I became a full-time single parent—by full-time I mean 24/7, 365 days a year—in 2003 and thought that was the end of writing until the kids left the nest. Three mentally unhappy and restless years followed and I realized I felt the way I did because I wasn’t writing. I had always written and to stop wasn’t working for me. Never one for watching much TV, I read instead, I decided to cut down my two hours of reading time after the kids went to bed down to one and spend the other writing. It took a while to get into the habit but I stuck with it. When the kids were younger, it was much easier as their bedtime was much earlier but as they got older it became harder. Strange to think it’d get harder but I am one of those who can’t write when their kids are up and about.
I try to write 200 words a night but have to remind myself 200 words a day are better than zero. 200 words doesn’t sound like such a hard number to reach but when you’re gone ten hours a day, making dinners, playing mom-taxi, making sure homework is completed, and all the rest of the duties it takes to run a household, it can become like trying to scale Mount Everest. Some nights by the time I get to the keyboard, I’m done. On those nights, after staring at the screen in a kind of waking sleep, I’ll write a sentence or two of what direction the story was supposed to go in that session and go answer emails that need answering. I won’t beat myself up for not getting my 200 words in for one night. One night. If I let it go more than one, I get caught in the “I can catch up tomorrow” cycle and before I know it a month has gone by with nothing written.
One hour a night, 200 words a night, 1,400 a week, 5,600 a month, and 67,200 a year can be frustrating when you see others posting word counts of 2,000 a day on social media. It used to drive me nuts with word count envy. And it still can but I have to remember I doing the best I can with that I have. I guess if I have any advise for full-time single parents, it’s to remember you are doing the work of two people and not to get down on yourself if you’re not as prolific. As long as you keep at it, keep eking out time even if it’s one hour a night, four hours on the weekend, or, if you live near the other parent and share custody, a weekend day devoted to writing, you are still writing. You are still doing what you love even if it takes a bit longer.
But what about keeping up with social media, blogging, marketing, and the business end of writing? As I started to have work published that presented its own set of challenges. Slow times at work, lunch breaks, and coffee breaks became the time when I’d hop on my phone to check emails and, if it required a short response, respond. Also, I’d make a stop at my social media sites and posted about an upcoming publication if there was one or a random meme if there wasn’t. Except for a few guest blog posts here and there blogging never became my thing, as it is a bridge too far in the time I have available. As for research, I take the write first research after approach just to get the thing down. My manuscripts are full of highlighted areas to “double check”. Or, if the research needs to be done beforehand, I forgo my leisure reading time.
The point I’m trying to make is writing and single parenting is hard but doable. There are sacrifices too. Like giving up that favorite TV show or computer game or reading time. It may be slower and you may feel like those you started this trek with are passing you by—in low moments I know I can—but it is possible. Just find that hour a day or that one day a week and write your heart out. I know you can do it. As another single parent writer I know with little time to write once told me, “Everyone has to poop.”
Chris Marrs lives in Calgary, Alberta with her daughter, a cat, and a ferret. She has stories in A Darke Phantastique (Cycatrix Press-2014), the Bram Stoker winning The Library of the Dead (Written Backwards Press-2015), and in Dark Discoveries Issue #25/Femme Fatale, October 2013. Bad Moon Books published her novella Everything Leads Back to Alice in the Fall of 2013. Her novella, Wild Woman, was published in September 2015 as part of JournalStone’s DoubleDown series. Entangled Soul, a collaborative novella with Gene O’Neill, was published by Thunderstorm Books in November 2016. January Friday the 13th, saw the publication of Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror in which her story Sounds in Silence appears. She has two stories forthcoming with Great Jones Street short story app.
You can find her at www.hauntedmarrs.com or Instagram as hauntedmarrs.