Writing with a Toddler: How to Win NaNoWriMo & More

As another NaNoWriMo check in: I officially won NaNoWriMo on Thanksgiving Day!

I hit a small snag when I copied & pasted my 50,100 word novel into the NaNoWriMo validator and was told I'd only written 49,600 words. I copied and pasted again and, again, was told I'd written 49,800 words. Ok, so at least it went up. 

The word count validator was broken, NaNoWriMo.org didn't believe me on Twitter, and it was a huge pain. I wrote an additional 600 word scene, while screeching at my husband and homph-gomphing some extra coffee, and got validated, but I'm still mad. 

Why am I still mad? 

Because writing with a toddler is really, really hard. 

Writing 1600 extra words per day with a toddler is a challenge that I'm not entirely sure why I took on, but I did it. 

And I did it exactly 5 days before the deadline. 

I'm sorry, but I'm very impressed with myself right now. 

I'm somewhat less than impressed that I've blogged what? Five times in November alongside NaNoWriMo? That's a big oops, but in my defense, November has been quite the month, personally and socially, so it's to be expected. 

When it comes to writing with a toddler, I find myself constantly challenged. I'm creative all day at my day job and when I get home, I'm pretty much moving nonstop. I'm playing with Forrest; I'm making dinner; I'm cleaning as I go. It's hard to be creative when you're mentally and emotionally wiped out, that's for sure.

But when it comes to writing, I set a few rules for myself. 

1. I try to set aside 30-60 minutes every evening to write.

This might be when Forrest is spending time with Danny, post-dinner but pre-bedtime. Or this might be when Forrest is already asleep. If I have important chores to do (like vacuuming, laundry, or deep cleaning the kitchen), I put them off until later in the evening. I make myself write--whether it's for NaNoWriMo or work, my blog or in my journal--for at least 30 minutes. It just has to be done. 

During NaNoWriMo, by keeping this schedule, I really improved my word count. I also found that if I got Forrest to nap while I wore him in our Ergo, I could get a solid 45 minute (or more!) writing time in. It all adds up. 

2. Don't worry about writing when your toddler awake. 

Maybe it's just me, but I know myself and I know my child. I cannot get anything done with him during the day. I can lightly clean the kitchen, keep him fed and clean, and work on organizing downstairs. But the minute I try to sit down, he's all over me. If I'm on the couch with my laptop, he wants the laptop. If I'm at the kitchen counter with my laptop, he's standing at the gate crying because I'm not with him. If I try to write while I'm feeding him lunch, he's yelling because he needs all of my attention. That's how it is with toddlers. And really, I'd rather get him to repeat "all done" or play pattycake than write anyway. 

3. Give yourself a break.

You know what? There are some days where I just can't write. Where I'm just so tired (Forrest is teething or he refused to eat all day, or we had doctor's appointments, or whatever) that I can't do anything else. On those days, I curl up on the couch and watch the Simpsons, or I run a nice bath, grab my Kindle, and turn on my favorite podcast. And you know what? I don't beat myself up. It's ok! You can't get everything done! That's fine. Forgive yourself. 

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