Writing With a Full Plate

By Michael Schilf · October 18, 2010

My eyes are bulging. My brain is throbbing. My head is in my hands. I feel like a toy soldier stuck inside a snare drum as I stare blankly at the screen, trying to write. Is it writer’s block? No. A family crisis? Not today. A Packers loss in overtime again? Yes, but sadly that’s not my dilemma.

What has me routed like a zombie in a George A. Romero flick is the fact that I’m trying to write at home on a Sunday afternoon in October. Big mistake! Why? I have a family.

My wife digs through old financials, asking me to clarify what to burn in our fire pit. My daughter, 12, throws a junior high tantrum because ‘back talk’ earned her the honor of losing computer privileges. My son, 4, runs around the house in a Bob the Builder costume, attacking his trains with paper airplanes at volumes that rival a rock concert. And my other daughter, also 12, attempts to bake ghost shaped cupcakes in the kitchen. Toss in six loads of laundry, two skinned knees, and an afternoon school project with three more 7th grade girls arriving to build an edible cell – yes, a single cell organism constructed of Nerd Vines, Gummy Life Savers, Junior Mints, and Whipped Frosting – and that’s a normal Sunday in October.

And I expected to write? Ridiculous. But I don’t blame them. I blame myself. I’ve been a husband and father for over a decade, and I know better. Writing with a full family plate is never easy. It takes discipline and a pragmatic approach. Conversely, trying to do everything at the same time is a sure-fire way that you’ll probably end up doing everything badly.

A full family plate takes time, as does writing. So what do we do? We try to fit it in… whenever. Sure, you’re a busy person – full time job, married with children – but if you also consider yourself a writer, there can be no “whenever” in your mantra.

The “whenever” approach is nothing more than writing suicide; you only end up failing in an impossible situation.

If you’re serious about writing, you need to be realistic AND consistent. You’ll accomplish a lot more and better writing one hour a day everyday than trying to cram it all in with a weekend power session. The secret to writing success is your writing schedule: 5am to 7am, 10pm to midnight, figure it out, you decide. But be realistic. This is your time; you must protect it and do it everyday. Because if you do, you’ll have no problem taking Sundays off.