Tag Archives: writing parent

Waiting room writing: The best kept secret of the writing mom

Being a mom takes crazy schedule to a whole new level. Seriously, I just thought I was busy when I worked in NYC PR. However, the more I think about my days the more I recognize that I waste so much time. Think about it, being a mom is like being an ADHD track star. You run really fast and then stop, you run again feeling as if you’ll break yesterday’s records and then you stop, you race off to the next agenda item and then you stop, and that goes on and on. I feel like I’m constantly running but between the busy there is a large amount of still time.

I find time when stuck in the car pool lines. I find time when sitting in a hallway of a gymnastics class or dance class. Time is always available in my day it just takes the effort to identify it and take advantage of it.

While I know I can get so much done in such hidden moments the temptation to relax is always HUGE. So I find it easier to work if I make it easy. I always have pages to edit printed out and in my purse. I find it easier to grab physical paper when I have a moment than to look at a computer/iPad screen. Plus for me, editing needs to be active. Plus for me, editing needs to be active. By active I mean I cover my pages with color-coded highlights and notes.

Doctor offices are also a great site for writing and editing. When going to the doctor everyone spends more time waiting in the waiting room than seeing the doctor. So rather than reading generic magazines, I read my page edits.

So I covered car pools, kids activities, and doctor offices. I’m sure there are other examples of hidden wait time we should be taking advantage from. The important thing is identifying them and setting up a plan to quickly take advantage. While great moments of down time are around us knowing how to use them to their fullest takes planning and skill. The trick is to know how you work best and go with that. I mentioned how I prefer to hold physical pages. You may want to hold that electronic device. As long as you are taking advantage of the time and using the tactic that is best for you then it’ll be a success.

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Your baby may be your best critique partner

I’m currently swimming in pages as I’m hard at work revising my WIP; it’s a YA paranormal (and no it doesn’t involve vampires.) I wrote this story a while back but now I’m revising while taking care of my 4-month-old son. I also have a 5-year-old daughter but I’m constantly amazed at how much I forgot about being a parent to a baby. For the purposes of this blog I’m only going to keep my findings to how my baby impacts my writing. I’m sure there’s a slew of amazing parenting blogs to check out. As far as my writing goes my baby has made a most positive impact.

No I’m not crazy. Babies are time consuming. However, babies are also a great sounding board. I’ve just finished reading through my entire WIP and there is this one crucial part towards the beginning that just doesn’t seem right to me. It’s a dialogue sequence and it seems forced yet the info is important. I know people preach about how great it is to read aloud but this has never worked for me. I’ve tried it and I either get distracted or feel stupid. I think I like to read how I normally read, which is playing the scene out in my head. However, now I have the perfect listener who doesn’t interrupt me and smiles at everything I say! Yep, babies are awesome.

One of the reasons I write is because of my children. I love stories and I have wonderful stories in my head so I write for my children. I write upper middle grade and YA so currently these stories aren’t being read by my kindergartener or my 4-month-old but one day they will be. For now though I can read to my baby and at the very least it will help me get this dialogue section to flow. Now reading to a 5 year old I do NOT recommend. After every sentence I hear, “why?” Yes that may be a valid question and a question that can often help our writing but a YA character’s motivations are clearly out of the comprehension of a kindergartener so this only brings me frustration.

Do you read to your baby? Does it help you?

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Where to start?

In my last post I outlined my goals for 2016:

  1. Get back into writing and finally finish two of my projects before RWA this summer.
  2. Waste less food/time by preparing meals ahead of time.

Now here’s the BIG question…where to start? Sadly due to life I had to take time off from writing but I missed it each day. Now I’m back and while exciting I must admit I’m a little nervous and overwhelmed. So, where do I start? All I can discuss in this blog is what I’m doing. I’m not lecturing or offering advice because I’m of no authority to do so but I’m hoping I’m not alone and I’m hoping others reading this will chime in on the discussion.Jan 13 - Where to Start

I’ve decided to take advice from Julie Andrews and “start at the very beginning.” Yes, the Sound of Music is often played at our house and this does sound like a great place to start. With my “Mommy New Year” this week I’ve started reading/revising a chapter a day of my current WIP. For starters this is a great way for me to review the story and I’m quickly falling in love again. It’s a wonderful feeling when I can sit back and actually be amazed at what I’ve done even if it was a while ago.

