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On occasion, I receive emails with questions about writing young adult books. It makes me feel a little bit like an expert in my field, which is sort of flattering. And while I don’t have so much as an inkling about the world of publishing, I do know a little bit about the craft of writing. I never had writing courses in college. I never had the confidence to think I could “be good enough” (whatever that means) at writing until I was staring down at my 28th birthday cake and found the balls to actually practice. So, everything I’ve learned is from reading novels, as well as reading books about writing and publishing, as well as reading blogs and websites and forums, as well as talking to people in the industry. The more I learn, the more I love writing. And the more I hate it sometimes, too. But today I’m going to focus on the love.

Today’s question:

Do you have a set time that you write each day? I saw that you have a full time job (as do I) and I wondered with that and with kids, when and how long do you try to write each day?

Remember how I said I pretty much fling myself at life and get flung? That’s also the approach I take to writing. To be frank, I don’t think people would ever pick the words “responsible,” “tidy,” and “organized” to describe me. That’s because I don’t care. My time with my kids, husband, friends, and writing take priority over things like home and obligation.

I don’t have set times for anything besides my full time job. That means I basically grab what I can when I can. I’m sure this doesn’t work for most people, but it works for me. With Josh having just gone through medical school and now being an intern, it’s actually freed me from the normal constraints of routine living. No one ever expects a family dinner. Sometimes it happens, and that’s nice, but I don’t feel the traditional obligations of most moms and wives. This may be the thing I love most about my life and my family. I really do feel free to be dirty and a little bit fat, to give time to (basically) two careers, and then jump back into the family whenever I want. My family is my landing zone and because it’s fun, relaxed, and forgiving (most of the time), it works. I’m not afraid to tell my kids to leave me alone for the hour, the day, or even the weekend in order to write. I want them to see me working hard at something I love because I want them to do the same thing one day. They are also not afraid to say to me, “You haven’t spent enough time with us.” So then, I try to listen. Hopefully I do. I think I do.

So the shorter answer to the question of the day is, I generally don’t write every day. There are no set times. Fridays are a time I can usually count on, but nothing is guaranteed. If you want to write, then get used to the notion that nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes I go weeks without writing. In May, I don’t think I wrote at all. But, I love the time when I do write. And I would even say that the time away is a good thing, because I really can come back to it with fresh eyes and clean heart. I say “clean heart” because if I’m writing that heavy feeling scene, and I’ve been there for days and days, then I can really work myself into feeling what I hope the reader feels; it’s a false feeling. If I come back in a week, I’ll see it’s drivel. On the other hand, sometimes I hit my stride and spend twelve hours on a Sunday writing really good stuff.

I’m not sure this is helpful to hopeful writers with families, or not. But I think the time constraint issue is less about how to juggle time and more about feelings of obligation to family and home. I’m going to guess “obligation” is what stops people with families from becoming practiced, career writers. So, if I could drive home one point, it’s that if your family is worth their salt, they will allow you to do what you love whether that time is scheduled or not. Feel no guilt; your family wants you to be happy.