How To Spend Your Summer Vacation

July 5th, 2005 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

At the risk of overstating the obvious, cats don’t need to be entertained. Fed, yes. Scratched, yes. Convinced that going outside is a bad idea, yes. But when push comes to shove, they’re excellent at amusing themselves. Name another creature who turns staring off into space into an art form.

Other than writers. But then it’s not relaxation, it’s work.

Unfortunately, not all writers are blessed with cats. Some make do with children. And while we don’t have personal experience with the species, we understand that children require substantial upkeep. Plus medical supplies. And, if we understand the process correctly, cell phones.

As such, we have absolutely no advice for parents who are also writers. Lucky for you, Susan Gable (who has the [mis]fortune of being one of our dear friends) does. While we cannot help but notice that she doesn’t suggest sticking a pen in hand and telling the kid to write his or her own book, the rest of her suggestions make sense. So much so that we’ll be moving in with the Gable family for the rest of the summer.

School’s Out – Please Write Carefully

Summer vacation. How you respond to those two words depends on your
perspective, your point of view.

If you’re a kid, you’re thrilled.

If you’re a writer whose day job is teacher, you’re thrilled. (Even if
you’re a non-writing teacher, you’re thrilled. I know. I used to be a

If you’re a stay-at-home writer whose day job is mom (or dad), you might be
less than thrilled. Because it means your daytime peace and solitude when
you normally knock out those pages is disrupted. Gone. And you’re counting
the days until school starts again in the fall.

So, how do you handle summer vacation with the kids home? You’ll have to
come up with a new schedule and some rules. I know a number of writer-moms
who get up earlier in the summer than they do during the school year. That
way they can get some work done before the kids even get out of bed. Then,
once they’re up, you can give them your complete attention, which will cover
the mommy-guilt angle. Writing at night after they’ve gone to bed is
another option.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a separate office in the house, and the
kids are old enough to entertain themselves for a while, make rules about
when they may interrupt. “Can I have a popsicle?” doesn’t cut it as a
reason for invading the writer’s sanctuary. Blood and fire do.

As a teacher, I was introduced to the 3 B Questions we used to ask,
especially when approached during recess. They work equally well for
writers, especially those on deadline. “Are you breathing?” (The correct
answer is yes.) “Are you bleeding?” (Hope for no.) “Are you barfing?”
(Again, hope for no.) If you get the “correct” answers to these questions,
then the proper response is somewhere along the lines of, “Okay, then go
play.” You then return your attention to the flashing cursor on the page in
front of you. Of course, “incorrect” answers to the B questions do demand
your immediate attention. The story will have to wait in that case.

These rules apply even more when Mommy/Writer is on the phone, just in case
she’s talking to her editor or agent. A friend of mine one summer appalled
her editor when her daughter interrupted for the umpteenth time, and the
writer said, “There better be blood!” There was no blood, but the (young,
childless) editor was floored. Hmmm.I wonder how editors would deal with
kids running into their offices while trying to make business phone calls?

Other tips:

  • If you need your child in view, keep a supply of coloring books,
    paper, crayons, picture books, puzzles, in your office. The kid(s) can play
    quietly (hey, I’m optimistic!) nearby while you work.
  • Consider hiring a neighborhood teen to babysit while you work. This
    way, you have some quiet, the kids have someone to watch and play with
    them, and you can keep an eye on the whole situation. Another option is to
    switch off with a friend. Take her kids one day, and have her keep yours
  • Summer day camps are loads of fun for kids. I have very fond
    memories of summer day camp.
  • An option that works with my teenage son is taking him to the local
    indoor skate park. That’s usually good for several hours of uninterrupted
    quiet time at home.
  • Don’t forget to stop and have some fun yourself. On a hot, sticky
    day, there’s nothing better than a water-gun fight out in the backyard.
    Muses love these kinds of activities, too. She just may reward you with an
    extra burst of creativity.
  • Alphasmarts are great for using poolside while you keep both ears
    and one eye on the kids. Be sure to give a frequent look at them with both
    eyes, though!
  • Libraries often offer story-hour for kids. While they listen to the
    story, you can sit in eye-range and work on your own story. As a plus, most
    libraries are air-conditioned, which you’ll be glad for during any heat
  • Videos (DVDs) and other electronic entertainment, while not
    recommended in heavy doses or as a steady diet, can also help buy you some
    writing time. There are loads of great educational software out there, too.
    You can keep their school skills sharp while you work. (Of course, if you
    only have one computer, that could be a problem.)
  • If it’s too quiet, you’d better go and see what they’re up to. More
    than once I poked my head out my office window and found things like, my son
    on the roof of the garage, or stuck up in a tree. Boys can be challenging. [Booksquare: Ditto for girls. Especially oldest child girls. Not that we’re confessing anything. Our conscience is clean.]
  • If they are absolutely driving you nuts, remember that this, too,
    shall pass. And the kids grow up too quickly anyway. Enjoy them when you
    can. Before you know it, the fall will be here, and you’ll be sending them
    off to another grade, wondering where the time has gone.

Susan’s next book is due out any minute. Any minute. Like, maybe this one. Which is really cool.

File Under: Wrapped Up In Books

2 responses so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // Jul 6, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    I didn’t suggest the writing-thir-own-book distraction for two reasons:

    #1 – If you give a kid a pen, he’s going to want your computer instead. (If it’s good enough for mom and all that. (G)) Still, you could encourage them to draft on paper, even if mom doesn’t – or give them your Alphasmart. (G)

    #2 – My son is dyslexic. Asking him to write a story is his idea of torture. Ask him to TELL you one, on the other hand…but that doesn’t work when Mom’s trying to write her own.

  • The Happy Booker // Jul 6, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for the great list and the sane approach to writing and parenting! Wendi