Coach Marla Beck

6 Tips to Help You Write When Your Family’s at Home

by Marla

in brilliant mindset, brilliant productivity, brilliant writing life

Clock face closeup

After a lazy morning with my family last Sunday, I decided to do a little writing.

“I’m going to take 25 minutes of computer time now,” I chirped.  (Sometimes I choose to keep the fact that I’m writing to myself. Can you relate?)

My family did pretty well with this announcement.  I wrote. My seven-year-old wandered off to her room. My husband decided to return a phone call.

Several minutes later though, my husband’s one-way phone conversation knifed my writing concentration to shreds. He was crisply, powerfully projecting his voice so the hard-of-hearing relative on the other end of the phone line could hear him clearly. He was so loud!

I reset my focus.  Headphones on, first.  Then, my favorite writing playlist.  In no time at all, I was writing again.

My daughter approached me a few minutes later with her wooden mallet in her hand. She needed to tell me something about her toy, she said.

I pointed to my headphones. My daughter responded by raising her mallet as if to strike my laptop.

Yes?”  I said as I lifted an ear pad to hear her.

“I just wanted you to know…” she said, twirling her mallet slowly in her hand.  I noticed she was prolonging the moment.

“I just wanted you to know that this hammer…it came this way!”

writing distraction_wooden mallet

My writing challenges aren’t unique. In the past two weeks, my writer clients have been telling me how tough it can be to get writing at home.

No matter how much our partners, children or pets love us, there’s something irresistible about a writer at work.

So what to do?  How to turn family members into writing allies?

Here are 6 tips to help you write at home, without interruption.  

  • Screen Yourself with Sound.   If you’re able to write with music playing in the background, take advantage!  Create a “writing playlist” of music that helps you concentrate without distracting your attention.  Cue yourself to write by listening to your playlist whenever you write.  With practice and discipline, you’ll be able to quickly enter a state of relaxed focus every time you hear these songs.  Add headphones, and you’ve got a bubble of writing readiness at your disposal.  A perfect way to get away, even while you’re seated at the kitchen table.
  • Tell Them How Long.  Nobody, child or adult alike, wants to feel you direct your attention away from them. Make your writing time easier for family members by framing your writing session.  Tell your partner or kids how much time you need. Spell out for them exactly when you’ll be back. Tip: a kitchen timer can help avoid “How much longer?” questions and can help you stay focused as you write.
  • Assure Them You’ll Return.  Loved ones bother us because they feel afraid or uneasy when they sense our absence.  Give your loved ones the acknowledgment they need. Reassure them you’ll be back — including making plans for what you’ll do when you return.  This simple move is not only considerate, it often works like magic.  (With school-age children and adults.  For toddlers, cats or dogs, you may need to skip this step.) 🙂  If this tip applies to you, try it out and see for yourself.. Need a prompt?  Try this:  “Hey – I love you and I’ll be back soon.  Once I’m ready, let’s figure out tonight’s plan. What do you think?”  You get the idea.
  • Setting New Boundaries Takes Time. Like any new boundary you set, you’re bound to experience a bit of pushback at first.  Don’t be frustrated with interruptions and distractions when you first train your family to give you uninterrupted space and time to write. Expect that this process will take some practice.  (I didn’t have a successful at-home writing session last Sunday because I’ve been writing in my small downtown office for a few years now.  I’m out of practice, writing at home. So is my family!)
  • Believe It Can Be Done.  Not convinced you can write at home?  Let Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, inspire you:

I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time.

  • Expect to be amused. For heaven’s sakes, add a sense of humor into the mix and laugh a little. Partners, kids and pets bother you because they love you. Why not enjoy yourself as you take a stand for your writing?  Expect to be amused and let yourself laugh! Creating more time, space and structure for writing is serious business, I know.  As you practice setting a new boundary, watch your family’s creativity in action.  Remember to laugh a bit, and let go of taking yourself too seriously. 🙂

Two points to remember as you experiment with writing at home:

  1. We train our family members to respect and support our writing. It’s a process, and doesn’t happen overnight.
  2. Meet your family halfway, then let them have their reactions.  I suggest you be prepared to be amused.  🙂

Be clear with your family.  Warm-hearted, too.

Your persistence will reward you with finished writing projects and the joy of being fully, happily you.

Do your writing.  In the long run, your family will thank you.


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