GUEST POST: Moms With the Write Stuff

Please welcome Karen Harrington to The 3 R’s today, with a special message for Moms Who Write! Karen is a Texas native who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. Her writing has received honors from the Hemingway Short Story Festival, the Texas Film Institute Screenplay Contest and the Writers’ Digest National Script Contest. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she has worked as a speechwriter and editor for major corporations and non-profit organizations.

Karen blogs at Scobberlotch (v.) to loaf around, doing nothing in particular. and is the author of Janeology, a novel about a grieving husband who endeavors to find clues in his wife’s family history that might explain her sudden, inexplicable crime. She also authored and published There’s a Dog in the Doorway, a children’s book created expressly for the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Foundation’s “My Stuff Bags.” My Stuff bags go to children in need who must leave their home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. 

Karen lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband and two children. And now, without further ado…here she is!
As a writer and a mom I am often asked, how do you find the time to write?
Well, I think I’m like most moms. My to-do list never gets to-DONE. My kids – ages 4 and 5 – are active and curious. I have housework and yard work. A never-ending list of books I want to read. A car that is white, although you cannot always tell. And I tend to put everyone else’s needs before my own. Even my dogs get groomed before I do. But even though I’m a stay-at-home mom, I consider myself a working mom.
How do I put this into practice?
As a writer, I have page count goals each month that I have to achieve just like any employee must achieve her objectives for her boss/company. It’s just that I am my boss, so I must be extra-disciplined with my time. But it’s this discipline that helps me – and my family – respect my writing time and take it seriously. It would be so easy to think “Well, you are only writing for yourself. Can’t you do that later?” Yes, that would be easy to say. But if you want to write, you have to learn to say, “No, this is my job. People are counting on me. And most importantly, I’m counting on me.”
I also have a few rules to help me get the job done.
My laptop is always open on the kitchen counter. I always have a notepad with me. I don’t watch much TV (the greatest time-sucker of all) and, I drink a LOT of coffee. Other that than, there’s no mysterious formula I know about writing except to do it every day, even if it’s only a paragraph. Like a lot of things in life, writing is simple, although it is not easy.
Here are a few more moms who continue to inspire me:
JODI PICOULT, best-selling author of twelve novels and mother of three
“I would be with kids all day long and would write until ten or eleven at night. I learned how to write quickly and efficiently, and have never had writers block. Anyone who has ever been pressed to write knows you don’t have the luxury of wandering around waiting for your muse. Some days, I write pure dreck, but I can always edit that the next day. I just plough through and then go back and edit.

As soon as my kids were in school, I had daytime hours to write even though I was interrupted, taking one or the other to and from school at different times. I was writing plots on laundry tickets!”

MARY HIGGINS CLARK, best-selling author of twenty-four novels and mother of five
“When my children were young, I used to get up at five and write at the kitchen table until seven, when I had to get them ready for school. For me, writing is a need. It’s the degree of yearning that separates the real writer from the “would-be’s.” Those who say “I’ll write when I have time, when the kids are grown up or when I have a quiet place to work,” will probably never do it.”
J. K. ROWLING, best-selling author of the seven Harry Potter novels and mother of three
“I wasn’t a struggling single mother all the time that I was writing the first ‘Harry’ book. It was only during the final year of writing that I found myself poorer than I’d ever been before. Obviously, continuing to write was a bit of a logistical problem: I had to make full use of all the time that my then-baby daughter slept. This meant writing in the evenings and during nap times. Nobody knows better than I do that I was very lucky — I didn’t need money to exercise the talent I had — all I needed was a Biro and some paper.”
JENNIFER WEINER, best-selling author of five novels and mother of two
“When I wrote IN HER SHOES, I was engaged, then married, still with no kids, writing full-time. I’d sleep in, go to the gym, answer email, read People, shop online, watch a little Lifetime, wander to the local coffee shop at around one or two every afternoon, and write until I felt like stopping.

Now that I’m a mother, I work for twenty jam-packed hours a week, when my daughter’s either with a sitter or in nursery school. I take my laptop to the same coffee shop and write like a fiend. Sometimes I’m asked whether it’s hard to find the discipline to sit down and make myself write. My answer? After a night and morning with a toddler, writing feels like a vacation.”

So you writer/moms out there, find some time today to go write your next sentence. Maybe it will be about laundry angst. Maybe it will be the first sentence of the next best-seller. You never know. And feel free to drop me a line and share your writing practices and what works for you.
Good writing!

I hope you enjoyed Karen’s guest post – I know I did! Please leave a comment for her, and visit her over at Scobberlotch.

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  1. Crud.

    Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it. It inspired me to write a brilliant comment about balancing writing time with homeschoolng my kids, which I just lost in cyberspace by hitting the wrong key at the wrong time. Now I need to get my boys off the computer and make them learn some stuff.

  2. Thanks for this wonderful guest post. I am so inspired to read about published authors who, like me, struggle with balancing their need to write with their kids. I started writing every day a year and a half ago and have found that I am so much happier now that I’ve carved out time for myself. Tonight my son asked me, “Mommy, can I write with you tomorrow? I have my notebook all ready.” Hopefully I will be published one day – but at least it’s making me sane(r) now.

  3. All the writers I know – including me – can’t really get through life without writing. It’s definitely a need. I don’t have children, so when I get home from work, I jump on the computer and write in the evenings. It’s my second shift after my day job. I even use my break and lunch at work to blog, so I can write once I get home. I would rather that than chat with coworkers! Seriously.

  4. We need cheering – even after the kids leave the house and we’re working full time in a corporate environment, we are still pecking around for that open window of writing time.
    Enjoyed Karen’s guest entry – onward!

  5. Thanks for the great feedback on Karen’s guest post! Be sure to check out her blog too, if you don’t already know it.

    I’m glad you found her thoughts encouraging – I did too.

  6. Fantastic post… I love hearing about how other writers manage their time. I almost find it easier to write when there’s a lot going on — then I don’t angst about it, I just plunge in whenever the kids are occupied and happy (and I stop writing when I hear the scream “He hit me!”)
    I just had my third child and signed a book contract for my first novel, so I’ll get to test out my theory that chaos helps my writing!
    Sarah Pekkanen

  7. what a great post from Karen. Awesome advice for writing moms and the rest of us. Television is a time suck…though TIVO/DVRs are a dream!