Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
You thought it was hard to focus during a global pandemic? You wondered how you were supposed to finish your book AND do your job (assuming you still had one!) AND supervise your kids’ education? Better gird those loins, friend, because summer vacation has arrived! While your kids’ teachers are getting some well-earned time to rest and panic about how they’ll survive another online semester, you’ve got to figure out how to meet your deadlines while keeping your kids from destroying your home out of boredom.
Will it be easy? No. But if you’re creative and resilient, you’ll be able to still meet your writing goals, be a good parent, and not catch a deadly disease. Here’s how to do it:
- Set your boundaries. Tell your kids when and where you’ll be writing each day, and that they shouldn’t interrupt you unless someone is bleeding or something is burning. This has never worked for anyone, but maybe you’ll be the exception for some reason.
- Write before the kids wake up. If they’re early risers, you can help yourself out by letting them stay up irresponsibly late.
- Hire them as assistants. Have your kids take care of your other household tasks so you can focus on your book. Make them do dinner, laundry, cleaning, all that stuff. Since you’re technically one of their teachers now, this can count as an unpaid internship. You may find yourself with a brand new job: full-time manager of a poorly trained workforce. Or, you can learn to live with eating cereal for dinner, which will be useful as a weight-loss strategy since their laundry efforts shrunk your favorite shirt.
- Stay off social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all take time and energy away from your writing and your children. Instead, task your oldest child with being your new social media manager. Of course, start by talking about online safety, and spell out consequences for inappropriate behavior. That will provide a natural segue to discuss your online brand. Set metrics for engagement, with appropriate remuneration for going viral. Try to hide your disappointment when you discover they are way better at social media than you are.
- Use them as beta readers. Kids are great sounding boards, with vivid imaginations that produce solutions, decisions, and dialogue you never would have thought of. As the saying goes, the writer who is tired of poop jokes is tired of life. My kids say the darnedest things, like, “We’re not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with us!”
- Incorporate your book into your disciplinary process. If they behave, they get to write a chapter. If they don’t, they have to read one of yours.
- Have them write their own stories. Teach them the joys of creative writing! Is your oldest a plotter or a pantser? Set a daily word-count goal. Let them pick out their own notebooks and pens. Help them brainstorm ideas. When they get bored and start to procrastinate, point out that they’ve discovered a crucial part of the writing process. Give them a deadline, and note that the panic they feel is part of the process, too. What fun!
- Give them a project. Build a zipline. Paint a portrait. Take an online class. Build a computer. Try not to seethe with envy as they talk about the joys of creativity and the satisfaction of finishing what they start.
- Just give them screen time. Is this cheating? Yes. Are you too exhausted to think of anything else? Also yes.
And if none of these solutions can help you? Then give yourself permission to take the summer off. Tell your editor I said it’s okay.
What are your strategies for writing while the kids are at home? Share your advice in the comments!
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