Friday, August 17, 2012

Writing and Juggling a Family

Fellow writer, Christopher Loke, author of The Housekeeper's Son, wrote a wonderful article about making time to write while juggling other responsibilities in life. It's full of great tips for both novice and bestselling writers. I've taken quite a few things to heart from his words, especially as they apply to being a parent. Here's what he has to say:

Let’s face it, we writers wear many hats. Apart from being the writer, we are also the parent, the caregiver, the breadwinner, the college student, the educator, and the whatever-daytime-job-that-keeps-the-bread-on-the-table. Yup, it’s true. Before we get famous and earn loads of money from our books, we must first learn to juggle between our responsibilities and our passion effectively. And even after we achieve that wondrous dream of being published, the juggling continues. It’s a never-ending saga that is called life—life of an author, to be exact.

Being an author, a parent, and the executive editor for a young and innovative house, I find my responsibilities piling up while my day does not get any longer. So, I’ve since worked up a routine that works well for me; it lets me be a parent, a writer, and an executive editor all in one, quite satisfyingly. While I can’t and don’t represent every author out there, here are some of the things I recommend for my fellow authors:

Recognizing and Executing the Common Denominator
The common denominator is the one thing that helps connect all of your responsibilities together through a single mutual interest. If you are an artist, your common denominator would be art. If you are a carpenter, your common denominator would most likely be woodwork. And if you are a computer programmer, your common denominator would be computer games. For accountants, your common denominator would be mathematics or numbers. You get the gist.

Once you find your common denominator, you can now then use it in everything you do. This common denominator not only fuels your passion, it will also make your other activities something you’d enjoy doing. For example, say, you’re a computer programmer, and your passion is computer games. You’re passionate about it, but you can’t be spending too much time playing games (either for leisure or professionally), because you still have a family to take care of. Well, my suggestion will be to play your favorite games with your family. And teach them about your passion. Know that not everyone will love what you do, but they will still have fun learning about your passion. If you are an accountant, you’ll help your kids understand the fun in numbers. Play a number game, or play a treasure hunt where the clues come from solving simple math problems. Fun, fun, fun, and yet, you’re still doing what you love to do most.

The idea is to keep the inspiration coming.

My common denominator is literature since that is the core of what I do. As such, I try to apply literature in my daily life. First, as a parent, I read with my son. That’s my quality time with my child. We’d read a few chapters a week from his favorite books and some from my manuscripts. That way, I’m also “working” while being a parent. We’d exchange ideas on any particular manuscript we’re reading, and encourage each other to talk about what works and what doesn’t for us. You’d be surprised what you learn from reading with your child. And as you continue to read, you also gain more knowledge and inspiration as a writer.

Setting Aside Writing Time
As authors, writing should be an occupation, not a hobby. So, treat it as one. When I am working on a novel, I set aside three hours each day to write, usually at nights. It’s the quiet time I have all to myself. But all work and no play makes me a dull man. So, I keep it real. For every six days I work on my novel, I’d schedule a day off. In my case, it’ll be Sundays. Since I’m usually at home on Saturdays I set my writing hours a little longer that day. All in all, I recommend setting a set amount of time each week on writing. That way, you’ll be able to write your novel and still spend time doing other fun things.

Setting a good and workable schedule is good. But a schedule is no good if it is not followed. In life, we are often faced with distractions. They’re those impromptu activities that may deflect us from our daily writing routine. Whenever that happens, never back down and give yourself the excuse to not write. Imagine yourself being offered a smoke, and you’re not a smoker. No means no. End of story. If you can say no to that, you can sure say no to anything that takes you away from your writing.

Family Support
Whatever you do in life, nothing gives you more encouragement than good’ol family support. In my case, I owe it all to my wife. She supports me by taking care of everything in the house so I might write a few hours a day. Because she believes in me and my book. And when I feel like taking a lazy day, she’d be there to remind me of my goals, and I’d be on my feet again. If writing is important to you, let your family and friends know. Talk about it. You’d be surprised by the amount of respect and awe you’ll receive.

Okay, enough said. I’m off to do some writing, after which it’s The Game of Thrones marathon with family and good friends! 


  1. I love this. At mealtime we sometimes have conversations, the kids and I (ages 14 down to 4) about conflict in plot or who the main character is in Winnie the Pooh or whatever. The kids have helped me hash out characterization and have made great suggestions for the plot of my WIP. It's amazing how insightful they can be even though they're so young!

    Also, I love the analogy between distractions and cigarettes and that no means no. Love it. Love it, love it.

    Thanks a ton! Now I'm off to write!

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you find it helpful.

  3. Oh my gosh! This is wonderful and completely true. People always ask me how I find time to do everything I do and I always say, "You make time to do what you love. It's all about discipline."
    Thanks, Chris!

  4. I really loved the idea of finding a common denominator! Makes sense and keeps the family and love of what you do alive. Great stuff!