Writing for the Busy Parent

Welcome to another Feature Friday…sort of. As always, the days are just whizzing on by. I’m doing something new for this Feature Friday. It’s my first collaborative post. I’d like to welcome Dillon, from over at From Rad to Dad.

Why thank you Corey! It’s a pleasure to be here! Hi, new friends!

dillon-fam-4A little intro about my family! Korina (my wife) and I are both 26 years old, and at the time I’m jotting this down our son, Killian Jaymes, is 10 months old. I work a normal 7 to 4 Monday through Friday job while Korina runs her amazing nerdy crafting business from home while taking care of Killian, whose occupation is currently pooping his pants and chasing our dog Lupin around.

We run a small Youtube channel where we document our life in weekly videos. Korina and I also both write our parenting blogs and work on our modern fantasy stories! Well, when we find the time to write on the side, which is actually what this blog post is about.

So writing is tough, we all know that. And parenting is tough too, even folks without kids can fully acknowledge that. But what’s it like trying to be a writer and a parent at the same time? That’s what Corey and I have teamed up to shed some light on!

With that great introduction, below are the five questions we are addressing. If you are tackling the challenge of being a parent and writer, feel free to Contact Me with some answers to the questions and we will link you into this post and point people to your page. If you’d like a photo(s) included, be sure to attach them. The parenting struggle is a bit easier when it’s shared.

Now to the questions.

  1. How do you balance work, home, writing, love, and life?
  2. How has becoming a parent changed your outlook on writing and reading?
  3. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve faced with stay-at-home parenting, or parenting in general?
  4. As a parent, where do you go to write? When is the best time for you to write?  
  5. Why do you write, and how does that reason impact your writing?  

QE’s answers:

family-11.) For me, scheduling is the single most important thing I do. I’ve found I have to constantly tweak my schedule as life changes (Thor grows). Allocating my time prevents me from over-committing to a single project and leaving others lagging behind. When Thor’s awake or my wife is home, I typically don’t spend too much time writing or editing and instead try to take advantage of the time as a family.

2.) When I became a stay-at-home dad, losing my work identity was hard. As Thor grows, he’ll never look at me as “His dad who was in the military or who was a cop.” I think children having a way to identify their parents to others is important. Dedicating my time to writing and reading lets me share stories with him, but also helps me feel confident he will know his dad “does” something other than just take care of him.

3.) The biggest misconception I’ve faced is that because I’m a stay-at-home dad I have tons of time and don’t really have any commitments. Most laypeople don’t look at writing and editing as a real occupation. When people ask what I do (which inevitably comes up), I tell them I write and edit books. This is usually answered with an awkward smile and look that says, “That’s not really a job.”  

img_23344.) I have a study where I write and edit. For me, having a space dedicated to work helps me focus in on what needs to be done and not get distracted. I usually work while everyone else sleeps, or during my son’s naps. Right now, I only sleep 4-5 hours on normal days. When my wife is home for her weekends, I try to catch up on sleep and recharge.

5.) I write because I love reading stories and have always enjoyed telling them. Reading stories to my son is one of my biggest joys. Even though he’s too little to understand them (almost a year old), he still stops what he is doing and listens, as if he’s trying to understand. I write with my son and family in mind. I don’t tailor the stories to them, but knowing they will read them is very empowering. Knowing after I’m long gone my son might have a book I wrote on his own shelf is even more inspiring.

Dillon’s answers:

dillon-fam-21.) In short, an unhealthy amount of coffee. Outside of work, my schedule changes frequently and I spend as much time with my family as I can. They recharge my batteries and motivate me to be better than I am — they are my greatest inspiration. I give myself every opportunity to write, I have Google Docs on my phone, so I squeeze in a few lines, or outline points while in line at the post office or even in the bathroom. I make small time throughout my day burst-writing as much as I can, and then I spend time editing in the same fashion. Piece by piece!

2.) My outlook on everything changed the day I found out about Killian. I wanted to write, not for fame or glory, but to simply have him look up at me and say, “my dad is cool, strange, but cool.” I want to write interesting things, motivational words to help him in the future when the rain pours down and I may not be there. I want to read so I know how to answer those questions that he’s going to come at me with. I want him to know there are a million ways to be creative and he can chase any of them.

dillon-fam-33.) Parents trying to be perfect. I thought, for a brief moment, that becoming a parent would make me picture perfect. It did anything but. So many parents have picture perfect Facebook lives, and that is garbage. We fight, we cry, we make mistakes, we show up late, we forget the diaper bag, we don’t read bedtime stories every night, we forget to write, we are tired and no one ever talks about all of that being okay. And IT’S OKAY, we are not supposed to be perfect. We are supposed to be human.

