Friday, May 17, 2019

5 Tips for Writing with Small Children

By Bethany Henry

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Finding time to write can be difficult for any writer, but it’s even more challenging when you have other people needing your attention. Bethany Henry takes the podium today to share tips on writing with small children.

Bethany Henry firmly believes in eating ice cream throughout all four of New England’s seasons and that daily naps should be mandatory. She’s been writing and studying storycraft for years, generally gravitating toward YA fantasy, and runs a writing and lifestyle blog at

When not writing, Bethany can be found dancing in her kitchen, playing ultimate frisbee, or chasing after her two little girls.

Bethany’s current novel in progress, Tiger and Jade, is inspired by her time working in Macau and traveling throughout Asia. Sign up for her email list to hear more.

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Take it away Bethany…

Writing looks different for all of us.

Bethany Henry
There may be writers who have strict writing schedules and quiet writing spaces. Right now in my life, strict schedules and quiet places are hard to come by. I’m the mother of two young girls who consume most of my time (as well as all of my goldfish crackers).

Writing with small children is complicated.

Learning to write and actually getting things done among the unpredictability that is life with small children has been an ongoing challenge. Whenever I think I’ve settled into a pattern of life and writing, things seem to change.

Yet among the constant change, I've found some strategies that help me stay successful at making my writing happen.

No matter where you're at and how much time you do or don't have- know you aren't alone! Whether you have small children in your life or your chaos comes in other forms, I hope you find these writing tips helpful.

5 Tips for Writing with Small Children

1. Believe You Can Do It

Our mindset as we approach our writing (and our lives in general) is incredibly powerful. I’ve found that a big indicator of whether or not I’ll succeed at something is whether or not I believe it’s even possible.

If I don’t believe it can be done, I’ve essentially given up before I begin.

In regards to writing, believing we can find time to write and make progress puts us on the right track to achieve our goals.

I love this quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can't--you're right."

We all struggle with self-doubt at times.

Yet self-doubt isn’t where we want to stay because it will stunt our stories, hold us back from pursuing our passions, and it will keep us from writing.

We need to believe that we are writers and that we can create things. (Even when it may seem a bit ridiculous or impossible.)

Only then can we give ourselves permission to call ourselves writers, make our projects a priority, and make the commitment that this is something we’re going to put the work into.

We’re in it for the long haul. Because we know that if we stick with it, we can do it.

Being a parent (or being busy with anything, really) doesn’t mean we can’t also be a writer.

Believing we can be a writer is where we need to begin. 

2. Flexible Scheduling

This is one of my tried and true time management techniques. It was born out of desperation when I realized my days never looked the same, so scheduling became almost useless.

Flexible scheduling is when we schedule a task to happen before or after another task or event, instead of at a specific time.

For instance, I must work on story revisions for 20 minutes AFTER the kids go to bed.

I must write for 20 minutes BEFORE I go on Facebook.

Make sense?

In these examples, the writing won’t happen at any specific time of day. The exact time isn’t important.

What’s important is that it happens at some point.

Keeping the time flexible helps us be less stressed about our days looking a certain way. It allows us to adjust our schedules as needed when things change on the fly, while still keeping writing a priority that is happening regularly.

3. Use Timers

When trying to find time to write, timers are our friend. They help with motivation and cutting out distractions.

Sometimes I feel like I have no time to do anything at all. Yet often when I look for it, I can find at least 10-20 minutes somewhere.

This time can add up fast if we take advantage of it.

One of the best ways to take advantage of our time is to set a timer and tell ourselves that we’re not going to get up until it goes off. Maybe we write 100 words, maybe we write 10. It doesn’t matter--either way we’re making progress.

Even five minutes is enough to look over where we’re at with our writing and make a plan of what to do next. And then the next time we find a few minutes to spare, we’ll be set to go.

Using timers can keep us on task and help us utilize these moments.

4. Keep Notes

I get my best ideas when I’m doing the dishes or while I’m driving. Anyone else? There’s something about doing a repetitive task that lets our brains free to create new ideas and figure out plot holes.

We don’t want to lose these ideas.

Whether it’s a handy stack of Post It notes or an app on our phone, we need to have a readily available method to get those ideas saved so we can utilize them later.

Because these moments doing the dishes and driving around are our lives. Realistically speaking, this is a lot of our time. We want to use this time!

Agatha Christie is credited with saying, “The best time for plotting a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

So let’s follow her example! Being prepared to take notes wherever we are will enable any moment to be a writing moment.

5. Extend Grace to Ourselves

We won’t reach our goals every day. And even when we do write, it won’t always be any good.

Failure will happen.

And that’s okay.

After all, failure is a part of life. And we can try again tomorrow.

Having grace for myself is a super big deal for me! (Big enough it ended up being part of my blog title, actually.) I tend to be a perfectionist and extremely critical of myself.

Yet learning to be okay with things not being perfect is what will enable us to reach for, and eventually achieve, great things.

Having grace for ourselves is so important in helping balance everything we do. It helps keep us healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our mental health and self care is important.

We need to let go of legalism and judgement, love ourselves, and care for ourselves. Grace says it’s okay when we don’t do it all. It lets us say no to other things so we get time to write. It lets us skip our writing without guilt when we’re sick (or when our kids are sick, which is in many ways harder).

There’s no need for guilt or shame when writing doesn’t go as planned.

We are valuable and worthwhile, and we’re doing the best we can. Whether we’re writing in between caring for children or balancing other responsibilities, sometimes some pieces fall to the ground.

Grace reminds us that slow and steady will get us there. And in the meantime, there’s no need to get upset with ourselves.

Instead, we can keep going and enjoy the journey.

Life is an ever-changing adventure, and finding ways to help our writing to thrive can be a challenge at times! For more tips on finding time to write, check out these time saving tips for writers.

Whether you have small children in your life or your busyness takes other forms, I hope these tips have been helpful. And if you have any favorite writing tips, please share them in the comments below! We’d love to try them out.

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