By Terreece M. Clarke
Sometimes your creativity needs security. It needs to know that you won’t pounce on it after it has a few off days nagging, pleading and begging it to get with the program and the deadline. Sometimes your creativity likes, dare I say, needs a routine.
Many writers benefit from a writing schedule. An editorial calendar in combination with a regular writing routine is like giving your creativity a work-out schedule. For instance, my creative bug – which looks much like a ladybug wearing Mickey Mouse ears – knew I would be writing on this topic today after my baby went down for her nap, the topic is on the editorial calendar and the preferred time to write is available. My fingers were itching to get to work and as soon as I saw that little head go down to sleep my mind had started to write the blog.
A routine not only keeps the creative muscle primed, it prevents injury. Ever break out in a sprint when you hadn’t run in weeks or months and wind up paying for it later? Ever pull a muscle lifting something heavy? The same thing happens when we apply creativity in a herky-jerky fashion, it may often fail us or become injured in the process – idea formation takes too long, it takes more effort for a piece to come together, the recovery (editing) process is slower and more painful.
And just like with working out, your creativity will crave activity if you go off it’s schedule. You may always schedule Tuesdays as source interview days, but find yourself with nothing lined up for the day. Your brain is itching for some Q & A, why don’t you call up that expert or source from a previous interview and see what’s new?
Regular creativity work-outs build up a heavy flow of creative juices that spill over into every assignment and opportunity. Schedule it, write it down and behold the wonders.
Do you have a regular writing routine or schedule? Tell us about it.
I schedule all my work, from the smallest to biggest of articles. In my calendar I schedule tasks for each one (e.g. mark the date to start it, mark the dates for interviews and so on) and also mark the deadline, always putting it a couple days before the actual deadline. Scheduling means I can try and work in nice several-hour long breaks for myself during the day, and also make sure I don’t have work and family schedule conflicts. I live by my calendar and it keeps me from getting stressed when I have a few too many articles on my plate.
Hi Terreece. This is such an interesting post. My comment may be slightly off topic. I know some of us get into freelance writing to get out of a fixed schedule, but without a self-enforced schedule, nothing ever gets done. I used to be a stickler for schedule and found it easy to follow when my daughter was under 18 months, but now that she is 2, I find that there are days when I can get almost nothing done all day. Since the main reason I’m staying home is to be with her, I don’t want to send her to day care so I can work!! And I hate plopping her in front of the TV. So, I end up spending most of my time doing things with her, which keeps us both happy, but my work schedule goes out the window. I end up spending late nights working so I don’t miss a deadline. I’m not complaining, I know I can’t have it all. And I’m grateful for the opportunities I have. But I was just wondering how other wahms, including you, manage to make time with kids this age. Do you only work when the kids sleep? Or have you found ways to keep them constructively engaged as you work?
Terreece, I usually write whenever I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can. Come to think of it, my creative muscles are probably sore and need a rest! 😉
@Rupa: 🙂 While I don’t mind letting my daughter watch a movie if I need to work.. I know what you mean. I hate putting her in front of the TV just so I can work on an assignment, plus the tv in the background tends to distract me here lately.
I found that the dollar-spot at Target is a great place to get activities for your kids. My daughter is 3 years old and trying to find something that would keep her busy, I found a tube of Play-Dough. (not a good idea for people who have carpeted dining rooms.) After playing with her several times with it, she gets excited when I pull it out for her.
Another thing is coloring books and though it IS still in front of the TV, VSmile’s learning console is pretty neat.
VSmile has been helping my daughter with her colors, alphabet, and numbers. Also her hand and eye coordination has gotten so much better.
I do have to admit though.. I do my best work with both of my kids are napping. 🙂
Thanks for the ideas Dawne. I need to update her distraction box. It was so much easier to keep her engaged by herself with musical toys and books when she was younger. Now, if it’s quiet for a few minutes, I can be pretty sure, all’s not well and she’s up to no good!! So even if she is engaged with something, I have to check on her every few minutes…and that does not help my writing. But, I have to admit, sometimes spending a few minutes with her is so relaxing, I can get back to work completely recharged.
