by Lindsay Harrel, @LindsayHarrel
I have basically wanted to be an author my whole life. There were several years when I thought it would be too hard, that I couldn’t handle the competition, yadayadayada. But finally in 2011, I decided to pursue publication. I had been married for five years, had just finished my master’s degree, and worked full time.
I spent the next three years writing and honing my craft. I attended several My Book Therapy retreats, read countless craft books, and headed off to a number of writing conferences. Because my husband and I both worked, I had a bit of extra money to do all of these things. I saved my vacation time for these events. I was able to devote a decent chunk of time each week to writing.
And then…I had kids.
My first son was born in December 2014, and we added a second in April of this year. I worked part time with my first until he was 10 months old and then decided to become a stay-at-home mom. In addition to being all the things that come with motherhood (doctor, chauffeur, personal chef, etc.), I have to find time to write. Because while being a mom was a dream of mine, being a published author was also a dream.
I remember being pregnant with my first son and worrying that I’d have to give up writing—something I’d just spent three years devoted to learning more about! A friend of mine told me something I will never forget: we find time for the things we are passionate about.
Yes, there are some people who do all they can and hear God telling them to put aside writing for a season while they raise their children. If that is you, that is okay.
But if that is NOT you—and it hasn’t been me—then you must find time to fit writing into a life full of Cheerios, dirty diapers, whining, discipline, and Daniel Tiger. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Carve out time. If I do not put writing time on my calendar, it will not happen. Period. I have started devoting nap time every day to my writing (and on that note, get your kids all napping or doing quiet time at the same time for at least an hour!). Whenever you write—early morning, evenings, one evening a week at Starbucks—use the time available to you. Make an appointment with your computer and keep it just like you do all the other appointments throughout the week!
- Say no to other commitments. We all have limited time. If you’re saying yes to one thing, you’re automatically saying no to another. There are a lot of great things we can say yes to, but not all of them are the best yes (go read Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes for more on this concept!). You might have to skip out on a few play dates or learn to say no to volunteer opportunities you feel pressured to do. Consider how much time you really have and use it wisely.
- Cut out the non-essentials.When I looked at my schedule after having children, I realized I was watching five hours of television a week. That was five hours I could be writing! Also, I realized a long time ago that pursuing a dream like writing meant my house was not going to perfect. It isn’t apig sty, but it will never win an award for cleanest house on the block. And I’m okay with that.
- Set weekly goals. It’s really easy for us to say we want to write 2,000 words a day—but what happens when the baby wakes early from a nap or the toddler melts down when he should be playing independently in his room? I like to set weekly goals instead of daily ones because it gives me some flexibility. For example, right now I am drafting my next book and I have set the goal to write five scenes a week. Ideally, I’d like to write one scene a day during the week and have the weekends off (Saturday to clean, Sunday to rest), but I know that I have a little wiggle room if something doesn’t go as planned on one of those weekdays.
- Get creative. Thanks to technology, writing doesn’t have to mean sitting down at our computer and plunking away at the keys. I know many authors who use tools like Evernote to dictate their stories. Also, writing with young kids means lots of interruptions, so it might not be feasible for you to write in one- or two-hour chunks of time. Instead, maybe you need to write in fifteen-minute increments. Get creative and you might get more writing done than you think you will!
- Fling that guilt far, far away. I know what you’re thinking—I should be doing x, y, and z instead of pursuing this dream of mine. STOP LISTENING TO THAT LIE RIGHT NOW! Personally, I’m a much better mom because I write. I have something that is mine (and God’s) and a place to pour my energies that has nothing to do with keeping someone else alive—and everything to do with keeping my spirit alive. Self-care is important and it is NOT a selfish thing to take time to pursue your dream. When you are refreshed, you have more energy to pour into other people, especially your family.
- Keep your priorities straight. That being said, while writing IS important, it is not the MOST important. I find that I’m a much happier mommy when I spend time with God every morning. Not only does that help me have a better attitude during the moments I want to scream, but it provides inspiration for my writing. My family is my next priority. While there are seasons (like when I’m on deadline) when dinner will consist of frozen pizzas and other easy things my husband can cook, it’s not okay for me to totally neglect all of my duties all the time in order to write. There’s a healthy balance and it’s up to you to decide what that looks like for your family.
Don’t let being a parent of young kids stop you from pursuing your dreams. You CAN do this. Write that book one word at a time.
(Releases March 13, 2018) Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.
When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.
As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, released in December 2016 and was a finalist in the 2017 ACFW Carol Awards. Her second book, The Heart Between Us, releases from Thomas Nelson in March 2018. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com or onFacebook, Twitter, or Instagram.