Rebecca Freeman is a NaNoWriMo veteran! She joined the madness 10 years ago and hasn't managed to shake it yet. She's a parent of four children, aged between 8 and 3, and works from home as an editor and freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, baking and running, and drinks a lot of tea. No, really. A LOT. Her NaNo profile is here or you can follow her on Twitter @path_ethic or on her blog thisclimbingbean.wordpress.com
My first NaNoWriMo was in 2005, and as a new teacher juggling end-of-year testing and the regular challenges of too much to do and not enough hours in the day, it was a real struggle to get many words done at all. For the first two years, I didn't finish NaNo. I was there until the end, and I loved the social side of things, but the 50K eluded me. It didn't help that in 2007 I gave birth to our first child, and he was teething in November…
However, by the next November, I'd had another baby, and amazingly, it was the first year that I won. It helped to have a supportive group of Wrimos with whom I could meet up, and who didn't mind me coming along with a baby strapped to me. And it helped that my two children were close together in age, and napped at the same or similar times. I also had a day every week when they went to daycare, which gave me a few hours 'free' to get some words down.
Since then, I've had two more children, and so my time is even more stretched, but I've discovered it's all about the approach. So if you're a parent who's also trying to fit NaNoWriMo in around your mini-mes, read on…
1. Embrace the power of distraction. Sitting down to write when you have a babe in arms is one thing. I found that I could type quite well one-handed, although I generally preferred to write by hand while cuddling a baby on my lap, or wearing him/her in the sling. But when they get older, they're far more interested in adding in extra letters and numbers while you type—good for your word count, perhaps, but not so good for cohesiveness! For crawlers, set up a small place for them to play with lots of books to look at and small (quiet) toys, while you write nearby. For older ones, limited screen time can be good. A children's TV show is usually between 10-20 minutes, and if you sprint during that time, you can get a big chunk of words done. I found I could write upwards of 500 words in a good sprint.
2. Naps. Naps are AWESOME. I mean, yes, it's awesome if you can nap too! But for the month of November, try to use their naps as time for your writing. I know, you're probably used to doing housework or other tasks during their day-sleeps. But just for this month, keep all that stuff to a minimum and focus on your words. You can work at night, of course, but if you're anything like me, you're nodding off yourself, by the time the young 'uns are in bed, so catching up during the day can be a worthwhile option.
3. Call in the babysitting favours. If you have family or friends who have offered to look after the children, now is the time to take them up on it. Say you'll return the favour in December, so they can get their Christmas shopping done. Sure, that means you won't be able to get YOUR Christmas shopping done, but what's more important: writing or shopping? Yes, I thought so.
4. Start while they're young. If you start doing NaNoWriMo when your child is a baby, then they'll become used to the annual neglect-fest which is November. By the time they're school aged, they'll just roll their eyes at your manic mutterings about word counts, and go and make themselves a snack. Once they can write, you'll be able to get them involved too!
5. Value your sanity. At the end of the day, this whole endeavour should be fun. If you're finding that you're not getting enough sleep (hahaha! I mean, of course, that you're getting less than usual) and it's stressing you out, then take it easy. It's not worth making yourself unhappy or unwell, to try and juggle small children and a daily word count. Enjoy the ride for what it is, and whatever your total is at the end of the month, just be happy that you jumped on board!
Although I still find it hard to fit in writing around my children, it was NaNoWriMo that gave me the motivation to rediscover my creativity. It also allowed me to give myself permission to write, which has led to being able to earn a living from it, while still being around for my family. Win-win, right? And hopefully another NaNo win this year, too!
Good luck and happy wording!