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Nine Tips for Balancing Writing and Family

More and more of today's writers are finding out that the most demanding people in their lives are no longer their editors, but their own family. How do you combine writing with house, kids, a spouse, meals, pets, dancing lessons, football practice and a thousand other things that eat away at not only your precious time but also your precious creativity? Here are some survival tips.

How do you combine house, kids, a spouse, meals, pets, dancing lessons, football practice and a thousand other things that eat away, not only at your precious time but also at your precious creativity? Here are some tips from someone else who's been there and still manages to write. And sell.

1) Don't wait for the muse. The muse is all seeing. It knows what's going on at your house. It won't come within shouting distance when the baby has colic, your teenager has her first date, your son just got his driver's license, the new boy dog down the block has just discovered your girl dog, dinner's still in the freezer, and your husband is feeling romantic. Forget the muse.

2) Don't wait for respect. The day you get respect from your family is the day the money starts rolling in. Hitting the bestseller list won't even do it. You'll need a miniseries at least. Don't get bent out of shape when your family doesn't rush out to buy a dozen copies of your published work.

3) Frame your acceptance letters, a copy of your first check and, just for fun, a few rejection slips as a constant reminder to others (and yourself) that you're a writer.

4) Insist on time for yourself to attend seminars, writers' groups, conferences, etc., to reinforce that you're a writer.

5) Clutter up the house with books and magazines on writing. Stack them in strategic places where kids are sure to see them: the stereo, the VCR, the TV, the bathroom mirror, the driver's seat of the car, on the refrigerator door and the phone—to remind them that you're a writer.

6) Make no excuses. There will be days when you'll be tempted to use family as an excuse for not writing. Some days, you'd rather clean commodes, take six rowdy boys to a soccer match or clip the dog's toenails. Anything but write.

7) Celebrate. If you win an award or publish something, no matter how small, blow the money on a romantic little dinner for two, even if the check will only stretch to the local pizza parlor. Oh, what the heck. Take the kids, too, and, while you're at it, thank them for helping you get this far.

8) Realize family and writing can be compatible. Family, of course, will always come first. That's as it should be. But don't neglect your creativity. You're important, too, and what you have to say may be the words that change minds, influence events or simply move or entertain.

9) Don't wait for the empty nest. Don't wait until the kids are gone to write. Creativity, like muscles and minds, needs exercise and the fuel of self expression. The clich, "Use it or lose it!" is fitting here. Don't wake up one day filled with guilt and regret for what might have been.

Fay Thompson has written more than 100 short stories and mini-mysteries for Woman's World. She also has published in First for Women, Grit, Star, Appalachian Log and Lover's Knot.

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