Thursday, March 29, 2012

Freelance Writing with Kids, Pros & Cons

Cons of Freelance Writing with Kids
  Children interrupt: whether intentionally or not, if they are around, they will need you every 5-10 minutes, or when they're older, every hour. And when they are not there, often you'll catch yourself wondering what they are doing. Or worse, school calls. Your writing may reflect these constant breaks. Good writing requires solid concentration.
  Freelance writing involves networking, client meetings, administrative tasks, research trips and an extraordinary amount of phone and internet time. Many of these tasks will take you away from home, especially for interviews or live reporting. Will you get a sitter? Have day care? What if your kid has a fever on the day that Paris Hilton has finally agreed to sit down with you?
  Have you ever tried to have a phone conversation around a child? It’s like a beacon instructing them to ask for things, climb you, spill something, kick their sister, or otherwise demand attention. Try adding a frustrated young childless editor on the other end of the line, who really would rather be having a martini, and you’ll see the biggest difficulty about trying to freelance write with kids.

  Pros of Freelance Writing with Kids
  It’s writing. For a living. You get paid to string words into sentences. That’s the best reward.
  Your time is flexible. You can make yourself available to volunteer at a school or recess or to chaperone a field trip, or take a yoga class just to recharge. You can usually pick up the kids whenever they need it, even on those stupid half-days, and you can ferry them to the next event, taking calls during the 45 minute ballet class. As long as you meet your deadlines and the work is good, clients generally won’t care when the work is accomplished. 10pm – midnight is golden time in my house.
  Your child will see you as a good example. Children absorb everything you do, and watching you work will teach them about work ethics, time management, and yes, the importance of writing. Your career will become intertwined with their daily life. Easier than trying to explain that their spelling homework is important because…it is.

Still ready to forge ahead? Good. The most important thing is to plan your days. Schedule everything possible on times when the children are not around so that when they are, you don’t find yourself waving them off as you take a phone call or reply to “just this one” email. Let your phone take messages for you. Schedule a time to reply to email. You’ll be under deadline anyway, so adding a few more alerts on your calendar should feel quite natural.
Most importantly: don’t forget that freelance writing is still writing and it will suck your precious creativity: don’t expect to put in eight hours on an article about the six things you should never wear for an author publicity shot and still have energy to write a chapter of your new novel. Add to this the fact that your kids need you to be “always on” and you’ll see the dilemma. And yet, people do it all the time. 
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Writing as a Parent

So I'm often asked whether Pen Parentis is for people who write about parenting.  Our mission is quite the opposite: we want to encourage writers to continue on the creative track they were on before they had kids.   That said, parents need to build college funds - or just pay rent! - and in a world where it is increasingly difficult to get paid for your typed strings of excellent thoughts, writing about parenting is definitely still a lucrative market.

So here are a few articles I've collected to guide you if you do decide to (or can't possibly help) writing about the experience of having kids:

Pros & Cons (from WoW)

List of Markets (from FreelanceWriting)

How to Begin (from AbsoluteWrite)

More Markets (from WritersWeekly)

You don't have to play the guilt game (from Babble)

It's overwhelming to be a parent and the idea of monetizing what you are stuck thinking about all the time anyway is a compelling idea. But when have you ever been thrilled to turn a joyous hobby into a paid endeavor? It can strip all the fun out of the fun.

Remember - writing "for money" about your experiences as a parent is going to be just as much work as writing your novel--so you're still not paying attention to your kids while you're doing it -- and what's worse, it's no escape from the 24/7 of parenting, like writing fiction can be.

But if you must, you must. Let me leave you with a word of advice.

If you choose this route, ensure you leave room to nurture your creative non-parent self. Cash the paycheck and spend it on a babysitter so you can go to your local library and write a few pages of your very own. Or if you haven't got any juice left, then by all means: read a book.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pen Parentis theoretically enters the blogosphere.


Walking back from kindergarten drop off today, I spoke with a doctor/mom whose husband is an award-winning journalist. "It's hard on him," she told me, "because of course he could theoretically volunteer at the school all the time." And isn't that the crux of being a writer/parent?  Working at our own pace, we theoretically have all the time in the world (time, even to start blogging!) to spend on our kids. How can it be that a loving dad or devoted mom doesn't spend every given moment at the school that he/she can? How can a parent say no?

I'll tell you how: writing is as much a 24/7 career as parenting. Being an author is no different from being the CEO of your own company. You have to constantly monitor your time--pay attention to the lure of social media, the distraction of laundry, the constant demands of your kids. Balance this out with ensuring you have time to write, some space of your own to leave out manuscript pages that won't get colored on, you have to make the mental space both for creative work of producing new sentences, for the hard-edged editing work of making those sentences perfect, and for the administrative work of ensuring that someone in the universe besides your inner critic sees the pages you have written. Monitor your time like a CEO monitors the money s/he spends on R&D, on marketing, on drudge work like filling out time cards.  Divvy it up: what's most important this week? Make a plan! In order to make this writing-thing a successful career, you're going to have to balance some tricky things. Think it's not juggling? Think again. For everything you choose to do, everything else is up in the air, waiting for you to eventually get to it.

But don't worry. People can juggle fire and knives--simultaneously. You'll be fine.

Set priorities, create schedules, make time.  It's entirely up to you.