4.) I don’t have a dedicated place or time, a lot of my writing is done on my phone in lines or on my lunch break at work. Even though I don’t carve out dedicated time, I still write, I still edit, and I still post. Getting something done when you can is better than not ever getting to it. If I’m gonna pick a time, I really like writing in bed later at night with my wife sitting beside me and Killian sleeping in his crib. A small cup of coffee beside me as I type and a flurry of grammatically horrible words strung together is where I always end the night. Usually followed by me saying, “I’ll fix it tomorrow!”

dillon-fam-15.) Two reasons: To motivate other parents, and to remind us all it’s okay to fail and make mistakes. We are not perfect; we are parents. I love being a dad and I want to share the stories of how it’s changed me and hopefully help at least one parent out there not feel so worried about it all. As for my personal writing: I am a genuinely curious day dreamer, and when a character walks into my head I want to chase them down the rabbit hole and see where they go and how their story unravels. I have to know how they end up. I guess I just want to share these stories on both the blog and in my personal writing. I want people to be happy and confident.

question markThat’s it for today! Again, if you’re a parent, grandparent, or parent to fur-babies—we’d love to hear from you. How do you manage the madness?  Contact Me and I’ll update this post with your answers and link your blog into the post as well. Every now and then, Dillon and I will recycle this post on our pages and put our feelers out for more struggling writers/parents. From Dillon: Thank’s for taking the time to read! Hopefully you picked up some tricks for your own crazy writing style! Thanks Corey for having me!

Until we all cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp! As Dillon likes to say on his page, “You’ve got this!”

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The Originality of a Beginning

guide to literary agentsSome of us spend a countless amount of time thinking about those first few lines.  We are told over and over again, by countless sources, those first words are absolutely essential.  In the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents it is explained that, “Writing a compelling first page is very difficult.  It’s a balancing act of action, description, and dialogue, and somehow – no matter what it is you are writing about – you’ve got to make it interesting and employ a unique voice” (p. 42).

While the above example is talking about the first page, others talk about the first sentence or sentences.  This article, 7 Keys to Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel, written by Joe Bunting, offers a bunch of famous beginnings you can sort through.  You’ll see all the usual suspects – Melville, Dickens, Rowling, Tolkien, and a few unexpected ones.

Nice Intro.jpgWhat this article offers, and the book I listed above allude to, is the idea that you need to find a unique twist to somehow blow the readers mind to pieces.  The underlying concept is that you must be original.

I don’t know if I agree with this sentiment of originality.  Not entirely.

When I think of beginnings I think of one I say almost everyday to my son, “Once upon a time.”  When you hear those words, what do you think of?  I think of magic beans, talking animals, witches, heroes, and princesses.  For many of us, those stories are the first stories we ever hear.  They are the building blocks of our own lexicon of stories and mythology.  It is stamped into our brains.  Hardwired.  When we see that line, it opens a door.  A door encouraging us to believe in the unbelievable, to dream, to hope, and to imagine.

once upon a time.jpgIs it any surprise when George Lucas penned, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” it became such a classic line?  When you see that line (assuming you are familiar with Star Wars) you think of Jedi, lightsabers, The Force, and a host of other Star Wars related concepts.  But at the core of, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” is, “Once upon a time.”  His first line tapped into the power of those countless childhood stories, and he wielded it wisely.

For me, when I saw that line for the first time I was a just a kid.  My dad said, “You’ll love these movies Corey.”  I shoved the tape into a VCR, smashed the tracking button until the image was clear, and carefully read the scrolling prompt.  That first line hooked me.  It threw the door open to imagination.

This door became harder to open the older I got.

The door became harder to open because the more I learned about writing, the more rules were shoved down my throat.  Teachers, instructors, and experts, tell us, “No, no, no, not like that – like this!” or, “It’s a good first line, but it seems pretty similar to [insert story].”

portal.jpgIn the struggle for originality, many authors stray from one of the core concepts of storytelling.  This concept is that the line should work to transport someone into your world.  It’s a cue, overt or covert, that opens the forgotten door and encourages them to once again – believe in the unbelievable.  It doesn’t have to be some crazy twist of phrase.  It doesn’t have to be packed with hidden metaphors and symbolism.  It can be, but it doesn’t HAVE to be.

I would encourage you to look at children’s books for inspiration.  This article, 100 Best Opening Lines From Children’s Books, is a great compilation of those works.  Despite the primary audience of these books being children, the opening lines have great impact.

They have great impact because all of us were children at one point.  It is a universal concept uniting each and everyone one of us.  All of us, at some point in time, dared to believe in the unbelievable.  We didn’t care how crazy it seemed.

For me, I spent hours of my childhood trying to use The Force to move things around in my room.  I believed, beyond reason, if I just tried hard enough, it might just happen.  I could be a Jedi.  I just had to believe.

It never happened for me.  I never did move something with my mind.  And here I am now with a child of my own.  Despite my childhood being long gone, sometimes, when no one is looking, I still try to move things with my mind.  I part of me still believes.

That’s the power of a story.  That’s the power of a beginning.  Don’t stress originality, tell your story.  If the story is yours, the beginning will be too.

That’s it for today!  Do you have a story from your childhood that impacts you to this day?  Do you have an opening line that really rocked your socks off?  I’d love to hear about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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