The boy-child is at vacation Bible school mornings this week. This is good, as I was starting to look for itinerant entertainers interested in taking on apprentices. It’s good to start them early on such things, right? Anyway, the life of a temporarily single parent is no joke, and the real single parents out there have my utmost respect. This $&%# is hard.

Case in point: the younger one is rotting her brain (yeah, I’m not really happy about it, either) while I type this. There’s simply no other way – right now – for me to get anything done without it taking two or three times as long, and exhausting me completely. And even then, it’d probably get dropped for something more urgent.

So how do you make writing a priority when there’s so much else going on? Because everybody has things going on. Lots of things going on. I have two small children and a deployed spouse. I have shelving to get up in the garage, yet-packed boxes to unpack and sort, recyclables to recycle, goods to return, shopping to do, dishes to wash, coffee to make (duh), immunizations to update, trips to plan, plans to plan, NOVELS TO WRITE, DAMMIT, weights to lift, conditioning to condition, meals to prep, and a few other odds and ends to accomplish. Oh, and laundry. Bloody laundry (not literally) is expletive-deleted endless.

So how do I make writing a priority? Short answer: right now, I don’t. I don’t have the space to make it actually happen, and that’s more than a little frustrating. What I do have, is an apparent ability to sit down when there is time and space for it, and slip right back into the groove. Which I didn’t realize until Mom and Pop Dave’s recent visit. So for me, when both Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave are in preschool in a few weeks, the time between dropping them off and picking them up will go to writing. And that’s all. I’m going to be carving that time out of everything else I could be doing. And working to convince myself there’s nothing I *should* be doing during that time.

The Covey analogy for prioritizing may be helpful, here. Your life is like a bucket, as is every day. You fill it with stuff: with activities. Some are big, some are small, some are vital, some are basically just leisure. Some of them are just straight tedious. Fill your bucket with the big, important, Vital-To-Your-Emotional-Wellbeing things first. Then fill it with smaller, less vital things, etc.

Yeah, I’m pretty terrible about this, too. The Tyranny of the Urgent is my existence. I’m hoping the kids being in school gives me the distance to start getting things better lined up. In the meantime, what’s gotta get done’s gotta get done, and I don’t really have that many options.

Basically? If you have no other alternative, cut yourself some slack. Like I’m doing. If, on the other hand, you have alternative options, and can shoehorn in a little writing time, why aren’t you? Writers gotta write, definitionally and – often – compulsively. If it’s going to be your priority (even if it’s just a priority) then you have to make it one. Give it enough weight to bend the rest of your day around it, rather than trying to slip it in wherever it fits.


  1. “Writers gotta write, definitionally and – often – compulsively.”

    This is why I say I’m not a writer. I have to force myself to write, begrudgingly. Why do I do it at all, then? I like the end result—when I finally get to it.

    Art, though—oh yes. I art all the time. And photography scratches that itch, so I can get it out quickly when I only have a little time. Only another year or two before I can delve back into the deeper waters. (That’s when the youngest will start school…)

    1. Actually, there are a lot of writers who indulge in vacuuming the cat.

      I find it helps to have a quota that’s longer than the number of words it takes me to warm up.

  2. “So how do I make writing a priority? Short answer: right now, I don’t.”

    Yep. You have far more important things to do. Even playing barbies and hot wheels with the kids is -way- more important. They will remember Dad playing with them forever, or they’ll remember Dad saying “Shut up, I’m trying to write!” Forever.


  3. I’m having to take a deep mental breath as Day Job ramps up. Part of me keeps wailing, “But I could be writing.” The rest of me has to remind writer-brain that for nine months of the year, Day Job has priority and must be worked around. That is one honkin’ huge rock in the bucket. Everything else is secondary.

  4. Congratulations on learning to “slip right into the groove” when there’s a chance to do so. That’s an invaluable skill for writers who have a life! (Been there, done that, devoutly hope never to have to do it again.)

  5. I read a book by a mother of five children. When asked how she did it, she said that while she was doing the (%#*) laundry she would plan her next 1000 words so when she sat down it all poured out. I’m not saying I can do this. And yes, laundry is unending.

  6. The expletive deleted laundry will never end. Even after everything is done, clean, put away, you get ready for bed and suddenly there’s another load or 2. I’ve started finding the sound of the dryer to be soothing. I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of something.

    And yes, making writing *a* priority if not your only priority is one of the few ways you’ll ever get it done. You can shop with the kids or find other ways to get groceries. You can cook with the kids underfoot, make phone calls while they play but time with the keyboard and no other interruptions is hard while they’re this age. And while they’re there, being dad is more important. Cherish this age, when you have the brain space to think about it. It goes by way too fast.

  7. And to reference a discussion elsewhere, taking the extra time now to do things inefficiently with “help” (it’s not “help” if it’s not actually “helpful” dangit!) will mean that wee-Dave and wee-er-Dave will be self-sufficient sooner, if not necessarily “helpful”. I was never particularly good at teaching the kids to do anything (I suspect that not a one of them knows how to clean a bathroom) but I did well *enough* that everyone did their own laundry since they were 10 or 12 and not a single one was in danger of starvation from that age on. I can joke that they learned it all out of self-defense, but the truth is that there are bunches of parents who never let their kids do those things because they won’t be done *right*, or will make messes, or it’s just easier and quicker to do it yourself.

    I never did manage to get *myself* organized and I know that in theory at least being organized would have meant getting things done and having time left over. Two things going on there… first, that I was usually so tired that I’d only respond to emergencies or immediate needs, and second… the first became an ingrained habit. Not the best outcome.

    1. My mother taught us to do laundry when we were in middle school by the simple expedient of washing our underwear with the red towels until we started doing it ourselves to avoid having pink underwear in the locker room.

      A bit cruel, perhaps, but very effective 😉

  8. Oh, and I did well *enough* at teaching them to do things that the first to move out and have room-mates called me one day and said, “Mom! My friends don’t know how to do ANYTHING!”

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