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Writing and keeping fit as a parent

(27 Posts)
Itsgettingbetter Tue 22-Aug-17 12:00:53

Wasn't sure where else this post could go.

I was wondering how others structure their day in relation to both disciplined writing and exercise?

When I read about successful writers, I find most of them get up before dawn to start writing. This sounds great in theory, getting writing done before distractions set in but in order to wake up at 4am or 5am you need to go to bed at an overly sensible time, which I find difficult as I feel I need 2-3 hours to decompress from my day as a LP. During the school holidays and weekends other things take over. But writing before the day really gets going seems like the ideal solution.

I've also decided to get back into shape but focusing on this it feels like a conflict. Leaving exercise until last thing in the day when I've written, cooked and cleaned up feels like setting myself up to fail. But doing the writing later on means I'm likely to be a lot less productive.

Writing puts me in a good mood, as I feel I've 'fulfilled my purpose' IYSWIM. But I've also struggled with depression and exercise keeps me on the up.

How have others structured their day in order to get both done?

Talith Tue 22-Aug-17 12:03:55

I find the evenings are terrible for getting exercise or writing done. Like you say, it's all about decompressing and sorting things out for the next day. I'd suggest alternating an hour or two - or whatever you can afford, each morning - or at least before midday (or on lunch hour at work). Once the sun is over the yard arm I'm focused on my bed!

Good luck - you're right, both things can be great for improving your mental health.

ClaudiaWankleman Tue 22-Aug-17 12:07:41

How long do you want to write for each day?

I personally find the best times to exercise are either early mornings (6-8am) or 12-2pm having a late lunch. Could the second time work for you?

paperandpaint Tue 22-Aug-17 12:11:54

Depends what kind of exercise you are doing. I used to run in the evening. It was the only time I could do it and actually there were often other runners out at this time. Once you get into the swing of it it's quite good fun running at night!

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 22-Aug-17 12:15:25

I walk my dogs so that's my exercise and they need to be out of the house by 10am.

Sometimes if I'm up early I will write first thing. Usually I do several hours through the day, working around other responsibilities.

I never write in the evenings ( except when on deadlines).

Itsgettingbetter Tue 22-Aug-17 12:23:38

Just read this article, 'Self care makes better writers'

www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/self-care-makes-better-writers

The piece suggests that prioritising 'self-care' makes for betting writing.

One thing I forgot to mention in my OP is that all those 4am/5am writers I've read about tend to be men. I'd be really interested to hear from anyone who manages it!

On the other hand DS begins secondary in a couple of weeks and I'll be making sure he heads out 7.30am.

Itsgettingbetter Tue 22-Aug-17 12:27:59

Thanks Talith, alternating is a good idea

Paper I've enjoyed night running in the past too. It's good to get out in the fresh air at night as opposed to being cooped up indoors (that's me as single parent)

gwenneh Tue 22-Aug-17 12:28:25

It has to get done in the morning or it doesn't get done. Any time after 3 pm is useless for me in terms of personal productivity -- it's the time when the DC start getting wound up (there's a reason my grandmother called it the 'witching hour') so I try to get everything done before then, but that has to include meal planning, shopping, etc.

I exercise and shower first (5-7am) and then sit down to write. Even if the DCs interrupt, I can generally marshal my thoughts better. I give it until about 1 pm, then start taking the household stuff into account -- most days I have childcare until 1 at least.

This leaves evenings for family & for me.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 22-Aug-17 12:29:13

To misquote Hilary Mantel: when a pushchair comes into the house, writing goes out of the window.

When DC leave the house early my advice would be to get writing and leave all chores.

steff13 Tue 22-Aug-17 12:32:29

How old is your son? You said secondary, here that would be about 13-14. Do you work? If not, could he occupy himself for a couple of hours during the day to allow you to write and exercise?

imamouseduh Tue 22-Aug-17 12:39:33

Writers I have heard say they get up before dawn to write usually have the flexibility to go back to bed for a few hours once they are done. If you don't, then I wouldn't try to enforce such a punishing routine. For me, morning dog walk is thinking time, then back home to write before getting on with the rest of my work for the day. But I don't have children etc to get out of the house in the morning, so don't have to work around that. I exercise in the early evening, that's when my energy levels are highest.

NC4now Tue 22-Aug-17 16:07:32

Are you writing for work or pleasure, and do you have another job?

