Monday, July 29, 2013

Tips for Writing with Kids

As a single mom with a day job as an attorney and two girls, 8 ½ (that ½ is important) and 12 years old, with homework and school events, not to mention extra-curricular activities, I have become an expert at juggling.  Staying committed to my writing career involves daily reaffirmations.  And it would have been much easier to give it up than to try and do it all.  But writing feeds my soul—and as a role model for my daughters, I am showing them that when you have a passion for something, you never give up.  They are learning about commitment, discipline and perseverance.  And mostly, they are learning that you have to believe in yourself.  As writers, we have to believe in ourselves or we would never be able to put one word on the page.
If any of you are writers with kids like me, I thought maybe it would be helpful for me to share a few tips—and encouragement for those days when you wonder if, in fact, you can “do it all.” 

No one can write exactly like you, because no one else is you.  So when you have those moments of doubt as a writer, remind yourself that you are one of a kind.  And your stories are unique. 

Here are 7 tips for writers with kids:  

1.       Write what you love.  You are spending precious moments on writing.  Moments away from your kids or other activities.  Sometimes even losing sleep.  Writing with kids involves a tremendous amount of sacrifice.  So it needs to make you happy.   Don’t be afraid to start something new if a story isn’t working for you.  Feed your soul.
2.       Don’t be afraid to use a pen.  A pen is a writer’s BFF.  You can scribble while you wait for your daughter at soccer practice or your son at his piano lesson, in the pick-up line at school or even while you are watching that Disney Channel show for the 11th time.  I keep a pen and paper next to my bed so I can write down dialogue when I wake up or just before I go to sleep.  Even a crayon works.

3.       Engage your kids.  Make your kids a part of your writing.  My girls are the first people to hear new story ideas and read pages of my WIPs.  They give me honest feedback and, since they are my target audience, it really enhances my work.  Reading pages out loud to an audience really helps determine what works and what doesn’t.  Let your kids help you.  Find fun ways to engage them in your work—making up character names or drawing your settings.  

4.       Network.  Making writer friends helps you feel like you are part of a community.  Writing is such an isolated career, but reaching out and making friends connects you to the profession.  And sharing struggles with other writers is much more comforting than trying to explain them to a non-writer.  A non-writer can empathize, but a fellow writer understands.  SCBWI has been wonderful for me.  There are also local groups and blogging communities.  You can reach out with social media to connect to others.  Just make a connection. 

5.       Write every day.  Even one word.  It will add to the last word and the next word.  And eventually, you will have a sentence.  The hardest thing for writers with kids is being able to write daily.  And when you don’t write daily, you lost momentum.  Other things get in the way, other super important things.  It’s really easy to lose track of days and weeks when kids are so busy, and we are busy raising them.  Even blogging counts.  Just work your skills daily.

6.       Don’t compare yourself.  Okay, I’m not very good at this one.  But I am putting it on the list in the hope that I will improve.  I don’t need to say much about this except that everyone’s path is different (you know this already, as I do), and we just have to stay true to ourselves and move forward.  We never know what is next.  So try not to look at other people’s success and let it discourage you.  Comparison is a sure path to writer’s block.  I can guarantee it.  So keep your eyes on your own work, learn from others and move forward.

7.       My secret weapon.  Deadlines are my secret weapon.  I make them up for myself by setting goal dates for completing a new manuscript.  And then I hold myself to them by telling others—my agent or my friends.  It is my way of making sure I complete my manuscripts.  I guess it works for me because I love school.  I like deadlines.  Before I had an agent, I would submit writing to contests.  And the contest deadlines helped me to finish the work.  Or I would attend a writer’s conference and commit to completing the work before the conference so I could pitch it to an agent or editor.  Even just marking a date on the calendar helps.  

Happy writing!


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