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Home, But Not Alone: Tips for Writers Working at Home
by Beth Fowler
When you sit down to write, does it seem as if
family members conspire to prevent you from writing, and as if domestic duties
scream for attention? Well, if you cave in and put writing aside, you won't make
money from what you didn't write. Right? Here are sure-fire techniques you can
use to find writing time in your busy days.
1. Build respect. One writer bribed her kids
with ice cream bought with money she hoped to earn from articles. Not good.
Healthy relationships are built on respect, not on bribes. Writers can say,
"Writing is important to me. It would help if you didn't disturb me for the next
three hours. Can you do that?" Then stick to the agreement.
2. Share enthusiasm. Encourage your family to
write a neighborhood newsletter, a cookbook, a letter to an editor, a journal.
Once they've seen their work in print, they'll understand why you like to write.
3. Compromise. Jolyn's mother interrupted his
writing by asking for rides to town. Jolyn chauffeured his mother for a
ten-minute errand, which expanded to one hour. Jolyn and Mom could compromise:
"Mom, I'll take you to town at three o'clock. Until then I need time to write."
Mom agrees. But at noon she asks: "Can we go to town now?" Jolyn used to give
in. Now he says, "You've interrupted me, even though we agreed I'll take you to
town at three o'clock. I'll take you at three o'clock." After all, compromise
literally means vow together.
4. Educate non-writers. When I told ten-year-old
Christopher, a friend's son, that I write at home, he said, "Oh, you don't
work." Because I don't pack a briefcase and commute daily to an office, I didn't
fit his idea of a legitimate worker. Had I explained that his favorite author
J.K. Rowling began like I did-getting rejections, honing skills in relative
anonymity, writing and rewriting (and re-rewriting) Christopher might have
agreed that what I do is work, even if I'm not famous. Like all artists, writers
serve apprenticeships too.
5. Nurture important relationships. Screenwriter
Tim Burton ("Beetlejuice" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas") said that his
"interiorizing" separated him from people. He added, "It makes you think you're
crazy." Before everybody goes crazy, set aside time to nurture friendships and
6. Empathize with non-writers. We writers are
consumed with twisting our tales or creating zippy dialogue. How do others
perceive us? Dusty Wesker is married to Arnold Wesker, author of 30 plus plays.
She said, "Living with a writer and a writer's ego is incredibly difficult.
We've had a wonderful life together, but there have been ups and downs, but I'm
resilient." Resilience on everybody's part is vital for every relationship's
7. Create a workspace. You'll be taken more
seriously if you create a permanent writing center. You'll take yourself more
seriously, too. Organize your filing system, install a shelf for reference and
resource books, use good equipment, maintain a supply of paper, envelopes and
8. Write in a healthy environment. The work
center shouldn't be tucked into a murky corner. Select a place that inspires
productivity. Scientists believe that plants in an office improve productivity,
lower energy consumption, reduce noise levels and are, of course, aesthetically
pleasing. Choose a place with good circulation. Built up dust, pet hairs, traces
of cleaners, mold and carbon dioxide can cause headaches and allergic reactions.
9. Write to write. Beginning writers spend more
money than they earn from writing. This economic fact can be a source of guilt.
Comments like, "You spent how much for 'Writer's Marketplace'?" weigh heavily.
Invite your family to discuss their feelings. Does your writing really strain
the budget, or is something else bugging your family? Meanwhile, keep
10. Write about it. Writers experience heavy
demands on their time and emotions from family members. In an ideal world you
might be spared this, but if you were, would you have as much to write about?
Every experience is an idea for writing.
11. Be honest. Some writers use outside
circumstances as excuses not to write. This is dishonest. Putting the burden on
others with comments like, "You trim the hedge so I can write," is unfair.
Hedges need trimmed, regardless. Say, "It's your turn to trim the hedge," and
then go write. (You did trim the hedge last time, didn't you?)
12. Streamline and economize. Writing takes time
and money, so I've streamlined and economized. I moved to a smaller house near
two libraries, serve stir-fried rice instead of complicated meals, gave the cats
away (boo hoo) and quit Christmas. I swap magazines with writers' circle members
and buy used books.
13. Search for nuggets. Angela Raeburn, a
beginning freelancer, has two sons, a part-time job and a home to run. "I search
for nuggets of time for my writing in between the school run, play group duty,
taking the dog to the vet and delivering hubby's suits to the cleaners," Angela
said. She added that she doesn't feel guilty when ironing piles up because "I
get paid for writing, I don't get paid for housework."
14. Manage time. Susan Wilson, another
freelancer, shared her time management technique. "Time mismanagement can be
turned into positive control by actively noting daily what you do, when you do
it and how long it takes over a period, say two weeks. Draw up a chart showing
the chunks of time and concentrate the activity into that time." Susan is
partially paralyzed, but her determination takes her from England to Asia
gathering ideas and material for writing.
15. Divide and write. Horror writer Mark Morris
shares domestic chores with his wife Nel, an artist who also works from home. "I
work in the mornings and look after our one-year-old son in the afternoons, and
Nel does it the other way around." While one parent bathes and beds their son,
the other cooks supper. Evenings and weekends are free for relaxing and
Making adjustments and finding solutions to meet
each other's needs-that's what living and working together is all about.
"They lived happily ever after" is not a trite
story ending. It's the beginning of your story.
© Copyright 2001, Beth Fowler
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