Last night at my critique group, we had a conversation about working from home, writing full time, freelancing, and even writing on the weekends. One of our members recently has the opportunity to stay at home full time and work on her children's writing and illustrating, but she made the comment that she hasn't really done anything yet because there's too much laundry and other stuff to do. Another member said she had the same problem over the weekend and couldn't get any writing done.
Believe me, I know how they feel--it's a common, let's say, curse for women working at home to almost believe that their entire house has to be clean, errands have to be run, or children have to be entertained before they can start writing or creating.
This thinking, my friends, has to change. (I'm smiling while all of you are nodding!)
Here are a couple of things I suggested to my writing partners that I have learned through trial and error over the last four years.
1. Change your attitude and the attitude of those around you: Are you staying home to be a stay-at-home spouse or are you staying home to work? Hopefully, you all answered--"staying home to work." Some of you may be staying home for two reasons to raise your children and to work, but still--attitudes around you have to change. If writing work has anything to do with the reason you're staying home, then everyone in your family and your close friends need to understand and respect this. It is not easy to stay home and write, and you need support!
2. Create a schedule, just like if you were at a regular job: Look at your day. If you have between 8:00 and 5:00 to write every day, then the majority of that time needs to be spent writing. If you feel like you have to do at least one chore each day or you have kids, then you might have to be creative with your schedule. Here's a typical schedule that I use in the summer with my stepson (who is 9): From wake-up time to noon, I write. He entertains himself, eats breakfast, and takes a shower. We eat lunch do something fun. We come home in the late afternoon--he plays in his room, and I check e-mail and fix dinner. At night, when my husband is home, I clean or finish working, or we do something as a family. It works. Some days, I write less, and so then the next day, I tell my stepson: "It's a stay-at-home day." He doesn't actually mind those because it means he gets to play his video game! :) You have to figure out a schedule that works for you and let your family know about it. Then stick to it the best you can.
3. Refuse to run everybody's errands and take care of all family business--just because you are staying at home: Oh my, this is such an easy trap to fall into, and your family will love you for doing all their errands, paying the bills, taking care of home repairs, and so on. I mean, then all they have to do is go to school and work and come home to relax. REMEMBER (type it on a piece of paper and put it up where you work): You are staying home to write! Tell your spouse that you can run errands together on Saturday morning. Ask your older children to help around the house. Find a solution together. I realize that some errands have to be done during business hours, and you may be the only one to do them. Here's a tip: do errands in the late afternoon. If you get started with errands or phone calls in the morning, time can get away from you and pretty soon it's dinner time, everyone's home, and you didn't write a thing. Write first, and do NECESSARY errands later. It's not necessary to pick up dry cleaning--most dry cleaners are open after 5:00 and on the weekends.
I hate to see people who have the opportunity to write from home waste it because they are too busy cleaning their house and running around town for their families. Families are important, don't get me wrong, but you and your career are too. It is possible to find a balance--really! Break this curse, and feel no guilt. Writing is your job, and you aren't going to be successful at this career if you don't schedule the time to work on it.
To read more from Margo L. Dill, check out her blog at http://margodill.com/blog/.
photo by InAweofGod'sCreation www.flickr.com