To force myself to recommit to my writing I’m:
1.) Taking an online class, “New Year, New You” with Laurie Schnebly Campbell; one of my favorite teachers.
2.) I’m rereading one of my favorite writing books “Warrior Writer: From Writer to Published Author” by Bob Mayer.
3.) I’m sticking to my daily goal of reading a chapter of my WIP a day. Sometimes this means I’m pulling a later night to get through it but hey, I’m a mom to a new baby so sleep isn’t really part of my life now anyway.
4.) I’m limiting my social media intake to just my favorites, the people who really inspire me like Kristen Lamb’s blog.

These are my four tactics to getting back to my writing and I’m willing to reevaluate them based on how I see I’m doing. I use to preach about the importance of flexibility in my “Writing Moms (and Dads too)” lectures/workshops. Now it’s time to listen to my own advice and be a student to many of my own principles.

Have you had to take a writing break? How did you get back into your groove? Please share in a comment or let’s chat @NatalieCMarkey.

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Breaking down excuses and endless obligations to find purpose

In college I took a personality test. The results were not shocking. I’m an achiever who likes to feel significant. Yes, I love to do things and I love to do them well. As a result I tend to overbook and overwork myself, anything to avoid a moment of idle time.

Can't beat a good "Keep Calm" poster!

Can’t beat a good “Keep Calm” poster!

I’m a mother to an active preschooler and a wife who insists on my family sitting down each night to a home cooked meal made by yours truly. I’m the chauffeur and cheerleader for all my daughter’s activities: preschool, three dance classes, soccer, music, and art. I own, manage and instruct at my own dance studio, which I have created from the ground up here in Saudi Arabia. I am a speaker on time management for busy and working moms. I am an author to a non-fiction dog book and work tirelessly on my fiction projects. I am a seasoned freelance journalist always juggling projects of various time commitments. I’m also co-president for a community organization that focuses on planning and supporting children’s programming.

My life is busy. I feel significant and like the achiever I am everyday. But am I working on the right projects? My big picture goal career wise is to be a successful author and to get all these fantasy stories in my head out onto bookshelves and electronic readers. Could some of my projects be in the way or even worse, serve as “excuses” to keep me away from my writing?

This has been a big question weighing on my mind lately. I’ve begun evaluating everything I do and asking myself the following questions:

1. How does this benefit my family?
2. How does this benefit my big picture goal?
3. Does this make me happy?
4. Why did I feel called to do this?

These four questions are helping me to maintain perspective and keep moving forward in my goals rather than stalling out using excuses.

Another thing I’ve begun doing, really sticking to my daily writing goals. Yes, that means nothing gets in the way and they come first. I even wake up earlier to help make this happen and before I go to bed I reread my writing from the day so it sticks in my head overnight and I recall it easily in the morning. I write early and first so that way when the day goes crazy, as it usually does, I know that at least I got that done.

From there I prioritize my goals and obligations always referring back to those four questions if I get stuck on something. If I can’t answer them then I develop an exit strategy and find a way out of a project. That’s right, I am no longer above saying the word “no.”

Recently I did a very difficult thing, I said no to being my daughter’s back stage mommy at her dance recital. As a dance teacher it’s so hard to watch other dance program productions. The Latin dance program here is very successful and well run but no matter what I know I’ll critique everything and go into work mode rather than be a good mommy. I recognize this. The best thing on that day for me to do is to sit in the audience and support my daughter.

See? I can say no! Though my multiple projects do take time away from my writing I find that doing multiple things helps me to be a better writer. I truly never have time or suffer from writer’s block. When I’m writing I’m like a typing ninja on a mission and the words flow from my head. Knowing I have a set time to do it helps me to focus and make the most of every second.

All the dancing I’m doing keeps me healthy, active and helps me feel accomplished. I may not have that book contract yet but everyday I can say I’m running a successful dance business. Other than that I do what I do for my family. To support them and make the community we live in better.

I am an achiever. I do busy well and thrive on a hectic schedule. It also makes me a better and more effective writer, as my time management skills never fail to kick those writing juices into gear.

Do you evaluate your projects? Are you secretly hiding behind excuses and obligations that is hindering your writing career? How do you prioritize and focus your goals.

