The annual Pen Parentis Writing Fellowship for New Writers was founded in 2010 to encourage writers to produce new works of quality fiction at the very busiest point in their parenting...
[Learn more about the Pen Parentis Research Project.]
“I love that my 7-year-old likes to write stories too. He knows that moms can be authors, and so he doesn’t write this off as a legitimate occupation.”
- Laura Vanderkam
PP: Describe your life in the context of writing, parenting and other employment (if applicable).
LV: I am a full-time freelance writer, generally doing articles and books. My most recent book is called I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio). I’m also the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, 168 Hours and a novel called The Cortlandt Boys. I have four kids, ages 7 (boy), 5 (boy), 3 (girl), baby (boy). I live in a suburb outside Philadelphia, and blog at www.lauravanderkam.com.
PP: How do you integrate creative writing into your parenting/work responsibilities?
LV: Since I write for a living, I treat it like any other job. I have childcare from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. I generally aim to work on my projects during this time, though I also take breaks to eat lunch with the kids, and exercise. I sometimes work at night after the kids go to bed too. I try to do the hard work of cranking out drafts in the morning when I’m fresh, and then do interviews and answer emails in the afternoon.
PP: What’s awesome about being a parent who writes?
LV: I am very grateful to be exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. It turns out to be possible to make a living as a writer! Since I write during the normal workday, I’m not trying to squeeze it in at other times. I think regular childcare is the key to having any sort of work-from-home job. People who attempt to forego childcare are going to have a tough time getting enough concentrated time to work. I love that my 7-year-old likes to write stories too. He knows that moms can be authors, and so he doesn’t write this off as a legitimate occupation.
PP: What’s challenging about it?
LV: There aren’t too many challenges. Like any parent, I probably underinvest in the “soft side” of the job – making time to network and meet new people. It’s always easier to take the work in front of you vs. pitching new projects and seeking out new clients. These are things I’m working on.
PP: What’s your advice for other parents who write?
LV: This is advice for parents, but it’s advice for any writers, really. Writing books is a career with a long time horizon. I get contacted to give speeches now about a book I wrote in 2009! Taking on big, somewhat speculative projects takes time, but this is how you plant seeds that will bear fruit years hence. So if you want a thriving career when your kids are a little older, you can’t completely take your foot off the gas when they’re young. Fortunately, there are 168 hours in a week. There’s plenty of time to work, parent, and write. And sleep!
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several books on productivity and time management, including, I Know How She Does It, 168 Hours, and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, a paperback compilation of the bestselling ebook series, all from Portfolio/Penguin. She’s the author of a novel called The Cortlandt Boys. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children, and blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.Receive a free time makeover guide by subscribing to Laura’s monthly newsletter.
The Pen Parentis Research Project is a series of interviews with parent authors in order to learn how they mange time, publish, earn a living, nurture creative community, and care for their kids. Managed by Mary Harpin, the project will culminate in a book with stories, data, and helpful information that other parent writers can apply to their own busy lives. Support the project with a contribution to the Pen Parentis crowdfunding campaign.