People often ask me how I manage to be a mother, pastor’s wife, and writer all at once. My answer is that I don’t. I’m human, with only twenty-four hours at my disposal, and I need sleep. Without it, I become a scary zombie mommy!
Instead of overworking myself, I focus on the tasks I can reasonably complete. I’ve found three strategies that have helped me be productive without sacrificing my sanity or values. Let me share them with you.
1. Put Your Priorities in the Right Order
What parts of your life are dear to you, and what can you do without? For me, my family comes first. I’ve seen pastors and writers pour all their energy into ministry and writing, then their kids grow up as strangers and their spouses leave. My primary job is motherhood. I’m raising the next generation, and I want to bless this world with children who are kind, smart, thoughtful, inquisitive, and strong, but that won’t happen unless I spend time with them.
Because of that, I write while my family is at school and work. I reserve late afternoons and evenings for my kids and husband. I also set aside one afternoon per week (along with Sunday) to visit members of our congregation and tend to their needs.
How about you? What are your priorities (apart from writing)? How many hours need to be devoted to those responsibilities and relationships? Once you’ve established your boundaries (so only emergencies intrude), you can figure out where to place writing.
2. Schedule Time to Write
When I began pursuing a career as an author, I wrote during my kids’ naps. Now I pound out words between 8:30 and 2:30 while they’re in school, and I do my marketing during this time as well. I’m a slow writer, so I only reach 1,000–1,500 words a day, but after a year, I have a novel. My agent knows that one book per year is my limit and makes sure my contract allows for that. I’m so thankful for an agent who protects my family time!
This kind of schedule won’t fit every lifestyle, however. Maybe you have a day job or kids at home. You could rise an hour early, stay up after your family has gone to bed, or claim the weekend. If 500 words is more attainable for you than 1,000, don’t pressure yourself. Remember to go at a pace you can handle and consider whether the time slots you’ve picked affect the other items on your to-do list.
Most importantly, stick to your schedule. Some days you’ll feel unmotivated, but that’s when you need to push through. The result doesn’t need to be a masterpiece; just get the words down. You can’t edit empty pages.
3. Give Yourself Grace
Many authors aren’t full time. We balance jobs, family, and other activities, yet we struggle to be satisfied with our daily accomplishments. We think we should be doing more. Though I didn’t embrace the fact that I’m a slow writer until recently, I’ve still turned out one book a year because I’m committed. But when I’m done writing for the day, I walk away.
Instead of being depressed that you were unable to experiment with a new project or marketing idea, be faithful during the time you’ve dedicated to writing. Don’t guilt-trip yourself into sitting at the computer for longer. When you’ve finished your session for the day, close the document and concentrate on your other priorities. And if the story seems to be taking you forever to write, tell yourself that’s okay.
Once you’ve met your quota, go ahead and enjoy your family, walk your dog, or read a book that’s been calling your name. Those moments will refill your creativity so you’re ready to write again the next day.
I can’t do everything. I wish I could achieve more, such as learning how to make digital art, improving my cooking, or keeping my house cleaner (ha!). But imagine that each pursuit is a plate you’re trying to keep spinning. If you have too many, they start crashing to the ground.
Instead, identify your two to three highest priorities, incorporate writing around those, and don’t be hard on yourself. That’s how you “do it all”—by choosing what’s best for you and your life.
Morgan Busse is a writer by day and a mother by night. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series and the steampunk series The Soul Chronicles. She is a Christy and INSPY Award finalist and recently won the Carol Award for best in Christian speculative fiction. During her spare time she enjoys playing games, taking long walks, and dreaming about her next novel.