke, so I’ve been starting from scratch. Big changes were coming, anyway, but it would have been nice to have my road-map…

Super Secret Project: Remember when I had those vampires bouncing around in my head, and I used them to take a break from my fantasy world? I have the beginnings of another world rattling around in my brain, and it all started to come together when I was walking the dog yesterday. No promises or goals, except to say that if I need a break, I’ll be working on this, and possibly offering an opening scene some time for WIPpet Wednesday. It’s not a genre I’ve had anything to do with in the past, so this could be interesting…

Disregard the Prologue: Yes, blog goals! I’m going a 31 day challenge in July, to keep me going through vacation and to allow me to schedule posts (because everything else is just going to be going SO WELL that I won’t need the distraction of this blog. HA!). So for July, I’ll make it a goal to post every day. After that… Well, I’ll readjust, and stop bombarding y’all with myself.

Other Stuff:

Art: I need to do a couple of custom My Little Ponies by the end of the summer, so I’m throwing that goal in here, because they’ll never get done otherwise. Two by the end of August, for sure, and if I can find time, there’s a personal project I’ve been itching to get to. This is what happens when you have a friend who sells doll hair, and you can’t stop yourself from buying all the pretty colours.

Family: Throwing a few more personal goals in here. Meal planning every week, one big, fun outing with the kids every week of vacation, reading one book (or chapter of a book) with each of the kids every day. Yes, we’re sometimes bad about that, especially when they forget to remind be until it’s quarter-past bedtime.

Reading: A book a week. Shouldn’t be too hard, but sometimes I get off-track when nothing’s grabbing me. I’ve got a ton of books waiting, though, so it should be fine. I have one book I’m alpha reading for someone this summer (I didn’t even know that term until she asked me… I’ve only used beta readers. You learn something new every day, don’t you?), I have my new paperbacks, I have a few books to finish on my kobo, and a bunch stranded in the Kindle app on my computer… plus the library. This should be doable, especially if I sit outside and read when the kids are playing.

So that’s the big, overarching goals. As far as time spent/word count, those goals will have to be broken down as I go along. My word count goal for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo session is only 25,000 words, and I’m cheating (editing/partial rewrites), so my goal should be 1,000 words a day… unless you account for vacation… so still 2,000 words a day.  After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll go easy on myself in August, or maybe I’ll have to write my poor little heart out to distract me from the torment of hearing back from beta readers (who I love. Have I mentioned that I love you all?).

Wish me luck… and let me know if you’re participating so I can be sure to stop by and offer encouragement as the round goes on! I don’t always get updates on the blogs I’ve signed up to follow…


Sunday #ROW80 Update: Writing, Reading, and… Cleaning?!

Hello! First Round of Words update since JuNoWriMo started yesterday, so I guess it’s time for those updated goals, isn’t it?

Yes, Kate. Yes it is.

ROW80Logocopy50,000 words in a month breaks down to 1667 words a day, which isn’t so bad on good days. Sadly, they’re not all good days, so I set my goal at 2,000+ words a day so that there’s some wiggle room when family stuff comes up and I can’t write, depression decides to kick my ass into the corner, my personal muse decides to sit his own ass in the corner and pick the dirt from under his fingernails instead of doing his share of the work… whatever.

So here are my goals for June (which will take me past the end of this round of ROW80):

  • write 2,000 words a day on TORN
  • read one novel a week
  • continue edits on BOUND after writing is done for the day so I can get that out to my dear darling special reader friends and start looking for an editor (eep!)

We’ve had some not great news concerning my husband’s job. He’s not losing it, and I’m probably not supposed to share details, but it looks like he’s going to be having a very stressful summer. Not pleased. So in addition to my writing goals, I’m making a set of goals focusing on making his home life easier and less stressful, since there’s bugger all I can do about his work life. He’s been my biggest supporter (and to be honest, my hero) through a lot of my tough times. Now it’s my turn to be at my best for him. It might affect my writing, but there’s not much I can do about that.

