In a recent blog, I sang the praises of writing whenever you are taking a plane somewhere. The quiet, distraction-free atmosphere makes flying perfect for writing, or so it seems to me.
I heard from a dissenting reader.
She said, “I’d love to be able to devote myself to writing while on a plane, but unfortunately I travel with a little sidekick who demands a lot of attention.”
Unfortunately, when you have kids, travel (and most everything else) is all about the kids.
And summer vacation presents such a situation. For many people, having the kids on vacation from school is a great time for the family to be together and to do fun things. But if you have to make headway on your writing, summer vacation presents specific challenges.
If you have to keep on track with a writing project, particularly meeting deadlines for your dissertation, it’s time to look for places where you have control. You must make time to write, and to make that time, you will have to draw boundaries.
1.You can’t always be on-call.
If you tell your kids that if they need you, to just call, they will call you, even if they don’t need you. Funny story: one child of a client yelled for her mom because the dog chewed up a Kleenex—that was the emergency.
2.Have a door between you and your kids.
One client says that she sits in the main room of her house and wears earplugs to quiet the din while she reads. But the consensus among my clients is that boundaries should be visible, but you should not be.
3.Invest in help.
If you’re always slightly uneasy, not knowing what your children are doing on the other side of the door, hire someone—young or old—to sit with the kids, watch them, play a game with them, prepare a snack for them. Two solid hours of help could equal a good chunk of concentrated writing for you.
4.Get the heck out of the house.
The answer to how can you write at home is … more than likely you can’t, at least not all of the time. An hour or two each afternoon, or two hours 3 afternoons a week, you need to go, leave, vamoose. You will very likely have to go to the library on a routine basis, and you will have to hire a sitter or take your kids to someone else’s house. Make a plan!
Many writers use daycare for their kids during the school vacations, and as far as I know, the writers haven’t been struck dead for doing that, nor have they noticed that their children’s growth has been stunted. When my kids were in school, I enrolled them in a Summer Fun project at their local school. It wasn’t a full school day—just a few hours each day– but even so, my kids complained that they didn’t want to spend time at school. It was their vacation.
As I recall, I may have pulled back a bit on the amount of time they spent there, but I didn’t cave completely. I felt guilty—that goes with the territory—but I had to have time to write.
If you don’t honor your need to write and the need to make it possible for you to write, who will? I hope your partner or spouse supports your need to mark boundaries or to use daycare or to hire a sitter, but it’s up to you to say what you need and to make the changes necessary for you to write.
I’d love to hear not only what your challenges are around finding time to write, but also what you have put in place that has been of help to you.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com