Monday, October 07, 2013

Guest post: "The Quick and Dirty Guide to Writing and Having a Family at the Same Time," by Allison M. Dickson

In a lot of ways, being a writer is not conducive to having a spouse and children. In fact, a lot of writers have put “not having kids” on their infamous “rules for writing” lists. Probably because in order to hone your craft, you have to be able to spend a lot of time alone working on it, and kids (as lovely as they care) can make that whole endeavor next to impossible. However, I find this “rule” to be ridiculous. Children and significant others enrich one’s life, and enrichment informs art. I can’t say I would be the writer I am today if it weren’t for the experiences having a family added to my life.

That being said, it still takes a lot of juggling to make sure you aren’t sacrificing your family for your career and vice versa. So here are my tips for making sure people on both sides of the fence stay happy.

  1. Have a supportive significant other
I can’t imagine what it would have been like attempting to start a career if it weren’t for the devotion and understanding of my husband. He cheers me on, listens to my plot conundrums and helps me brainstorm, he helps with proofreading or with other things I might need to help make my job a little easier. He understands that we might not always be going to bed at the same time because the muse is visiting me late at night instead of early in the morning. He cooks dinner on the nights when the muse decides to show up in the late afternoon. He gives me the time and the space I need in order to work, because he understands this is important not only to me, but to our family. If your significant other is not at least attempting to do some of these things, it’s probably a good idea to have that very important discussion about what it will take to get them on your side. If you work a full-time job AND write, this support is doubly necessary, because you’re essentially working two jobs, and you need the time in order to do both.

  1. Support your significant other/Take care of your kids
As the flipside to #1, you can’t just live all day and night with your head in the pages and ignore what’s happening in your household. You have to meet your partner halfway. You can’t let your kids fall by the wayside while you spend more time with the fictional kids in your book. Whatever responsibilities around the house you have agreed to share, do them. Give your spouse as much support and attention as you are expecting out of him/her. If they are like my husband, they probably work full-time jobs too and they need someone to they can vent to as well.  No job takes precedence over the health and happiness of your family.

  1. Set boundaries
If working in your home has become all but impossible due to the distraction of an unsupportive spouse and fighting kids and other things that pull you out of your work so much that you can’t get anything done, it’s time to set some boundaries and a schedule that the family can abide by. Coordinate with your family to come up with a set of hours during which you can write and not be distracted unless someone is bleeding to death. Go into another room if you have to so you can shut the door. If that’s not possible, get a set of nice headphones to block out any noise and get to typing. You will get a lot more done if you designate two hours of work time every day in which people understand to leave you alone, than you will if you try and sneak in whatever scattered writing time you can get because your significant other and kids are running roughshod over your house and your life. The latter will only make you feel bitter and resentful. If it’s so bad that getting even those hours in is impossible (because #1 and #2 of this blog haven’t been met), the next step might be to take yourself out of the house for those two hours. Go to a public library or a coffee shop and write.

  1. Set your hours, including personal days and vacation time
If writing is like a job, it should be treated as such. Similar to setting boundaries with your family, you should set boundaries with yourself. Be your own employer, right down to making your schedule. Work in some days off and vacation/personal time so you can make sure you’re getting in quality time with your people. If you have some flexibility, maybe you work twice as hard on Thursday so you can take Friday off and have a three-day weekend with the family. However you do it, that extra structure will make it so your family will know what to expect from you and everyone will be a little happier. It will also (hopefully) have the side-effect of making you a more productive writer.


If none of these things are working for you, it might be a good idea to have your family watch The Shining, so they can see what happens when writers become a bit too… pent-up. ;) 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allison M. Dickson is a writer of dark contemporary fiction living in Dayton, Ohio. Though STRINGS is her debut novel, she has been writing for a number of years, with several short stories (including “Dust” and “Under the Scotch Broom”) available on Amazon. Two of her stories were featured The Endlands Volume 2 from Hobbes End Publishing. In 2014, Hobbes End will also be releasing her dystopian science fiction novel, THE LAST SUPPER, and she is independently producing her pulpy dieselpunk noir novel, COLT COLTRANE AND THE LOTUS KILLER to be released in November of 2013. When she isn’t writing, she’s one of the co-hosts of the weekly Creative Commoners podcast.  She might also be found gaming, watching movies, hiking the local nature preserve with her husband and two kids who also serve as willing guinea pigs for her many culinary experiments. Visit her website

Check out Allison's debut horror novel, STRINGS, now available from Hobbes End Publishing.