Keeping with our Mother’s Day theme of combining writing with raising children (Hats Off to Mom Writers, Combine Babies and Bylines, Combining Writing and School-Age Kids), let’s talk about writing during the teen years–and the skills it will entail.
The main challenge at this time is keeping (and constantly regaining) your sanity! Even normally active teens can leave a parent hyper, worried, deaf, and frustrated: not a state conducive to your best writing. Teens in ongoing trouble can just about finish you off. I discovered Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way during a few years of having one teen in a serious situation. I think that book was instrumental in saving my career.
Surviving and Thriving with Teens
Over the years, I discovered some helpful tips for writing with teens in the house…
*Use ear plugs and white noise machines. Find soft foam ear plugs, like miniature marshmallows. Ear plugs block out stereos, giggling girls, phones ringing, and TV. You can buy white noise machines in the baby departments of most stores.
*Adjust your schedule–because the kids won’t/can’t adjust theirs. On weekends I waited up to ensure each child got home safely from part-time jobs and dates. I used to doze by the TV and then was too tired to write in the morning, which I resented. So, despite the difficulty making the switch, I started writing from ten to midnight on weekends. Then I would sleep late the next morning without guilt.
*Teenagers’ roughest times (drugs/drinking, pregnancies, school problems) can come close to derailing an author’s ability to write creatively. These problems last for months–or years–and can be a source of major writer’s block. If this is your situation, throughout the day try some free-flowing ten-minute writing exercises to unblock, writing about whatever you’re feeling. Just keep writing–anything. Keep the words flowing during these high-stress times so your ability to write is intact when the crisis finally passes.
Some of those ten-minute segments may later provide you with story/article ideas for teens or parents. Perhaps, with teens underfoot, you’ll write a nonfiction book for parents like my favorite self-help title: Get Out of My Life But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? Is there any doubt that this author merged raising kids with his writing?