"How to Set Writing Goals with a Family," by Mayra Calvani

“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
--C. G. Jung

You want to start your career as a writer, and you have young kids at home. How do you find the time to write and actually produce something while your children ask you for sandwiches, demand you play with them, or refuse to take a nap. Writing with kids at home isn’t easy, but it can be done.

The following are 7 tips to setting writing goals with a family:

Be realistic

If you set your goals too high, you’ll crash and you’ll be left with feelings of failure, frustration and bitterness. This will have a strong impact on the way you feel about yourself as a mom and wife, and will affect the time you spend with your loved ones. Face it, unless you have a nanny, you won’t have a lot of free time until your kids are old enough to go to pre-school. If you’re not able to set your writing goal to one hour a day, or even half an hour, what about 15 minutes? Start small. Take baby steps. Persistence is vital: If you stick to it, a lot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes a day over a long period of time. In 15 minutes, you can plot a scene, profile or interview a character, write dialogue, do research on a specific topic for your book, etc. Everybody can set aside 15 minutes of writing time.

Get organized

This is the key to succeed! Buy a planner or calendar and schedule your week in advance every Sunday. This way, come Monday morning, you’ll know what to do. What’s the best time to set aside those 15 minutes? Does your child take a morning or afternoon nap? Do you have the type of child who would be happy playing in a playpen by himself while you write? Could you hire a teenager to look after your child twice a week for an hour, while you write in the next room? Perhaps you know other moms who are in a similar situation and who would be interested in taking turns taking care of the kids? Brainstorm various possibilities. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

Stay flexible

You might not always be able to follow your daily writing goals. You know what? That’s perfectly fine. Life often gets in the way. In fact, it feels as if life always gets in the way when you have a family, doesn’t it? The planner is there to keep you motivated, focused, and steered in the right direction. But those words aren’t set in stone. If you can’t meet your writing goal for that day, just try to get back in track the next. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I tried my best.” It’s like with a diet. You don’t have to quit the whole diet just because you broke it one day by eating pizza.

Be consistent

Books are made of words, sentences, paragraphs. Depending on how fast a writer or how inspired you are, you can write words, sentences and even a whole paragraph or paragraphs in 15 minutes. The key here is to keep doing it regularly over a long period of time. You have heard it many times: write a page a day, and one year later you have a 365-page book.

Stop procrastinating

If only I had more time!
I’ll write when my kids start school.
I’m always so busy!
When I’ll retire, that’s when I’ll write that book.

Blah, blah, blah. Listen: there’s never a perfect or right time to write. You just have to stop whining and you have to do it. Why leave for later what you can start doing now? Life is short and unpredictable. You have no control over the future. But you have control over the now.

Love yourself

You work hard. You’re always there for your children, husband, parents, relatives and friends. Why is it that you so often forget about yourself? Treat yourself like a precious jewel. And I’m not talking about being selfish—though being a little selfish is often the best thing you can do to be able to give yourself to others. Reward your accomplishments, however small. When you love yourself, you’ll find the time to set aside those writing times because you know your goals and dreams are important. When you do what’s important to you, you feel accomplished and fulfilled emotionally and intellectually. When this happens, you’re able to give yourself to your family without reservations. Mostly importantly, the quality of those family moments will increase because you won’t resent them.

Set Your Priorities

How badly to do want to become an established author? Can you live with your home not being spotless or dust-free at all times? Or with letting the laundry accumulate once in a while? Because this is exactly what will happen once you’ve made your decision of becoming an author. You’ll face times when you’ll have to choose between writing or doing the laundry. I’m not saying you should neglect your family and put your writing first. What I’m saying is you don’t have to be a ‘super’ mom at all times.

You have the potential to make your dreams come true. But you have to believe in them and you have to follow a plan. You also have to make them a priority in your life. Keeping these tips in mind will help you achieve your dreams and become a happier writer. As I always say, a happy writer is a happy mama.

© Copyright 2011 Mayra Calvani.

 Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. Visit her website at www.MayraCalvani.com. For her children’s books, visit www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com


Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great suggestions. I think with young children it can be hard to set a specific time aside to write, but I agree if you just write a page a day when you can it can make all the difference.

Karen Cioffi said...

All great tips, Mayra. I love the 15 minute writing time, if you're day is just too hectic. Thank goodness I'm out of the 'raising kids' stage. Although I watch my grandsons two days a week and understand the problems of finding time.

elysabeth said...


Very good tips. Believe it or not, the time restraints get harder and harder to set aside as the kids get older and more involved in extra curricular activities. Grant it, unless you are working at home or don't have a full time job, the school day hours are the best time to work your writing in (that is, of course, once your kids have reached 1st grade and are in school between certain hours). If you have a full time job outside of the home, the odds of working your writing time in during the school day are slim since you are probably at your job during those hours.

We all have to sacrifice something somewhere to get our writing in and some of us use that time more wisely than others (I'm one who doesn't use my down time wisely enough since I keep saying I need to do this and need to do that writing wise and hardly ever follow through). I'm reposting this post because I feel that these tips can be used in other areas of our lives as well. - thanks for sharing with us. See you all in the postings - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of "Finally Home", a YA paranormal mystery

Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series
"Train of Clues" (a mystery destination story, predecessor to the JGDS series, and 2nd place winner in the Armchair Interview fan mystery contest)
Where will the adventure take you next?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mayra! These are all great tips, even for writers who are no longer raising little ones.


Anne Duguid Knol said...

visiting from the link in Elysabeth's blog today. I hope no-one really believes that "when I retire" excuse as life then seems to get busier than ever. But with many over-eighties publishing first novels successfully now, everything is possible.
Lots of super advice here Mayra, tx

Magdalena Ball said...

I totally agree with these Mayra (speaking very much as a writing mama). Consistency and realism are probably the two most critical ones for me - consistent in that I write every day and if I'm working on a big project - I always schedule *some* time for that. Realistic in that the family has to come first and sometimes that daily writing might be no more than a sentence (little more than keeping the work in mind). I'd love to do something like NaNiNoMo or a Massive Action Day, but I can't carve out that kind of time over a short period. However, little and regular has still amounted to several novels and many poetry books for me over the 15 or so years since my first child was born. It works!

T. Forehand said...

This is a great post and the tips are good for those writers whose children are grown and where life just gets in the way. Thanks for sharing.

Martha said...

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I need to print them out and keep them on my desk to remind me.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Mayra, thank you so much for this. I think I've set some goals that are too high. I'm going to revise!


elysabeth said...

Congrats, Annie. Random.org picked your number as the winner of the bookworm. If you'll email me with your mailing address (and yes I know you are in the UK but I was rather surprised that sending one to Australia only cost me $1.25 so yours shouldn't be more than that) I'll get this out in the mail the end of the week (payday). See you in the postings - E :)

elysabeth said...

Keep the comments coming, ya'll. I'm enjoying giving away my bookworms. Don't forget to stop by my blog (http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com) and leave comments on yesterday's This and That posting and my newest one from today for other chances to win a bookworm. See you all in the postings. E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery

Shirley Corder said...

Thanks Mayra. You're so right that we need to be realistic with our goals and think of ourselves. As for writing when you retire? Forget it! No time then either.

Donna McDine said...


Terrific tips and focus. Thanks!

Warm regards,

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