Back to School=Back to Writing

Happy Monday! Why am I so happy this morning? Because my kids are all back in school today! Woot! Usually people talk about goals and new plans for productivity around January 1st, but as a mom, my “New Year” starts when the kids go back to school. So in celebration of a quiet house and hours without a request for lunch or a ride or a playdate, I’m posting today about my productivity goals for the “New Year.”back to school




1. Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing that, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY day. It’s doable, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.








2. Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.Eleri organized


3. Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?


4. Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  






5. Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays.”

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. My friend forwarded me this fabulous list of 31 frozen crock pot dinners. On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.31 Frozen Crock Pot Meals

6. I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have two kids in high school, so we make them clean the kitchen at night. And my 8yo can empty the dish washer now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the three of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner.

7. Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.rss_winterfestival-badge1[1]

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.walking2







chailatteOkay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.CrH collage (500x375)

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

14 responses to “Back to School=Back to Writing”

  1. Kathy Crouch says:

    No kids so no real excuses, except I like to play video games. Although, I have noticed the mind is twirling around the writing as I play. I will stop and write for a while and play for a while. I need to put time in cleaning house, a chore I hate with a passion.
    I don’t use a desk I am on the couch feet on a footstool and sometimes down when the knee complains too loudly. For Sunday I wrote 1,510 words. I tend to write in spurts. The ideas are flowing and keys are moving. Then I have to stop and think, I’m a panster not a plotter. I have a little bit of an idea of what the story is about and who the people in it are and off I go. I hear a lot of writer moms saying they do more when the kids are in school.

    • Hi Kathy!
      I find my mind swirls around with ideas when I’m doing mindless stuff like washing dishes, walking, or cleaning. I bet the video games are like that for you. : )

      Yes, I hate cleaning too, but I find I can’t think with total chaos around me. Sometimes I clean one area and that’s where I’ll write.

      Have a fantastic, fingers-flying kind of day!

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Oh, the idea of a quiet house and hours to focus during the day!

    Unfortunately for me (unfortunaely as a writer, anyway), when the kids go back to school, I go back to school with them. But the idea of using even the littlest scraps of time to write really does let me stay productive even with all the demands of teaching. And…wow….the scraps can be pretty little sometimes.

    Excited to see the Winter Writing Festival badge…it will be here before we know it!

  3. Amanda Brice says:

    LOL, “back to school” is actually busier for me than the summer. I work full-time, so my kids are in camps during the day in the summer, and don’t have any extra-curricular activities outside of their camps because we take a break from sports and dance. But once school rolls around there’s after-care and after-school activities (because the school day is only 6 hours long), so I’m running all over the place in addition to my job, which means barely any time to write. 🙁

    • Oh, I’m sorry, Amanda. But don’t forget to take a notebook to write on while waiting for after-school practices to finish up. And you might want to try some of the crock pot recipes. Gathering things on the weekend makes me feel so much less pressure during the week to come up with home cooked meals.

      Hang in there!

  4. jbrayweber says:

    I never get things done the first day of back-to-school. And the week ahead will be spotty. But I have sooooo been looking forward to steady working again.

    Great post, Heather.

  5. OMG, #5!! This summer, anytime I sat down for more than 2 minutes, it seemed someone wanted food. Now that a couple of the kids are getting older, they can do some of that themselves. But yeah, it felt like a constant parade of needy people through my living room (I don’t have an office since we had Kid #3). I’m totally breaking out the crockpot and trying some of these recipes!

    I LOVE August. Not only because of back-to-school (though that first week back is crazy), but because my husband, who teaches at the university, isn’t back in school yet and the after-school activities don’t kick into high gear until September. I try to plan some de-stress days as well as some productive days to take maximum advantage of August. 😉

    • Do try the freezer to crock pot ideas, Anne Marie. So far it’s been working pretty well. The prep is so easy and then I don’t feel guilty for not making a nice dinner at night – because there IS a nice dinner at night. I’m still figuring out what we like the best before making several bags of a particular recipe, but it’s been great so far.

      And I like August too for the slight free time. September is crazy with Ovarian Cancer walks and education stuff (it’s awareness month), but August is still decent. So I usually choose a project to do. This year I re-painted my foyer and bathroom. Whew – glad I got that done.

      Let me know if you find a great recipe for the crock pot and enjoy some relax days with your hubby : )

      • I’m not sure what your family likes, but mine is pretty picky, so it’s hard to please them all with one dish. But one thing that’s easy and they enjoy is crockpot BBQ pork, then you just serve it on a bun. Put a pork loin fat side up in lightly greased crockpot, add some honey, dried minced onion, and your favorite BBQ sauce and let it go 6 hours. Shred with a fork during last 20 minutes or so. Voila! 😉 (If you want the exact measurements, I’ve got them somewhere.)

  6. Rita Henuber says:

    What a great post. I am in such awe of author moms. You are ALL brilliant super women.

  7. Vivi Andrews says:

    No kids, no husband, no creative strategies here, just trying to finish the next book. But congrats on Back to School, Heather! Great tips in here for school moms!


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