One of my readers, Colin Mobey, who goes by Mobewan posited a thought that we indie writers think about all the time: guilt about sacrificing family time for writing.
This is a difficult problem which I completely understand because I have four awesome kids and a wife who loves me very much and who is also quadruply awesome. (Is "quadruply" a word? Spell check is saying ok.)
I decided to help the old Mobester out and post these five things that I have worked into my life in order to insure that I don't feel so bad when I "neglect" my family for a few hours a day to blog, to work on the next WIP, to social network and do other things that my part time writing career (that feels like a full time career) demands of me.
- Be An Involved Parent - If you have kids and you are not involved in everything they are doing, then you are not a parent. You are a satellite that spins in the heavens that your children never see. I am completely involved in the lives of my children, and what I mean by that is that I am interested in their interests, guide them to good choices, help them when they need help and encourage them in all things positive. If you have a loving, authoritative relationship with your children, then they will know you well enough that being in a room by yourself for a couple of hours a day won't be too much of a burden on that relationship. My kids encourage me to write, and are an active part in the process. I don't feel guilty at all because they want me to succeed as badly as I want them to surpass me.
- Delegate - In my house everyone has a job. The problem with most families (and why they don't function well as far as housework goes) is that the housework is not delegated out properly. This is just a suggestion, but if you have children it is a good idea to give them significant tasks around the house. Mine do their own laundry at age 7, are assigned a section of the house to keep tidy. My 8 year old can tell me to put my shoes away if I forget and leave them in her "area". Unfortunately there are too many parents doing all of the work in their homes, and this eats into the time that we have to write. Giving children significant tasks around the home makes them feel like they belong there and that they have a part in the day to day operations of the household. This frees up time for everyone to do the things they want to do (like writing that novel) because when everyone shares the load, everyone wins.
- The Job Comes First - We would all love to be the best selling writer who stays at home or has a home office and who writes novel after novel, but most of us are workaday folks who have day jobs. I recently received my teacher evaluation at the high school where I work and was given a miraculous "Highly Effective" rating in every category. 96% of my students scored proficient and above in English III (my subject) on last year's end of instruction tests. I can't count the times when I've wanted to sit down and crank out a few chapters on the new novel but the job has stood in the way. I never let my job slip, because that is where my bread is buttered. This is simply a sacrifice that cannot be made. Sometimes I might feel like the quote often said by Wolverine: "I'm the best at what I do, and what I do ain't pretty", but I do my best at my job and that way when I want to take a personal day to crank out a few chapters I don't feel guilty because I've done a great job otherwise.
- Down Time - If there is one thing that every indie writer needs it is the ability to have down time with the family or with friends and not feel guilty that we are not writing. I need to go see a good action or science fiction movie with my friends every two weeks. It keeps me real and also keeps my creative juices flowing to have those relationships. My kids love movies, too, and I take them every chance I get. My son is collecting quite an airsoft gun collection and we often go to the woods near our house to create fake bloodbaths (that still sting). There is a sense among writers that if we don't sit at our writing desk, chained there, we will never finish the novel. Well, if we don't get out and experience life we won't be very good novelists, either. Some of the worst writing conundrums that appear as I'm writing a text are shattered more often by getting my mind off of it than any writer's workshop or course.
- The Great Reward - The most important of these five tips would have to be the reward I give myself after finishing a goal. I hit the comic book store, pop over to Hasting's for some pop culture infusion into my soul, or I play a role playing game with my son. Most of these don't cost anything (I rarely buy comics, and only love browsing) and in the end I feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing yet another book or another difficult passage.
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