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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

How I Make Time for Writing: Guest Post by Eileen Peterson

Guest blogger Eileen Peterson shares how she blends writing, working and parenting

I met Eileen Peterson in a Loft class more than ten years ago. Eileen has a delightfully pragmatic approach to making life work as a working mom who writes and a writer who works and parents. Writers with or without children can benefit from Eileen’s insight into how to make time for writing. She’s honest about the challenges; she is creative, courageous and compassionate in her responses to those challenges.

Identify What Gets in Your Way

Resistance, according to Rosanne, is anything that gets in the way or stops you from writing today. It can be sneaky – it’s not just the “critical voice.”

It can look like Mom Guilt, as in “I should spend every spare moment with my kids.”

It can look like Perfectionism, as in “I don’t have the two hours I need to write a blog post (because it has to be perfect), and since I can’t do it perfectly, I’ll wait to write another day.”

It can look like Overscheduling, as in “There’s always too much to do.” 

How does resistance show up for you?

My resistance usually shows up as Perfectionism. I don’t even notice it sometimes – I just think, “Well, I only have five minutes to work on this chapter and I can’t do good (meaning “perfect”) work in five minutes, so I’ll wait for the next break or free hour.” Funny how that that break or free hour never comes.

Overscheduling gets in my way a lot, too. It’s as if I have no sense of how long things actually take. I think I can work all day, do 80 errands after work, and have meaningful interactions with my kids and my husband when I get home.

Guess what? I can’t. You can’t either.

Put Mom (or Dad) Guilt in Its Place

When I met Rosanne, I was writing about babies, cleaning up poop and how to not go insane and drown in all of the little-kid stuff. Now, I have teenagers who can cook and take care of their own shit (actual shit, homework, and chores) for the most part. They need me in a whole other way, mostly for emotional support, and there is still serious big-kid stuff I could drown in.

But my kids also need to see me making time for my priorities – it gives them time and permission to attend to their own. I’m happier when I’m writing regularly and that makes me a better parent. 

As parents who write, we have to accept reality (starting with no parent is perfect) and relish the life we have now.

My son just came up and had a request for the grocery list. Interruptions happen all day long. If I get perfectionistic about having giant chunks of uninterrupted time in a beautiful office in silence to write, guess what’s not going happen? Writing.

My son just came back with another question. I love him and I want to talk to him. He is not an interruption. He is a glorious part of the life I have chosen. I accept reality and I keep writing.


Make Time, Don’t Wait For It

I get the whole “not having enough time to write” thing. I am a busy-ass mom who works inside and outside the home. My work schedule changes every week, and my schedule at home does too.

I can schedule whatever time I want for writing, but 9 times out of 10, there will be multiple “urgent” things to do that I could do instead. Emergencies, interruptions, paperwork, and life will overfill that hour for you if you let it. I have to pounce on my writing time, not wait for it to appear.

Boundaries and time management are essential. Learn what works for you and say “no” to extra errands. Look for creative alternatives. For instance, we get groceries delivered. The little extra we pay saves me hours and hours of time. My time is worth it.

You have to take time – nobody will give it to you. For me and all the writers I know, here is no such thing as “free time.”

How I Make Time

Around the Writer’s Block taught me that I can make time to write, no matter how busy I am. Making time for 15 minutes of Process, Product Time and Self-care keeps me writing.

Process means doing something for fun and getting out of the mental loop of thinking about all the things on my To Do list. Sometimes I color, sometimes I dance to music, sometimes I take nature photos.

In my Product Time, I work on my current writing project: researching, dreaming about what a setting might look like in my novel, freewriting about plot points, and actually drafting and editing.

My Self-care can be taking a bath, a nap, exercising, or taking a break whatever. I’m far from perfect, but mostly, I take about 15 minutes for each of these practices every day. 

One day, I had an epic, Game-of Freaking-Thrones-level To Do list sitting on my head like a big, furry cat with her claws dug into my skull. (That’s how it feels to me–no judgment, please). I almost gave in to the temptation to fill my planned writing time with calling the insurance company, filling out paperwork, household chores and other stupid stuff we all have to do. Yes, it’s all necessary and has to get done. 

But it doesn’t have to get done at the expense of our writing.

Instead of bailing on my writing, I honored my commitment to my three practices. I danced around to music for 15 minutes for Process. I took a Self-care walk for 15 minutes. For Product Time, I reviewed my notes and dreamstormed LINK my novel.

Maybe it luck; maybe it was the position of the moon and stars; but I’m convinced it was the dancing, walking and dreaming that allowed me to finally figure out a major plot point I’d been stuck on for months – in 15 minutes!

Do It for Yourself

I love writing – I can’t help but do it. I don’t do it for money, to advance my career, or to please anyone else.

Still, I am gratified to know when my writing helps other people. Sometimes people tell me my writing inspired them or helped them feel less alone in the struggle. Feel free to tell me that. But know that I’m going to do this forever whether anybody likes it or not. It’s who I am. 

And now, my Product Time for today is finished and I’m off to help with homework, pick up my daughter, and try to organize the life I run imperfectly, happily, gratefully imperfect, every day.

Eileen Peterson is a working parent, and emerging novelist. She has been published in The Door and WebWomenConnect.com.


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2 Comments on “How I Make Time for Writing: Guest Post by Eileen Peterson”

  1. kperrymn March 30, 2018 at 10:20 am #

    I love this post, Eileen–thank you! My favorite part (besides your amazing photo!) is your acknowledgement of all of the necessary tasks that can take us away from our writing, “Yes, it’s all necessary and has to get done. But it doesn’t have to get done at the expense of our writing.” And how grabbing the 15 minutes really does make things happen. I am glad you made the time to write this guest post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eileen Peterson March 30, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

      Thank you, too, Katie. 🙂 I do a lot of cosplay with my kids, so that is my My Little Pony character, Creare Spatium (“making space” in Latin). We go to nerdy conventions together. I am glad I made time for it, too–Rosanne inspires me to stretch and grow as a writer and as a person. 🙂


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