Friday Speak Out!: When Life Is Too Busy, Write Anyway

Friday, January 28, 2022
by Bethany Jarmul

If you’ve ever sought out counsel on how to create a consistent writing habit, you’ve probably heard these bits of advice: 1. Schedule uninterrupted time, at the same time everyday. 2. Find a quiet place, free of distractions—a place set aside only for writing. 3. Set a daily word count goal and don’t stop writing until you reach your goal.

I recognize the wisdom of this advice. But for me—a work-from-home mom with a three-month-old and a two-year-old—it sounds like a fantasy. I imagine a spacious library brimming with antique books, an ornate writing desk, Mozart playing in the background. I sit down with my quill and parchment to pen an elegant sonnet or Sherlock-Holmes-style mystery.

In reality, my small house, overflowing with rainbow-colored blocks, diapers, wipes, and every assortment of baby or toddler accessories is not a conducive environment for writing. I don’t have the luxury of a “writing room” or even a “writing corner.” I have a crumb-covered couch and a laptop that’s missing the question mark key (thanks to my curious toddler). In the pre-pandemic world, perhaps I could have found solitude and order in a local coffee shop or library. But the truth is if I don’t write at home I won’t write at all.

As for uninterrupted time, well, even the precious, planned moments when both kids should be napping or in bed for the night are not at all predictable. And most often my soundtrack is a crying baby or the repetitive jingle: “Snack? Snack. Mommy, snack please. Snack!”

But I’ve decided, I’m going to write anyway. In this season, I’m not going to write 1,000 words a day. I probably won’t finish, or even begin, a draft of a novel. But I will write essays, short stories, and poetry. I will use what little time I have to write, to read, to brainstorm.

So I’ve decided to come up with my own set of guidelines, for myself and those who have busy lives, cluttered spaces, or unpredictable interruptions:

1. When I have spare time—be it two hours or ten minutes—I will prioritize writing.


2. I will write in whatever space I have available to me, even if it is small, messy, or loud.


3.  I will utilize the small idle moments, like waiting at the doctor’s office or DMV.


4. When I am too tired to write, I will read. When I’m too tired to read, I will sleep.


      5.  I will set realistic goals and keep moving forward, even if it’s at a turtle’s pace.  

I’ve decided that no matter what life throws at me, regardless of what season I’m in, I’m still a writer. And that has made all the difference.
* * *
Bethany Jarmul is a writer and work-from-home mom. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 
Literary Mama, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, Sky Island Journal, and Allium, A Journal of Poetry & Prose. She grew up in the hills of West Virginia and lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two kids. Connect with her on Instagram or Twitter: @bethanyjarmul.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Renee Roberson said...

This sounds like a solid plan, and you have realistic but practical goals. That is the most important thing. As the mom of two teens, I had those years where I constantly had a toddler/preschooler asking me to either play a game, fix a snack, or was tattling on her younger brother. I can't tell you how many times I was trying to interview someone on the phone for an article and praying one of the kids wouldn't scream in the background. Now I'm in a season where I have all the time in the world to write and it is glorious. I'm sad they are so grown up but grateful I kept up the writing all along so I'm not starting from scratch now.

Bethany Jarmul said...

Thank you, Renee! I appreciate the encouragement. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Bethany! I don't have a dedicated office either, and I mostly write in bed on my laptop or anywhere on my phone when I'm viciously working on essay revisions. For my new year's goals, I made a goal to switch streaming shows at night to reading. I also finally realized I'm not ready to write my memoir, and don't have a lot of time right now since I'm a caregiver; so instead, I'm focusing on essays and shorter narrative arcs.

There's a short series of articles we published on Writing Through Distractions, and the second one, "Getting it Done When There's No Time to Do It" is by a stay-at-home mom and is similar to your method--she breaks down blocks of time and identifies a golden hour.

Congratulations on your recent and forthcoming publications! Our spare writing time will add up. :)

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