Despite the fact that life with a new baby is chaos and we’ve got the multipliers of a preschooler and having just moved to monkey wrench the whole dealie, I feel like I’m doing much better than I did after my first daughter was born. Not just from a mental health and personal juggling standpoint, which is leagues better than it was last time mostly because of this, but also with work. Even though I have much less time now than I did when my first daughter was born, it really feels like I’m getting a lot more writing and revision done day to day.
But am I really? You know I graphed that because I just had to know!
Because I’ve been keeping a record of what I write every day for years now, it was a simple matter to throw together a little chart that compares the first 60 days of life for Baby #1, Baby #2 and a control data set of a comparable period before I had any kids at all (2011)*. And here’s how that looks…
Hot damn! In the first 60 days, I averaged 147 words a day after Baby #1 and 1,613 after Baby #2. Which is pretty darn good by itself but is really awesome when you consider that I was only averaging 766 words a day before I had any kids at all and had all the time in the world. Keep in mind that my focus is never on writing everyday, just writing regularly (which is good because there are MANY days in a post-kids universe where I don’t get to write a single word).
But the real takeaway of that chart above is the consistency of my writing progress. Other than the days directly after Baby #2’s birth (when I was in the hospital and not really in a position to write**), my progress is pretty darn consistant compared to the peaks and valleys of the other two lines. It seems impossible that the amount of writing I’m doing is increasing as the amount of time I have to write is decreasing but the numbers don’t lie. I’m writing more now when I’ve got less time than ever before.
“Yeah, yeah, good for you,” you say. “Why do I care?”
Here’s why: It’s really got nothing to do with babies. It’s about building a writing habit that will sustain you when life hands you chaos of any kind. It’s building writing into your life until it’s second nature because that keeps you writing even when you’ve got less time, less brainpower and a million other things going on. And I didn’t always have it.
The Me of Five Years ago got all the time in the world to write, had the luxury to devote 100% of her attention to her work, got plenty of exercise, sleep and leisure time. The Me of Now almost never gets to work without half an eye on some kind of child chaos, often goes several days without a chance to write at all, is sleep deprived and otherwise treating her body like garbage and almost never has the luxury of silence to think about what I’m writing before I sit down at my desk. But Me of Now is getting more writing done. So what’s the secret?
For me, it looked like this:
- Because I had less time to write post-kids, I had to make writing a bigger priority in my life if I was going to keep it up
- Less writing time also meant I had less time to waste and had to get in the habit of focusing faster, procrastinating less
- My spreadsheet kept me accountable to writing regularly (because daily was never gonna happen) and gave me benchmarks and goals to keep me on track
- …all of which helped me build writing regularly into a habit that wasn’t a chore I needed to remind myself to do but rather a fixed part of my regular routine.
As writing becomes something as natural a part of your daily routine as eating (which, coincidentally, my children also don’t always give me time to do!), it takes a lot more to stop you from doing it. And if there’s less obstacles to keep you from writing, you’ll write more and make more of the time you do have. That’s really all there is to it!
But just because it’s easy to say, doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement! I wouldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t taken that first step and worked towards building a writing habit before I had one. Keep in mind that it took me close to six years to get to this point and I still have days when I finally get the kids to sleep and collapse into my desk chair only to realize… I got nothin’. But the important thing isn’t the days when I don’t write but the habit that keeps me writing consistently overall. A habit is what keeps a no words day from being a no words month no matter what else is going on and keeps you writing more days than not.
So start building yourself a consistant writing habit now so you chaos proof yourself for whatever life’s getting ready to throw at you in the future!
*= My options were limited for the control year since I only started keeping track in 2011 and my first daughter was born in 2012 but the dates are almost the exact same days of the month as the Baby #1 chart because of when she was born anyway. That date also gives me a year and a half to compare side by side if I want to before Baby #1 starts to effect the numbers in utero.
**= Though I did jot down notes for a random play idea on my phone while at the hospital because I am apparently a word junkie.