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Embracing those super days

Earlier this week I had a super day. You know what I’m talking about? It was one of those days where I felt like Super Mom. I woke up early and was productive in work, made a well-balanced breakfast for Little Miss Markey and me. She didn’t have school until after lunch that day so we worked on a fun coloring craft in her playroom for most of the morning. When she was hard at work coloring I cleaned the kitchen and folded clothes while planning out my writing plan for the afternoon. Once she was off at school I worked out for half an hour before writing 2k and planning out some freelance projects. I then made dinner and showered before picking Little Miss up from school and taking her to dance class. On top of this awesome day everyone behaved. Yes, my lovely daughter was a perfect angel. The furry babies were even perfect except for teasing me with their so tempting nap on the couch.

It was just one of those happy, perfect, wonderful days where I accomplished all that I wanted to do and more AND was happy doing every moment of it. Now, yesterday was a different story. Little Miss had a meltdown in music class, I burned lunch, Oscar’s skin allergies were bothering him and that constant licking sound nearly drove me mad and when I could have worked I followed my furry children to the couch and crashed. Oh and dinner…I gave up on that all together and we had pizza.

Not every day can be super. Not every day is bad. I find that the majority of my days fall somewhere in the middle. But even when you don’t have a super day you can still use them to propel you to greatness. This is a concept that I talk about in my lectures and workshops. Use the momentum of your super days and soak up that feeling when you’re down.

You know that amazing feeling that super days give you? Remember it! Breathe in those spectacular moments when you feel that you are perfect and you’re the definition of a super mom and professional success. Remember that feeling and recall it when you feel like screaming on a bad day. Not every day can be super but we can remember and strive for the next day of such greatness.

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Remember to celebrate the super days and think if there is anything in particular that you did to set yourself up for such a day. Of course many factors such as family members and work play into how your day goes but did your attitude going into that super day make it all possible? For example, I do a series of stretches every morning before I do anything else. I then wash my face with cold water and drink a cup of warm lemon juice. This is my routine. It gets my day going on the right path for me. Now I have had mornings where something happens and I skip my little morning routine. I will tell you that none of those mornings have resulted in a super day. I know what my body needs to get going in the morning. When I miss those stretches I feel it throughout my body with everything I do all day long. So I make it a priority and try to not have my brief but important morning ritual interrupted.

What do you do to help set the stage for super days? Do you guard it and protect it knowing its value? How have you benefited from previous super days even when you have a bad day?

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I am Mommy Watch Me Dance

Okay, on some days “roaring” may seem more appropriate but lately I’ve turned to dance to let off some steam and recharge my much needed energy tank. Sure, I am a dance teacher but I promise you I’m not breaking out in pirouettes or fancy leaps in my living room while my daughter is in school. Rather I bounce, shuffle and sort of turn around the house dodging toys and trying to make sense of the clutter.

I don’t get the usual radio stations that I used to adore in the States living here in Saudi Arabia but I am a huge fan of the UK MTV, Pandora and iTunes Radio. Did you know that the UK MTV only shows music videos? That’s right! It’s just like the old MTV and how it should have remained in the U.S.A. Thanks to MTV and iTunes Radio I’m staying current on my music pop culture and getting a little workout.

How am I just learning about this? iTunes Radio keeps me current and adds a lot to my little dance sessions.

How am I just learning about this? iTunes Radio keeps me current and adds a lot to my little dance sessions.

Aside from the obvious health benefits of stepping away from my computer and dancing it really does help my energy. I feel great on days when I get up and move and feel prepared mentally and physically to pick my daughter up from school and tackle our evening agenda.

In addition to how dancing makes me feel it also helps my writing. That’s right! I may take some time away from developing that plot and fleshing out those characters but dancing makes me alert and happy. This helps my creativity far more than anything else I’ve tried.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed (and let’s be honest that is most of the time for us moms!) don’t be afraid to break out some dance moves. Dance like no one is watching or in my case put on a little show for your dog, cat or bunnies. Let your hair down and have some fun. I promise it can’t hurt and you just may find that it’s the energy booster you’ve been looking for!

Do you dance through your day to help your energy and mood? I’m a big fan of this and my daughter loves breaking out her dance moves as soon as she runs in the door from school.

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The case of the cracked iPad and how it’s helping my editing

This morning our house is not a happy house. In the words of Little Miss Markey it’s a “sad, sad, sad, house” because of a peculiar case of a cracked iPad (my iPad to be precise.) Lately my three-year-old is obsessed with watching toy reviews on Youtube. Specifically play doh reviews are her favorite. These reviews are typically short and a great tool to keep her occupied while I’m making breakfast.