  • full menu plan for each week with healthy meals (eating out/getting pizza still allowed, but should be planned)
  • 10-minute tidy (or 15 on bad days) with the kids every day before AJ comes home (clutter REALLY stresses him out) and before bed
  • get the basement in shape so the kids want to play down there more and keep the upstairs tidier
  • save extra money so when he does get days off we can get out of town and he can relax (I hope), and also to buy an elliptical for days when he can’t get out to exercise (and days when I can’t get out with Jack)

That’s all I’ve got for that so far. I know from experience that if I set my goals too high I’ll fail and give up, so I’ll leave it at that for now. If you have any suggestions, though, I’m open to them, and prayers and happy thoughts over the summer would be much appreciated.  And no, he’s not a drinker, so I can’t greet him at the door with something alcoholic in hand when he gets home (and he’s going to be on-call anyway, so no drinking even if he did. Which he doesn’t. I, on the other hand, might take up drinking as a hobby. YAY!)

So what have I achieved since my last update?

  • Not much on Thursday or Friday, but yesterday was a good day. I woke up with a migraine (bloody weather), but I took a frightening amount of painkillers and cranked out 3800 words over the course of the day. Were they good words? Darned if I know. I think they were.
  • Started reading Fallen. It starts out with one of my least favourite set-ups (people who are DESTINED to fall in love and they JUST CAN’T HELP IT!), but I like the writing, and I’m going to keep going to see what happens.  It might lose me if an IMPOSSIBLY GORGEOUS AND PERFECT BOY shows up, but I’m giving it a good chance. 🙂
  • Still struggling with reading fiction on the Kobo. I’m about 12 chapters in on First of Her Kind by K.L. Schwengel. I like the story, but the format makes me put it down a lot, and that makes me sad. Would be better if I was travelling. Great for reading in the bathtub, though (except that my husband thinks I’m nuts for having the Kobo near water)
  • Holy crap, how is the living room a mess again? Nobody is doing anything! Ugh, guess I should go round up the troops to take care of that…

I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Take care, and I’ll see you later (I’ve scheduled posts for Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Will there be Engrish? Stay tuned to find out…)


Workspace

Shannon Thompson posted a while back showing her impeccably neat workspace (which she admits she’d just finished cleaning- I like that honesty), and asking to see other people’s. Mine was a big ol’ mess at the time, but now it’s… well, it’s as good as it ever gets.

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Fancy, eh? I love the roll-top desk; my husband’s grandfather made it, and it’s brilliant for hiding the mess that’s usually all over the flat bit. The shelves, in theory, keep my stuff organized. The drawers stick a bit, but I blame that on the amount of crap I keep in them.

It’s not perfect, but it works.

But it’s not the desk itself that’s important, is it? It’s the other stuff. I know a lot of people like a clear space, free of distractions. I am not those people (or even just one of them, for that matter). My desk is covered in things I need and things that make me happy- things that inspire me, gifts from friends, pictures of people I love. It works for me. Wanna see?

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That’s my zombie woodchuck there. He has nothing to do with anything in my work (not until book three, at least*)- he’s just hanging out because he makes me smile (mostly because whoever designed him didn’t mean for him to be a zombie, but he so obviously is). That lunch box there holds stickers, valentines, and other fun stuff I can send to people in the mail. The little guy on top was an early birthday present- adorable AND makes me think of friends. That amazing pen-holder is a mug that my mom painted for me. Let’s ignore the bills on the shelf and move on…

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The kingdom of Mid-Desk! Wondering about the ponies? They remind me of a couple of my characters. Don’t ask why, they just do. No, my stories are not about horses. Above them you’ll see a pile of tiny notebooks. They’re for notes. Also headphones, because we all need to block the world out sometimes. I can write with music; for reading I use the White Noise Ambience app. Hand creams, absolutely essential in the winter… oh, hey, and dental floss! I was wondering where that went.

