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Fighting to Write
"Musings" - March 2008

by Margot Finke

Sometimes you must fight to keep writing.  There are the distractions of children, work, a husband who wants more of your time, and those dust bunnies that multiply overnight.  Not to mention that your family has a terrible habit – they eat three meals every day!  And you want to squeeze in time for yourself: maybe between shopping for groceries and having a root canal?  Forget it!

Sanity teeters at times like this.

If it’s a choice between your lousy job, an unsupportive hubby, plus snotty kids, and running away to somewhere “cool,” and writing your heart out, who am I to say, “Tote that kid, and lift that broom!”  

However, before you pack your bags, there is one alternative that promises you can have it all.  NO, I am not smoking something funny.  Two words spell your salvation: ORGANIZATION and BACKBONE.

Let’s Take Backbone First

A psychologist friend once told me, “If you act like a doormat, don’t be surprised if people walk all over you.”   If you want a writing career, you must make room for it in your daily life.  When regular bills dictate you need to work, you shouldn’t have to manage the home front all by yourself.  A good general learns how to delegate.  Do whatever it takes! Smile, while promising your husband pot roast, sexual favors, or regular backrubs, if he will grocery shop on the way home from work one night each week.  You also need him to bring home a take-out meal one night a week, and throw in a load of laundry every second day. 

See, writing time is already in the bag!

Now For Your Snotty Kids

The carrot and stick method works extremely well.  Make out a list of chores, and stick it on the fridge – this is where finding your backbone, and sticking with your decisions, really come into play. Bribery does work! Chores done to your satisfaction are linked to privileges and pocket money.  Setting and clearing the table, packing the dishwasher, doing their own laundry (if old enough), and running a vacuum cleaner several times a week, earn all sorts of goodies and cash.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  If their rooms look like Hiroshima after the bomb, that’s why doors were invented!  Chores forgotten, or badly done, earn zip, or reduced computer & TV privileges.  Older kids can be grounded.  Children benefit when parents set boundaries, and are consistent with their rules.  They may complain at first, but as soon as they see you have removed the doormat sign from your forehead, they will fall into line – trust me! 

Suddenly, you have writing time on your hands.

Organization Makes Spare Time Into Writing Time

If you’re a morning person, get up early and write then.  If you’re a night owl, plan to write later, after the kids have gone to bed.  A writing lunch break works too.  See where your masterful delegation has opened up time, and slot in your writing.  Take a notebook with you wherever you go – work, bathroom, shopping, school meetings etc.  Inspiration can strike anywhere.  Write thoughts down lest they disappear forever.

Look at your house or apartment.  Find somewhere you can carve a small space of (relative) writing peace and quiet for yourself and your computer.  It might be a spare room you can wrestle into shape.  Mom-in-law only visits twice a year – right?  It could be an attic space: a nest that would be perfect with a space heater for winter, and a fan for summer.  Alternatively, what about that finished basement corner, far from hubby’s workbench and tools?  And, if you need help erecting a privacy wall, or humping furniture, etc, bribery works just as well with husbands.

Now you have no excuse.  WRITE!  Join a critique group, so you benefit from the feedback and encouragement of your peers.  Face it, you can’t expect your husband to appreciate your writing, on top of everything else you have co-opted him into doing.  Find good online writing lists, and network with others who are passionate about writing for children.  Join SCBWI, and go to as many of their writing conferences as possible.  Meeting editors and agents, and listening to their thoughts about books and publishing is enlightening. 

Visiting these websites:   The Purple CrayonVerla KayMargot Finke,
Children’s Writers Market  and Anastasia Suen  will broaden your knowledge of every aspect of writing for children.

When your book is finally ready, it will be time to research the right publisher.  Check their website for submission guidelines, and make sure your book fits their current list.  Then, master the art of writing a great query letter (find help HERE )
Bribing and finagling the time to do all this is a snap, compared to your next project - promoting and selling the book you have just had accepted.  But first, let your husband and kids know that you could never have done it without their help.  A lavish, celebratory “thank you gesture,” of epic proportions, is definitely in order.


P.S. Male writers, please feel free to reinvent my bribes and suggestions to suit your female partners.

Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

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