Thursday, April 24, 2008

Writing Routines

Post By Lynne Griffin
Painting By Carolyn Jundzillo

Pastel buds bursting or about to burst, days warm enough for long walks ending at the beach for a dip, the local ice cream shop is open for business. In my beautiful seaside town, spring arrived just in time for the schools' April vacation. Though my son still has an entire term to finish, like most teenagers, he's in a summer state of mind.

Parents tell me, one of my most useful tag lines in NEGOTIATION GENERATION is if you can predict it, you can prevent it. If a child, or adult for that matter, behaves the same way time and time again, that's person's behavior is predictable. So when it comes to my writing routines and my children being off from school this summer, I can already predict they're going to have to change. The children and the writing routines.

My present writing routine includes seeing everyone off to jobs and schools, coffee in hand, I tackle responding to email and planning upcoming programs. Once the to-do list is under control, I start reading and editing the pages I wrote the previous day. That puts me in the writing zone, and pulls me into the story, and then it's time to write new pages. Without distraction, I can write for hours. Afterschool activities for my son and commuting for my husband, leave me plenty of time to arrive at my writing saturation point. I stop and then take care of other correspondence or household responsibilities until the house becomes alive again.

As of May 9th, things will change. My daughter will be home from college and in another month my son will finish his sophomore year. I have a lot of summer experience telling me I'll have to alter my routine. Everyone knows teenagers love to sleep in. So on the days neither is up and out to a job, along with my husband, I plan to write first thing. Hours of revision to my work-in-progress complete, I'll be able to handle the inevitable distractions that come once they're up and the phone starts ringing, plans ricocheting around the house until things get settled and their off for a few more hours.

Like a mother knows she should sleep when her newborn is sleeping, I know to write when my teenagers are out of the house. You never know when they'll return, with friends in tow. Since I love having a home where my children's friends feel at ease, I plan to be in a state of mind to welcome them. I know I'll only feel this way if I get my writing in. Nothing agitates me more than having my writing plans thwarted, for any reason. I can let it go one day, maybe two, but repeatedly losing time to write puts me in a foul mood. Fortunately my children respect this.

Here's where my predicting the challenge of writing in summer comes in handy. As a family, we've already begun a conversation about general routines for summer. Who will work and when, and when friends can come over and when the house is a no friend zone. My children--and their friends--support my writing and love the fact that I've written a book, they're proud to say I'm a soon-to-be-published novelist. I fully expect little will get in the way of me achieving my writing goals this summer and I'm certain of this because not only am I willing to make changes to my writing routine, but I've honestly and without hesitation told my family what I need them to do to aid me. Of course, I also predict there will be snags in the plan, but overall I expect it will go well.

So how do you predict your writing routine will change when the beach and your children are calling? What seasonal changes can you make to ensure you'll still achieve your writing goals?


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lynne, this is so timely--last summer, I struggled with the change in household structure--5 kids here, 3 in summer school (which all started at different times), 4 working, not enough cars, you name it. But I like the idea of including everyone in the solution--not everyone will be home this summer, but I'm going to try to adopt some of your strategies anyway.

One thing that worked over Christmas break for me, and that I may try this summer, is a few mornings a week I left the house with my laptop and sat at the library or a coffee shop to write.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Wow, Judy. I thought having two teenagers home was a summer challenge! Thanks for sharing the idea of getting up and out. I hear that works for a lot of writers.


Anonymous said...

Well, I don't have any kids, but my partner is a teacher, so like a kid, she'll be ratting around the house all summer. I'm working now, so I'll have to continue to carve out writing time in the mornings and evenings. She loves the garden, so is usually out there.

For me, the change in routine comes with the season. Winter is over, and with it the joy of knowing I don't have to be anywhere but my chair and laptop unless I'm shoveling. But now the grass is growing, the compost needed turning and sifting, the hawk's nest needs watching.

As soon as they finish repaving my street, and it warms up a bit more, I may take my laptop outside in the morning for that hour I give myself before work.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


You're so right, each season and each family will present challenges to our writing routine. Writing outside sounds like a lovely and welcome change for the summer.


Trish Ryan said...

That's great advice for dating, too! Who knew your book had such wide application???


Anonymous said...

I love this and plan to keep it on file for when my kids are school aged! I often find myself dreaming about those years when both will be out of diapers and preschool. Your post reminded me that, without a good schedule, precious writing moments can get whisked away depite the age (especially in summer). I recently changed my schedule to allow myself to spend the first half hour of my "work day" writing or editing my fiction. It's amazing how the universe seems to open up another half hour later on for me to catch up on my freelance work.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


You're right, the advice fits all kinds of relationships. Can't wait to say hello in person this Saturday.


Good for you! Scheduling your writing time and holding it dear, is a very important part of this journey. Keep it up!