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To the left, to the left… Less relevant stuff, mostly- thisspace isn’t just for writing. A doll head in progress and pony bodies, insert evil laugh here. That huge book is a Literature textbook I borrowed from my mother-in-law; the glass doorknob is from our last apartment. I love it- I might start collecting glass doorknobs some day. Ever held one? They feel great. Um… Oh, notecards, going back to sending stuff to friends. Also some outgoing mail, and a rock that a friend who I miss very much decorated for me.

Wondering where the books are? They have their own shelf right next to the desk.

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Books about writing, my four larger notebooks (we’ll look at those another day, why not?),  novels I’ve read recently or will be reading soon- hey, there’s another whole post right there! Don’t mind the bottom shelf- that’s kids’ books and two Narnia DVDs… Which are totally for the kids. *ahem*

So there you go. No, I’m not opening the drawers for you; the contents have nothing to do with writing, and I’m afraid that if I open them they’ll never close. Also not going to show you my other workspaces- the kitchen table, my bed, and the couch- because they’re the next places I need to clean. Ugh.

*THERE WILL BE NO ZOMBIE WOODCHUCKS IN BOOK THREE.


Writing and Parenting

I’ve been perusing entries on Write With Warnimont and came across a recent one that made me think- a post about limiting distractions while writing. Distraction is a huge problem for me, and he’s got some helpful tips. The last point he mentions is writing with kids around; I had a nice, long (practically novel-length) response typed up about writing with kids in the house, and I lost it.

I do that a lot, genius that I am.

So you can thank Mr Warnimont for inspiring this one…

*

Let me tell you what’s happening in my house, right at this moment. The TV is on, but there’s no one watching it. Why? Because I just sent the boys downstairs. Their dad is trying to sleep, I have a pounding headache, and they’re boys- they’re loud. I can still hear them, though. What I hear right now is the older one sing-shouting “RA-RA-RAS-POO-TEEN, AH BLAR BLAH BLAH RUSSIAN QUEEN” (or something, I don’t know the words), mixed with a lot of “OW, QUIT IT!” and screaming.

So typical snow day with a 7-year old and a 4-year old.

I love my children, I do. But I love writing, too, and the kids aren’t just distractions from it. They’re concrete roadblocks. Hang on a sec, somebody’s crying.

See what I mean?

And yet I write, don’t I? True, it took me two years to write, revise, and polish one novel (which had already been festering in my brain long before that), but I’m getting better with it. Also, I’m posting here fairly regularly, even if the dog practically does half of the work. So while I’m not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination, I think I’m in a position to share a bit of advice on how I’m doing it.

1) My best piece of advice: Don’t have kids. Too late for that? Let’s move on…

2) Make writing a priority. I know, I know, easier said than done. It’s hard not to feel guilty about taking time for yourself when there are so many people wanting your time and attention. You might feel like you’re neglecting your family, but you need to take time to recharge yourself if you want to be at your best for them. Writing is my refuge. It’s how I get away from stress and problems, and it’s cheaper than a day at the spa (or taking up drinking as a hobby, for that matter). If you need a kick in the pants to do this, read on…

3) NaNoWriMo. I know, there are a lot of people who think it’s a bad idea, but I’m not talking about the quality of your first draft, here. I’m talking about giving yourself permission to make writing a priority. NaNoWriMo is official. It’s a big, but achievable goal, and it’s just for one month. The first time I did it (in 2010), I told my husband what I was doing, and he basically patted me on the head and said, “Whatever floats your boat, honey.” Kind of his general attitude toward my writing, actually… point is, I could ask him to watch the kids a bit more without feeling guilty, and more importantly I had a good excuse for writing instead of watching TV with him after the kids were in bed. After all, I had a word count to achieve! A deadline! And “it’s only for two more weeks” sounded a lot more reasonable to him than “I just have to get my imaginary people out of this dragon cave and into each other’s arms and rip them apart and nearly kill her and…” Get it? Without NaNoWriMo, I might never have given myself permission to just write, and to ask my family for that precious alone time. And it becomes a habit, which is also important.

