Guest Post by Stacy Lynn Carroll
Stacy Lynn Carroll has always loved telling stories. She started out at Utah State University where she pursued a degree in English, learned how to western swing, and watched as many of her fellow students became ‘True Aggies’. She then finished her BA at the University of Utah where she got an emphasis in creative writing. After college she worked as an administrative assistant, where she continued to write stories for the amusement of her co-workers. When her first daughter was born, and with the encouragement of a fortune cookie, she quit her job and became a full-time mommy and writer. Seven books and four small kids later, Stacy has truly learned the necessary skills of balance and time management. Chocolate also helps. Stacy is a two-time Whitney Awards finalist and hosts a weekly (sometimes) installment on her blog called Mommy Mondays where she shares tips on being a Mommy and a writer. She and her husband live in Utah with their four children, two Corgis, and a beta fish who refuses to die.
Anyone who knows me knows that as much as I love writing, being a Mommy comes first. I have four beautiful, crazy, energetic children who keep me on my toes and give me the biggest reason for getting out of bed each day: “Mom! I want breakfast!”
With my seventh book on the shelf and my fourth child entering the world, I frequently get asked: “How do you do it? How do you find time to write such incredible books and take care of your home and family too?” I can tell you it’s not easy! It takes a lot of self-discipline and time management, but it’s also very doable.
First and foremost, I would start by asking one question: Is writing a career or a hobby? Pause and consider this question very seriously. Hobbies are what we do for fun when we have extra time. Simple. So if writing is a hobby at this point in your life, then stop worrying when you don’t have time for it! Just be happy with the few moments you get to write every couple months and stop stressing.
If writing is a career, however, then you need to start treating it as such. If you have to work from 8:30pm to 12:00am (my typical hours) every night, your boss wouldn’t be too thrilled if you called in every night with excuses like “I had a rough day with the kids, I’m just too tired.” Or “I’m not in the right mood.” Or “I’d rather play around on Facebook for two hours and then watch Dancing with the Stars.” These types of excuses wouldn’t fly. You would be fired before the week’s end. As a writer, you are your own boss. Treat yourself like you actually have a job. Clock your hours and make sure you get your writing time in every single day. It’s amazing how much more work you get done when you start treating your writing like a real career. It’s all about attitude. And trust me, you’ll learn to get over those tired-Mama humps when you exercise your brain muscles every single night.
Equally important: if you start treating your writing like a career, make sure others do too! Make sure your husband understands the importance of your writing. If he’s distracting you every night with “let’s just watch a movie together” or “let’s play this game”, he’s not treating your career with respect. You don’t roll over in the mornings and say, “Don’t go to work today, just stay home and play with me and the kids.” You have respect for his career. So, tempting as it may be, you don’t keep him from it. Make sure that respect goes both ways. (By no means am I encouraging you to abandon your husband. Set a date night and spend quality time with him. Add him in to your priorities and balance your writing with your family time) The same goes for friends, family, and other neighbors. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t go out after the kids are in bed tonight, I have to work.” Just as people who work need to request time off in advance, you need notice to work extra hours on other nights, or squeeze in some time during the day so you can still get your hours in for the week. No need to become a recluse! You just need better planning and a new mindset. You can’t always attend every event or help with every situation that arises. After all, you’re a working woman now!
The next step to finding balance between your writing and parenthood is setting priorities. This may seem like a no-brainer, but far too often we get overwhelmed with everything we have to do, and forget to prioritize. Start by making a list of everything you have to do on a daily basis. Out of those daily items, figure out what you can let go. Let’s face it, if you want to have a writing career and be an amazing mother, you can’t also be the PTA president. You just can’t. So let some things go from your list and don’t look back.
Next, prioritize your daily tasks by putting the most important first. I can tell you my number one priority every day is my kids. They win every time. My number two is my writing. My number three is housework. This does not mean my house is a crazy, rat-infested, disgusting place to be. I actually keep my house quite neat. What it does mean, is I make sure my kids’ needs are met first. If it’s my writing time, and someone had a bad dream and needs snuggles. I snuggle my baby and don’t feel guilty about it because I pre-determined what was most important in my life. This also means if I have a busy day with lots of errands and it comes time to write and my laundry isn’t done…I’m going to choose writing. Again, without guilt. The laundry will get done. But not until I put in my writing time first. Because that was what I determined was most important for me. And you know what? Once I made these priorities, and once I made writing one of my top ones, I found it actually happens. And everything else happens that needs to as well. When you make the time for those things which are most important to you, they actually get accomplished, and everything else you once thought was important but really isn’t, just falls away.
Once you’ve let go of everything unnecessary from your life, and you find yourself in a clean house with happy kids and a new, shiny book in your hands, go ahead and grab that cape. You have just become superwoman!