Hi Terreece,interesting topic and responses!
I have a structured day that begins right after breakfast with 1) daily reading, like the WSJ and other news sites; 2) FWJ and other job-lead sites (sometimes answering some, so this step can take a while); and 3) straight to work. I take time to work out at lunch, and then back to work until wine and snacks late in the afternoon.
My editorial calendar is constantly in flux because I write on assignment, although I do have one regular weekly column (published on different days some weeks). I have a regular monthly article and a magazine that gives me a column to do about every two months. The rest of my time is spent either on irregular consulting or writing assignments, or on business development (such as working on my Web site, learning new skills, etc.).
While my work day is fairly disciplined, my work is not. If I had to write about the same thing on a set schedule all the time, I would wither away. That’s why I love the freelance life!
Hey Rupa! It’s tough when they are that age, my four year old is in school now so that gives me a huge break, but then I have an 18 month-old who is home and ready to play :0) In the mornings we play and I get a big bucket of toys out and by myself time to catch up on emails, etc.
Then I work when she goes down for nap and when they both go to sleep at 7:30 I’m back on the gig. If there is something that I have to get done when she’s up and busy, I’m lucky, my hubby works from home as well so we switch off from time to time.
Finally, when he can’t entertain her because he’s got work to finish, turning on the music channel on cable and sitting on the floor with my laptop does wonders. She dances to the music and feels I’m still there with her instead of at the desk working. Hope that helps!
Thanks Michelle! Don’t forget to stretch from time to time with some nonsense web surging 🙂
Aurora – your discipline is inspiring! It really does help you see what’s coming and where you can fit it in, at least for me it does.
Dawne – great tips, I love that section of Target. You know what I wish I could pick up at the $1 spot? A pocket nanny – someone you can whip out for an hour to take baby on a stroll while you put the finishing touches on a piece :0) But the quiet of nap time is a writing parent’s dream!
Thank you Hazel! The options as a freelancer is really what drives me. I have regular columns and blogs, but the golden nuggets of “Can you write a 500 word article about…” is always a nice, fresh infusion of writing excitement.
I just have to add my opinion, although it seems like you have had some awesome responses. I have 5 kiddos and for most of their lives I’ve been a WAHM. For most of that time, I also homeschooled them.
My youngest is around 19 months old; my oldest is 15–but she’s handicapped…as is my 13 year old. This is why I work at home.
I use the play pen to contain my son while I write when he’s up. Obviously, it’s not good for long stretches, but it works for a short while.
We play in the morning but then I need an hour to come up with ideas, surf the net, look for more freelance jobs, develop stories–you know. I put him in the portable play pen in the room where I work. I rotate the toys in his distration box. That helps to keep his interest.
Music also helps. I’ll give him some pots and pans and let him bang away to a kids music tape. BTW, I’ve learned to be able to work through anything!
If I have a huge story to write with lots of research or interviews to conduct, I may call in MIL or wait until the weekend when my husband is home so I can have some large blocks of time. After an OHMYGOSH experience with my oldest during a phone interview with a source I needed to quote in my article,(she came out of the bathroom and loudly announced she’d just gone potty and proceeded to go over ALL the details!) I only do interviews when my son is asleep or when I have a sitter.
I keep a word document open during the day so if I can get a few minutes of work done on the article, I’ll do it. I make sure to save it too!
I am choosy about the clients for whom I write. I avoid the “must adhere to deadline” bunch. I’ve never missed a deadline, but I don’t need that stress hoovering over me either.
I do most of my work when my son goes down for a nap or at night after all of the children are in bed.
Thanks so much for all the responses and ideas – Dawne, Michelle, Terreece. Michelle, you have obviously overcome many difficult challenges and have mastered working through / around them. Thanks for sharing your views. My question must seem trivial now. 🙂 Anyway, I do use some of the suggestions you have all mentioned and will try the other ideas. Thanks again.
Terreece Clarke says
Your question is not trivial. It’s hard to get a rhythm and balance to doing this, especially with children at home. I don’t know if I mastered anything, really. I think if I had it mastered I could do it with ease and there is nothing easy about the WAHP juggle.