Today when I was in the kitchen I heard a whiny voice followed by a scream and a crash. Naturally I rushed into the living room after the commotion and found my iPad laying face down on the floor, my lovely daughter sitting with hands folded on the couch and my dog sprawled out on the tile looking up at me with that “help me” look. It was not a pretty sight and only got uglier when I picked up my newish iPad to see distinct cracks on a corner of the screen. Luckily it still works but I was not a happy mommy in that moment. “What happened?” I asked. Little Miss Markey went into a huge, elaborate and dramatic story about how Oscar, our dog was sad that the video ended and he threw the iPad. Well that’s pretty amazing since Oscar was begging for food from me in the kitchen and ran into the living room when we heard the crash.

I love that Little Miss Markey tells stories but I don’t like these kind. Needless to say we had a big talk and some time out was involved. Someone also is learning what it means to be grounded. She will not get to watch/play any iPad games for a week.

“What am I going to do?” she asked. Well today we are painting a wind chime and I’m going to read to her my page edits. Yes, see how I’m combining valuable memory making time with edits ☺ So Little Miss Markey will still have fun. Her non-iPad playing week will not be torture but hopefully this will be the last time she’ll ever throw mommy’s technology!

Has your child done something like this? Do you include your child in your writing?

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How planning a child’s birthday party is like plotting a book

Who knew planning Baby Markey’s birthday could be so complicated? I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible on:

Cake design
Balloon bouquets and center pieces
Designing vegetable platters
Table landscapes
Games
Party favors
Piñata’s

Oh and then there’s the fact that the park it’s being held at doesn’t take reservations. My hubby was at the gated park an hour before it opened to secure our place and tables while I finished the sandwiches.

CenterpiecePlanning a party takes time. It’s very similar to planning your book. Of course issues will come up where you must think on the spot. Just as that scene won’t come together the way you envision it, some kid is sure to knock over something. Something will not go as planned. That’s when you must remain calm and sit back. Look at the spilled punch bowl or troublesome scene. How can you fix it?

Plan for a mishap. Plan for scenes that will take longer to write. Next month is Nanowrimo so budget your daily word count so that if you have a few bad days it won’t throw you off track for the month.

In the end, the final product is the result of your planning and attention. Have you thrown a big birthday party for your child? Did you notice similarities to its planning and your writing? What fun themes did you use?

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Your child’s soccer practice can help your writing

Writing moms and dads are always facing new challenges in their attempts to have it all. As our kids grow so do our commitments and the struggles to manage our time. This is why I teach writing parents a simple self-study technique so that they can apply it to their lives as they change. Even though being a writing parent is always and forever will be a learning process. Recently I’ve learned the value of structure and wish I would have implemented it sooner and benefited from its power.photo(5)

This year Baby Markey started preschool and a variety of activities. She’s in soccer, music, gymnastics, Latin dance, and swim lessons. With such a schedule we are all learning structure in our house. Each day has a set schedule and I’ve never felt more like a CEO. In fact, I don’t believe I was this organized when I scheduled, wrote and directed commercials for CBS.

While Baby Markey’s structured schedule cuts into my writing it has proven one thing. A busy child is an easier child. When we’re at home she’s more likely to agree to sit quietly and color or to watch a few cartoons. Both of these activities allow me to write. Also while I attend all her activities, I’m not learning these things, I take my trusted iPad with attachable keyboard and write. Take advantage of the time you get waiting on the sidelines.

Keeping up with my child’s schedule is a big job but it also forces me to notice the down time I do get and to take full advantage of it. My distractions online become fewer when I know I just don’t have the time.

Structure can be overwhelming or you can embrace it and let it help you reach your writing goals and dreams while being the parent you want to be. I know I’ll experience many changes in my schedule as my daughter grows but so far I like this new stage. I love seeing her blossom into someone with talents and skills.

If you have a younger child who has yet to get involved in school and activities it’s never too early to introduce structure. Yes, I heard that too when I had an infant but I now can attest that it is true. Set a schedule for your child. Parents often do this with nap times but do it with activities as well. Set a time for various types of play, music time, etc. Let your child benefit from a schedule and it too can help you.

How has increased structure in your life helped your writing?

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