Hopefully Tue 22-Aug-17 16:17:16

I don't think it's necessary to do it pre-dawn (writing or exercise) but it is necessary to find a time when you can actually do it, rather than waiting for time to magically appear. I sacrifice any decompression time to get up early and do yoga, which does double duty as decompression and exercise. I work (writing, as it happens, but the same discipline for everything I suppose) for one hour five evenings a week, regardless of what's happened that day - sometimes I get a chance to squeeze it in earlier which means I get an evening off l. If it means crap writing that needs tons of editing, then that's what happens, but a journalist background means that if writing needs to happen, it needs to happen, there's no point waiting for a magic moment.

Saying all that, I'm not a lp, which I imagine is a complete game changer. I would lower your expectations to maybe an hour a week or whatever feels manageable, and just make that hour happen.

Sashkin Tue 22-Aug-17 16:36:13

How old are your kids? I write once mine have gone to bed, but their bedtime is 8pm so that gives me 2-3hrs after dinner. You could go to the library on Sunday afternoons instead, but for us that's family time.

Exercise is immediately after work and on weekends. DH has MWF evenings and Sunday morning, I have TT evenings and Saturday morning. An hour while the other parent is doing tea and bedtime is plenty of time for a run and a bit of yoga, and then I do a bodypump and Pilates class back to back on a Saturday. It is a big priority for us though, and DH is completely on board with doing bedtimes on "my" nights.

imamouseduh Tue 22-Aug-17 17:00:07

but a journalist background means that if writing needs to happen, it needs to happen, there's no point waiting for a magic moment.

My motto is: done is better than perfect.

Just get the words down and fix them later.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 22-Aug-17 17:04:02

When my DC were younger, I wrote in any slithers of time I could find.

Now I have longer periods to play with but work on a lot more projects.

tickyandtackyandjackythebacky Tue 22-Aug-17 17:04:33

I'm a 5am writer.Tend to do 5-6.30 or 7am every day. But I am a morning person. My brain tends to die each day around 7pm. Are you a morning or night person? I'm waiting until dd goes to school and ds to nursery before I start any kind of exercise routine, so afternoons probably. At the minute I'm just very very lazy grin

Ttbb Tue 22-Aug-17 18:00:58

I try to exercise as early as possible because I feel more energetic afterwards. As for writing I do it to relax so after both children are asleep.

Tumbleweed101 Tue 22-Aug-17 18:15:17

I prefer writing early in the day. When I had a partner and worked 16hrs a week and sah with kids the rest of the time I would write from school run/nursery drop off til about 1pm on days at home. Now I'm a single parent and work full time it's hard to find any time ☹️. I can't get into writing after the children have gone to bed around 7/8pm so just veg out with a book/internet. Used to do at least 16hrs a week writing and was far happier.

I think I would find it easier to excercise in the evening if trying to fit in both. Good time to mull over what to write the next day smile.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 22-Aug-17 18:24:29

Best writing time for me is mornings after the children are up because they're at their least demanding then. If I get up early they tend to as well.
Exercise is walking wherever I have to go very very briskly indeed. I tend to find I can't run on a writing day - it makes it impossible to settle down for some reason.

NC4now Tue 22-Aug-17 18:32:09

Another journo here. I can honestly say I have never written at 5am. My brain doesn't function at that hour.
In fact I rarely write anything before lunch.
I exercise at 9am, post school run, then daydream a bit and procrastinate.
I work in the evenings if there's work to be done, but actually I'm pretty quick and efficient. I don't edit my work much.

GetAHaircutCarl Wed 23-Aug-17 06:46:29

Well I've been up and writing for a while grin.

But this isn't usual. I'm not sleeping well at the moment plus I have two horrific deadlines looming.

OnTheRise Wed 23-Aug-17 07:42:07

When I read about successful writers, I find most of them get up before dawn to start writing.

I know a lot of writers, successful and otherwise, and very few of us do this.

Write as if it were a job (because it is!). Work out a schedule that works for you, and you're good to go. Make sure you fit in time for exercise because self-care is always important. And join a good site for writers (AbsoluteWrite is great), because support from people who know what the life is like is always helpful.

Itsgettingbetter Wed 23-Aug-17 08:29:36

Lots of interesting responses to think over, thanks all.

GetAHaircutCarl Good luck with your deadline!

OnTheRise AbsoluteWrite looks brilliant, thanks for this

Zaphodsotherhead Wed 23-Aug-17 09:00:00

I get up (time depends on what shift I worked the day before), either run or walk with my dogs, then write until whatever shift I'm on starts.

Having to walk the dogs and having to go to work (most writers have day jobs too) forces me to structure my day. Have you, perhaps, got too MUCH time, OP? If I have long stretches of unstructured time, holidays and such, I often can't get motivated, and the answer is to pack MORE stuff in. That forces me to find time for everything.

What is it they say? If you want something done, ask a busy person?

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