A Day in the Life of Working Stay at Home Mum
Birds singing - check.
Children clamouring for attention - check.
Brain already whirring with ideas - check.
And so begins my day. One of the most wonderful parts of being a freelance writer and working from home is that I get to live out my dream of bringing up my two sons during their formative years, fitting in work around their increasingly exciting social lives. One of the most frustrating parts is that I occasionally feel as though I’m not doing justice to either the writing ‘stuff’ or the parenting ‘stuff’. Unless you are very good at compartmentalising your mind, thoughts can spill over from one part to another and distract you from the task at hand.
Therefore, one of my top tips for people looking to develop a career as a freelance writer would be to have with you - at all times - a notebook / smartphone / whatever works for you. That way, you can jot down the magnificent idea that has occurred to you with not-so-magnificent timing and return to it later. I find that using beautiful stationery for this purpose also helps, although that’s purely a personal preference!
My current favourite pen, with the ideas notebook that gets carried everywhere
I don’t often have time during the day to actually sit down and write, but I do get a chance to send emails and make calls as part of the research process. Trying to get little administrative jobs completed during the day means that I can use my evenings much more productively to actually undertake the writing.
I feel very lucky to be able to get out and chat to people every day with the boys and I often find myself having an interesting conversation that will then feed into my writing. Going out with the children has made me much more comfortable with talking to people I don’t know and I’ve been surprised at how this has positively impacted upon the ideas I now generate. So I suppose another tip for aspiring writers would be to get out and about and chat to people and take on as many new experiences as you can - who knows where they might lead...?
Out and about with the boys
Once the boys are in bed and I’ve had some dinner and a quick chat with my husband (looking after small children all day necessitates a wind-down period and some grown-up conversation before I can get into writing mode!), I settle down at the laptop. For me, using a laptop as opposed to a desktop has made a huge difference, as I don’t feel physically constrained by sitting in one fixed area of the house. We don’t have a study or office, so I just move to the most comfortable spot I can find and make a nest for myself. If I’m in for a particularly long evening, I find that eating lighter food can help, so that the soporific feeling of extreme fullness doesn’t take over.
I am definitely someone who responds well to lists, so the first thing I do is to break my evening’s work down into smaller tasks that I can tick off as they get finished. I have to stop myself from spending too long creating these lists (although quite frankly, I think the happiness I get from colour-coding them, annotating them with illustrations, sticky notes, etc. has a really positive effect on my work...) and once I’ve got some achievable goals mapped out, off I go.
A definite benefit of working from home is that you can fine-tune all the elements of your working environment to your own personal tastes, which might be different every day. I don’t usually work with music on, but can always change this according to my mood. I love networking on Twitter and find it an invaluable forum for those of us who work from home, but I rarely have my Twitter feed visible whilst I’m working, as the distraction proves too great. However, I know there will be some writers who are far more capable of managing these distractions (they’re probably those people who are really good at compartmentalising as well - I am in awe of them) and they might relish the chance to feel more connected to others as they work.
My ‘no distractions’ work station
I tend to try and focus each evening’s work on the same activity so that, for example, I might devote a few nights to writing two or three articles and then one night to editing them all. Having some time after the writing means that I come to the editing with a fresh mind and also means that I can get into the editorial groove with gusto.
Once the articles are complete, they are emailed off and will hopefully be met with approval. I then trot upstairs, check in on the boys again, then head off to bed with my notebook and (aesthetically pleasing) pen in hand, just in case inspiration should strike in the early hours...