10 Ways to Write More with Children Underfoot


I adore them. Especially mine. Which is good, since I went and had six of ‘em.

BUT how does one actually get writing done with little ones around? Is the only solution to stay up after they’re all in bed and you’re completely exhausted? 

Sometimes I find the answer. Sometimes I don’t.

I decided to ask loads of writing friends for their thoughts and I received loads of fantastic advice. Here are ten ideas…

#1: Set a timer.

YA author, Jolene B. Perry said, Depends on the AGE of the kid, but I’ve ALWAYS set a timer, and when the kids come to me, I point at the time. Once the time’s up, THEN they can ask questions.

I love this idea. Kiddos can easily see how long they have to wait before they can ask Mom for help. It teaches them patience and respect. 

Of course, if they’re bleeding profusely or they’ve misplaced they’re little sister, they can probably ignore the timer.

#2: Invite more kids over.

Wha? This seems counterproductive. Or does it?

Writer Gina Larsen said, “I have found INCREASING the number of kids is super helpful. HEAR ME OUT. When they have a friend over, they forget I exist until they’re hungry. Ta-dah! I write. I’m not a hover parent, at all, though. If you are a worrier or aren’t like me in this area, this plan probably wouldn’t work for you. Anyway, I ignore them and they me, and they seldom get into trouble. {I don’t leave fingernail polish, markers, etc. lying around, either.} Sure there might be a bigger mess of toys to clean up… But the pay off is worth it, plus friends have to help clean up if they wanna come back.
Ok. That is an awesome idea. My kids completely forget I exist, too, when friends are over. *note to self: invite more friends over*

#3: Limit screen time.

“I try to limit screen time so that when I do turn on the TV, they’re glued,” said writer Melissa Meibos.

Ok. So, I’m not a huge fan of using the TV as a babysitter. I much prefer my kids to be devouring books or climbing trees. BUT there are those days. Those days when you need to get your twenty minutes of writing done or you have to finish up your pages for your critique group or you finally figured out the best way to fix a tricky scene and you need a few minutes of uninterrupted writing time. If you save screen time for when you really need it, it could be a lifesaver Or, at least, a writersaver.
#4: Get a babysitter.

Melanie Bennett Jacobson, author of romantic comedies, said, “Until this fall I had two little ones home, so I decided to reinvest some of my profits by spending 10% of my royalty checks on a babysitter when I was on deadline. I don’t get huge royalties, and this obviously only works if you’re making some writing money already, but I considered it an investment in my career AND my mental health because I’m much happier when I don’t have the stress of deadlines weighing on me. 

This is a great way to squeeze in writing time. And even if you can only swing an hour or two a week to pay for a babysitter, you’d still be moving forward with your manuscript.  

#5: Ask for help.

Maybe a babysitter won’t work for you. Do you have family nearby willing to help ? Or Mom or Dad friends willing to swap childcare? My daughter is in a little co-op preschool group. We take turns teaching once a week. When my baby was younger I made sure his nap time lined up with when she was gone. I had two hours a week with an (almost) empty house. It was awesome!

If not friends, then what about your spouse? Have you talked about your need to write? Every so often I run away for a mini writing retreat. I pack up snacks, water, notebooks, and my laptop. Then I reserve a little study room at the library and spend the whole day there, hanging out in my fantasy land.It’s lovely.

#6: Get creative.

Put together a box of activites, things your children only see when it’s time for you to write. Does your child love playing with tape and stickers? Or playdough and an odd selection of utensils? Maybe your little one likes to play in the kitchen sink with a bit of water. Get your children busy with a fuss free activity and then get busy yourself.

#7: Choose your poison.

Are you spreading yourself thin? Do you have a love of many hobbies, activities or pursuits? If you want more time to write, you’re gonna have to make a hard choice.

“I’ve just had to give up (okay, not give up but definitely limit) other things like crafting, TV, movies, and Pinterest to spend my time more wisely with my books,” said writer Judy Robinson.

