Monday, September 19, 2011

Story Problem

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the middle of a story problem. You know the one where you have a snake, a cheeseburger and a baby. You can't leave any of them alone, and you must take them all across a river without any of them getting wet (or eaten!), or something like that. There's no bridge and no rope. How are you going to make it across safely?

This morning I raced to get two of my kids to the doctor, fed them breakfast in the car, prayed that my two year old at home wouldn't go 'play' in my office where I'd left an unsaved document open on the computer, and jotted down a great idea for my antagonist on my i-phone while I waited for our appointment. Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that, I took a breath or two.

I'm trying to fit in writing a query and a summary, and finish my final edits in between appointments, nap times, episodes of Backyardagains and all the general demands of life. I'm not willing to put any of these down while I traverse the river.

I can't leave my writing's like my life blood. But I also have four kids, four and under, who are my life and I love their guts. They need me and I need them. So, how do I divide my time and give my attention where I need to, when I need to, in order to make it across the river?

Will we arrive on the other side of the river unscathed and alive? Some days I wonder. :)

But here's how I've solved my story problem:

1. I schedule time to write. It is sacred and untouchable. I write for at least an hour during my children's nap time, and again after they go to sleep. This gives me about two to three hours at night. Then I go to bed early (unless I'm on a roll and in the middle of a deluxe scene). I'm a morning person but instead of my usual 6:00 am routine, however, I now get up at 4:00. Not all days...but most. All in all, I get at least five hours of 'kid-free' and hopefully distraction-free writing every day.

2. I also schedule untouchable time for my kids. I do not even crack the lap top open during these times (though I've been known to scribble on the palm of my hand so I don't forget something amazing). Most, if not all of my frustration with my story problem, happens when I blur my lines and try to write and be a mom of young children at the same time.

3. There is one moment where my two worlds collide and I love it. Story time. We have a LONG story time each night where we read a few books and then tell a few of our own. I cannot tell you how many plot holes I've solved, or how many characters I've fleshed out while putting my MC in the place of the handsome prince in the story that I tell for my daughters. It's awesome and this is the moment where my life comes full circle and the tricky merge of author and mom totally works. It's like peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate and peanut butter (I love peanut butter, can you tell?)

My story problem solution isn't perfect. Occasionally we might get a bit wet or in a water fight of sorts. But I can say that at the end of the day, I make it across with out any snake bites and usually a cheeseburger to rejuvenate me. That's not to say that I don't want to change and improve how I juggle the demands of my life. And so I'm putting this out there for my blog partners, Angie and Amy, as well as all of you - how do you solve your story problems? Any tricks to the trade? Any secrets to success? Does it get more doable as the kids get older? PLEASE share! :)

--Sara Bulla


Anonymous said...

Hey Sara - great post. I love the fact that you've carved out kids time aswell. What a great mum you must be! I can't wait to have kids just so that I can have story time!

Angie Cothran said...

LOL! A snake, a cheeseburger and a baby :) You crack me up Sara! 4:00 a.m. you are crazy. My mind doesn't even work until 10:00 a.m.

All my kidos are in school so most of my writing gets done in the day, but I'm a night owl so I will stay up late too.

Tiffany Garner said...

Great post! This is something everyone has to deal with in their lives. Though I don't have children, I do have school, homework, and two jobs to put my attention to. Somewhere in that time I spend time with friends :)

I've found that making an hourly schedule works best for me at this time of my life, especially since my life is structured around my classes and work times. I highlight the times that I plan to work on homework, write, etc, and stick to the plan. Every once and a while something will get moved because something comes up at the last minute, but overall it works for me :)

Anonymous said...

A snake, a cheeseburger, and a baby, LOL, I don't remember that story problem from school :)

I get up at 5am but that's so I can walk the dog before it gets too hot. If I'm lucky I'll have a moment to check in with my mentor on my writing plans for the day before the wee beasties get up. Most of my writing happens in the afternoon while my Kindergartener is in school. And like you I have kiddo time that is untouchable.

Deana said...

Sara, I think I need a nap after reading this post:) 4AM! Wow, I love it, wish I could do it! Kudos to you, I don't know, I may be jumping over the river saying this but I think you've got it pretty down pat. Good for you:)

Sara Bulla said...

Freya: Kids are fantastic. I actually think I get more done now that I have kids than I ever did before. Isn't that strange how necessity moves us to manage our time better? Anyway, Thanks for your comment.

Angie: I know 4AM sounds a wee bit batty, but I could never pull the midnight runs that you do!

Tiffany: I like the idea of an hourly schedule. It seems to be more flexible. And I love that you reserve a bit of time for friends...I need to do that more. It's a good and needed break from time to time.

Raelyn: I love that you have a writing mentor - what a fantastic resource! good luck with your wee 'beaties'. So funny!

Deana: Don't forget that I am in bed by 10. Otherwise the 4AM thing would never even be entertained. :)

E.R. King said...

Sara, you're a wonder to me. I don't know how you do it all. Good for you for not giving up. The guilt of not spending enough time with your kids comes no matter what else you're doing. I'm glad you've found solutions that work for you. As Dory says, "Just Keep Swimming!"

Sara Bulla said...

Love Dory! Thanks for your comment!

By way of explanation, I chose to get up in the wee hours in the morning after hearing about another writer who was faced with similar time constraints and challenges. She, however, rose at 2AM each day! Unbelievable. I figured if she could do 2AM, I could at least shoot for 4. :)

Brinda said...

AMAZING. You should wear a name badge with that on it. :) My son is grown and living on his own. My husband is self-sufficient. So, I have a full-time job and a 100 miles RT commute to juggle with writing. I thought I was doing well and then I read your post. I think I should juggle better. Kudos to you!!

Tracy Z. said...

What a great post! Sounds like you've figured out a way to juggle life and writing pretty well!

I like schedules in theory, but then once I get into a routine, I feel constricted. Right now, I'm trying to get into a good habit of gym, hanging out with friends, cleaning house, being a mom, being a wife, being a writer, and getting to bed before 1am. I'm a night owl, but am trying to break the habit. My son is in school most of the day so that definitely helps.

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