Multi-tasking on a Tightrope by Sherri Cook Woosley

Author Sherri Cook Woosley
Author Sherri Cook Woosley
Author Sherri Cook Woosley

The laundry needs to be moved to the drier in about three minutes and I haven’t checked Facebook – I should be working on my author platform. I’m also kind of thirsty. Egads! Only sixty-four minutes until the school bus drops off my two older, wonderful, loud, children and I still have three hundred words to go. Uh oh. Twins just ran out the back door. Does the babysitter know? I should check. But, the rule is to stay in my chair during scheduled writing time. Just gotta stay. On one occasion when I NEEDED to pace I stood up, held the chair to my rear, and paced that way. No use having rules if you aren’t going to follow them. Here are six more suggestions:

1) Set out weekly goals. Every Sunday night I drag out the family calendar and plan lacrosse practice, horseback riding, ballet, my husband’s business trips. I also map out my work time. You can use an excel sheet, a daily to-do list, the calendar function in Outlook. Doesn’t matter. Schedule it. “1,000 words today.” “Rough draft of article.” “Write a blog about procrastination…later today.” Note: Once something goes on the calendar IT DOESN’T MOVE.

2) Alternate long and short assignments. Novels are wonderful. They give a writer a chance to develop characters and let complications unfurl. They also take an enormous time commitment. Short assignments are great for earning a sense of accomplishment, receiving immediate feedback if you’re publishing online, and creating a connection with other people. Note: Blogs comments = positive reinforcement.

3) Decide whether your presence is needed or your PRESENCE is needed. Driving the minivan around and waiting on a bench during your child’s recreation doesn’t have to equal iphone games. Instead, I do my freelance editing. I make notes in the margin, but I also let my impressions marinate, suggestions occur. Later, during sit-in-your-seat-do-not-get-up-time I’ll type up comments and make changes to the client’s story. Note: Don’t, however, go to your child’s lacrosse game and bring your laptop. Practice yes, game no. I guarantee you you’ll miss your child’s all-star moment and all the other parents will whisper about you. Loudly.

4) Respect your writing time the way you (should) respect time at the gym. They both keep you healthy. This can be hard, especially for stay-at-home moms/dads. We feel guilty that the editing/writing we do doesn’t pay the bills. And, worse, we sometimes have to hire a babysitter to meet our writing goals. But, if you are reading this and nodding your head, I urge you to set aside that guilt. You’re a writer and if that is how you make sense of this crazy, random, wonderful, mixed-up world, then you have to get the stories and ideas and images out of your head. You’re not being self-indulgent. The crunches you do in the gym are certainly not self-indulgent! The ice cream afterwards might be. Note: dig deep and provide your own validation because no one else will.

5) Coffee and Music. What do you want from me? I’d like to drink green tea, practice yoga, and have lyrical prose flow from my typing fingertips while wearing nothing but an inscrutable smile. I do practice yoga and drink tea, but I also drink coffee and listen to music to get psyched up for conflict-filled writing scenes. Warning: Avoid in excess. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in a situation similar to the pacing-in-chair-situation mentioned in the first paragraph.

6) Know the purpose of your writing You’ll be more committed to writing when you know why you’re doing it. I have a creative nonfiction blog on CaringBridge where I give updates on my daughter’s progress in fighting leukemia and showcase news from cancer-fighting organizations. It’s my way of battling. Also, sometimes, my daughter and I punch empty cereal boxes while shouting that cancer stinks. Depends on the day.

I write for myself at TasteofSherri. Each week I post something I did for myself, a treat or a mini-adventure, or maybe a snippet about my work-in-progress. Note: poking fun at myself means there’s never a shortage of content.

My novel is a dream: a story that I’m excited about that goes on for chapters and chapters and I want other people to read. I don’t expect to get rich and famous. I used to, and would take every rejection personally, and worry that I’d be too old for chat shows of “brilliant writers under thirty-five.” Now my goal is to write something I’d like to read. Note: it’s a heck of a lot more fun this way.


Sherri Cook Woosley earned an M.A. in English from University of Maryland. She’s been a teacher, a fiction contest founder, and a publisher for “The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Fiction Anthology” in both 2009 and 2010. Her stories and essays have been published in “New Lines from the Old Line State,” Mount Zion Speculative Fiction Review and the MWA’s Pen in Hand (Winter, 2011). Currently Sherri tries to balance being a full-time, four-time, mom with being a part-time blogger and a freelance fiction editor. For more on Sherri, visit her blog or her website.

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11 thoughts on “Multi-tasking on a Tightrope by Sherri Cook Woosley”

  1. Nice post, Sherri. I enjoyed the familiar perspective.:)

    We writers do juggle a lot, don't we? I especially like your point about being protective of your writing time. It IS exactly the same as yoga practice. And, practice makes perfect.

  2. Sherri, hats off to you moms that juggle parenting and writing. I'm an empty nester and there's hardly a day I'm not awed by you all. With nobody to be responsible for but myself, there's still many a week when laundry is in peril and dishes stay in the sink overnight. Great post, good suggestions. Enjoyed it a lot.

    1. I'm not quite an empty nester but I decided two years ago that life is too short to waste on housework.[And my 25 year old daughter doesn't notice anyway]. Now the important things get done using the 'just in time' principle and the non-life threatening things like dusting get done when I can't stand them any more. Let it go and just write proud and strong!

      No-one is going to remember you for the mirror shine on the side-board but your books are going to be around for a very long time 🙂

  3. Wonderful post and I can relate to it completely. Although I don't have a child with a life threatening condition, I often run around and my mind runs around a bit more. Hats off to the writer for inspiration and for giving us the chance to relate to the state of 'superwoman'.

  4. You got me beat on juggling. I only have a 100 acre working farm, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 3 horses and a disabled husband (mentally) to cope with. Once in a while his kids will show up, but they are mostly grown. But the part about the laundry made me giggle- it's Monday– laundry day. Which reminds me….

    Great post busy Mom!

  5. I'm so glad to hear such positive things! Especially when I was going through the kids' backpacks last night and saw a thank you note from their teachers for the many gifts during Teacher Appreciation Week. OOPS! Totally missed the whole week.

    That's okay. Now on to-do list is personal card to both teachers and I've already put money in the room mom's envelope for end-of-year present. That evens out, right?

  6. Great suggestions, Sherri! I'm not a stay-at-home mom (yet!) but I think these tips apply to writers who work at a day job, too.

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