4) Focus on the other stuff- I’m still bad for this, but I’m working on it. On days when I try to squeeze writing in during the day, I’m jumping back and forth between that, keeping the house clean, making meals, and playing with the kids (and letting the dog out, and letting the dog in, and letting the cat in who got out when the dog came in…). Then the kids go to bed, it’s writing time, and I still have dishes to do, laundry to move over, and tidying to do, because I was too unfocused during the day. If I can focus on the other stuff during the day/early evening and get it done without trying to fit my writing in wherever I can, if I can get it DONE, then my evening is just for me, a cup of tea, and my book… assuming my husband’s working nights, of course. Speaking of which…

5) Don’t neglect your relationships. This goes back to distractions again, and can be really difficult when things are going well in your writing. When you’re with your family, BE with your family. Don’t think about how you could be writing at that moment. Play with the kids, or read to them (I prefer reading, but sometimes it has to be trucks). Watch FRIENDS with your spouse and play Phase 10, or whatever it is you crazy kids do when you hang out. Get everyone out of the house together for a while, go for a hike, go to the playground. It’s time away from your work, but your family will be much more gracious about “sharing” you with your writing when they’ve already had their quality time with you. You’re important to them!

6) Get out of the house. When I’m at home, there’s always something else I should be doing, something to distract me. We live in a tiny community- no coffee shop to pop out to, not even a decent library branch to spend an hour or two at, but those would be good options if you have them nearby (you lucky thing, you). My current favourite trick is offering to take the car in every time it needs repairs. I can sit at the Hyundai dealership for a few hours and type, or if they have a car for me to borrow, it’s off to the library. The 45 minute drives there and back are great times to think, too, since there’s no one else in the car to distract me (um… just make sure you’re still watching the road, OK?)

7) Get help. Easier said than done for some of us; our closest family (geographically speaking) is my husband’s parents, and they’re an hour+ drive away. If you have family members close by, though, or teenagers who are willing to babysit for a reasonable fee, I say take advantage of it whenever you can. I am fortunate to have a husband who will keep the boys out of my hair for a while when they’re really driving me nuts, even though he doesn’t share my interests or really understand why I need to do this. He’s a keeper, that one.

8) Even heard of benign neglect? It’s not actually neglecting the kids; rather, it’s letting them do their own thing, to find their own fun, to work things out on their own without a parent hovering over them every minute of the day. Obviously babies need the attention, and can’t be left to fend for themselves, but it’s good for older kids. Be available if they really need you, but let them know that when you’re writing, they need to respect your space. Teach them to get their own snacks, and to help each other out with things. Teach them to resolve their arguments without hitting (and be prepared to step in when they do, anyway). Send them outside to play, weather permitting. This is all good for them! They need to learn to be creative in dealing with boredom and solving problems. It’s not ideal; I sit at the kitchen table or at my desk in the living room to write, and even when the boys aren’t hanging off of me and talking to me, they’re still around, still loud, and I still need to be aware of what’s happening. It’s better, though, and it brings me to my last point:

8) Writing through the distractions. This is what I’m doing right now, and do for most blog posts (since that sacred quiet time when I have the house to myself is strictly for fiction). You need to train yourself to do it, but it is possible. Yes, it’s annoying when you do have to get pulled out of your zone (which is why this doesn’t work as well for me when my mind has to be in another world), but at least you can get something done. I might be a bit snippier with the kids when I’m doing this than I normally would be, but we’re figuring it out.

So there you go. My little list of ways to get this thing done. Will these tips make it easy? Nope, sorry. If you’re like me, you will feel guilty every time you take time away from your kids. But it’s so worth it.

(Speaking of kids… I need to wish my Ike a super-duper 5th birthday today! Best Valentine’s Day gift ever.)


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