Today this post appears at Seriously Write:

When my house was full of young children, I attempted to draft my first novel. After only one chapter, I realized I couldn’t write fiction and homeschool a houseful of children simultaneously. Keep a journal, yes, but concentrate on fiction, no.

Maybe you can, or are attempting it. But I couldn’t.

For fiction, I must live in a different world, lose myself in the story, inhabit the characters’ thoughts, and focus inwardly on their setting and experiences. There I live in a writer’s fog. But, for homeschooling (my career), I needed to focus on my children. They were my priority.
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After setting fiction aside, occasionally my mind wandered away, but I’d adjust my expectations and refocus on the schooling. I reminded myself that life came in phases, and there would be time later.

In these days of fringe hours, women seem to balance career and family flawlessly, so it might seem silly that I didn’t press on. But I had watched my mother do that. Learning from her experience, I knew something had to give. Fiction could wait. The children needed me now.

Two decades later, when only one child remained, I started writing fiction again. Even then, I admit, it was difficult to find balance. A few months in, we held a powwow to tinker with our schedule. I learned to write fiction and to focus simultaneously on classical education, ancient history, and science papers.

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Looking back at those four years of balancing the high school education of my daughter with the drafting of five novels, I remember the haze induced by pounding out a scene on my laptop, cross-legged on the floor in a loud ballet studio. Pausing, I’d watch each piece she danced solo or with the group, help with pointe shoe dilemmas, and regularly feel astonished by her gracefulness. I can still feel the urgency of working fast and sloppy to get it drafted before we jumped up and rushed to the next thing.

I dragged that laptop to play practices, hid in a quiet room at a friend’s lake house while the entire cast worked on a large dance number on the lawn, huddled in halls and libraries during my daughter’s science tutorage, and carried snippets of dialogue in my head as I raced her across town from one event to another.

But I cherish the memories of quiet mornings, each of us working at home, and the pauses with her in the coffee shop while we awaited the French tutor. Often the two of us enjoyed the pleasure of simply sitting and conversing.
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In my memory, the stories I drafted are bound together with the events of those days. But I did it. Could I have multiplied the same lifestyle by five while her older siblings were all at home? Absolutely not! My brain isn’t wired that way.

For our family, my decision to wait was right.

But what about you?

Only you can make this determination. It requires prayer, careful consideration, and schedule tinkering, no matter what you decide. You must find what works for you, your family, and your life situation. Don’t measure yourself by anyone else.

If you’re attempting too much, chaos, conflict, and confusion may become the norm. If so, pause to reconsider. Can you live your life in phases? Can you write fiction later? For now, can you simply journal or blog?

Conversely, if you find yourself with big blocks of time that leave you frustrated and longing to write fiction, can you include fiction writing? Can you limit your “fiction brain” to those assigned hours? Can you maintain balance?

Put this before the Lord. He always knows best.

Then boldly follow wherever God directs. He will guide you.
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