Oy. This one is for me. I need to embroider it on a pillow. Or not…because that would defeat the purpose a bit.
#8: Yes makes less.

If you want more time to write, you have to say no. A lot. You can’t be on every committee. You can’t be involved in every PTA activity. You can’t go on every field trip. You can’t make every meal completely from scratch. You can’t sew ALL of the Halloween costumes (ok. That one might be just for me.)

Of course, you don’t want to be a curmudgeonly ol’ hermit who won’t help anyone and doesn’t ever do anything fun with their kids or spouse. BUT you have to realize creating comes at a price. It takes time! And time is finite. Choose where you want to spend it.

#9: Shove it in the cracks.

Writer Rebecca Birkin said, “I credit Josi Kilpack for her idea to always take a notepad or tablet wherever you go, waiting at the doctor’s office, soccer game, waiting at the bus stop, etc.

How much time do we waste waiting? For our kids, in lines, and on the phone with someone in the Philippines as we hope, hope, hope they know how to fix our laptop? (that last one was all me again.) Are you taking advantage of those potentially lost moments by writing? You could be like super smart Helen Boswell and carry an iPad mini and a cute little keyboard with you at all times. And then maybe you’d be as prolific as her, too!

#10: Make it.

The time isn’t going to fall into your lap. If you want to write then you have to make room for it. 

Writer Shelly Brown said, “When my kids were tiny I just hauled my laptop around from room to room. They play with toys, I write. They watch a movie, I write. I only got in an hour or two but add that to the hour or two I got after bedtime and it was a decent haul for the day. There really want more to it than that. It was about trying and being patient with myself and my kids when the day just wasn’t lending itself to writing.

“I take my thus-far MS and a pen everywhere I go, and make notes and try to work out plot and character so that when I do have access to a computer, I can sit down and get to work quickly, without wasting time thinking (er, which is what I’m doing right now–puzzling out the next chapter),” said writer Rose Green. “I even once (okay, or twice) brought my laptop to the delivery room with me because I figured that afterwards there might be a moment to work in those five minutes when the baby was asleep and I wasn’t. (Hey, it’s better than TV!)”

“When my kids were small, I got up at 5:30 and wrote until 6:30 every school day. I found that I could get 1,000 words down in that hour, and then I felt accomplished enough to be Mom the rest of the day, ” said writer Becca Wilhite

YA author Cassie Mae sums it up. “I don’t have anything to say other than you just do, lol. I’ve written with kids on my lap, kids hanging over my shoulder, kids fighting on the floor. You do what you gotta do.”

Now for a disclaimer. 
Writing is important. For many of us, it’s something we not only love to do, but we feel a need to do. However, my children’s needs come first in my book. (Puns are awesome. Especially accidental ones.)
I’m okay with working on my craft here and there. My children are little. Ok. The teenager is taller than me. Whatever. But I’m trying to soak up and enjoy these days. More uninterrupted time to plunk away on my laptop will come. For now, I’ve got block towers to build and swings to push. And it’s wonderful.

It’s all about balance. Find the one that works for you!

Do you struggle to find writing time because of the demands of parenting? What solutions have you found? 

Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. With six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, strange adventures, and…loads of diapers. She also likes to dabble at photography, sewing, jewelry-making, and pretending she’s a grand artist. 

10 thoughts on “10 Ways to Write More with Children Underfoot

  1. I really love all these tips. For now, I mostly write when the kids are asleep–and after I've finished the work for my paying job! :/

    I didn't know you were friends with Becca Birkin! She's great. (I met her at WIFYR).


  2. I love these ideas!! It's definitely all about balance for me. I have my designated time in the afternoon when my kids know I'm writing so they do their thing and it works. Love love love these ideas, though!!


  3. Thanks Rosalyn! Yeah, my writing time usually falls n the middle of the night, too. But maybe with some of these tips I can finally learn how to organize my time better and get some writing done when my brain is still working.

    This writing world is pretty small, eh? I can't remember where I met Becca first. I think at a small writing conference in Amy Finnegan's home.


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