Activity Time: Make the Best of It

Ah, we all have them, those rushed weeknights full of Cub Scout meetings, music lessons, sporting practices, and church activities. We rush, rush, rush to get there, then wait while our beautiful children do their thing. Often twiddling our thumbs when, as writers, we could be accomplishing a whole lot in the span of an hour.

Game Time!

Now I might as well admit up front that I was never one of those women glued to the viewing window when my daughter took gymnastics. I’d glance out once in a while during class to see what they were up to, but otherwise I had better things to do than critique her every tumble and roll. That’s what the teacher is there for. I know that sounds judgmental of me, but its totally true. I don’t need to watch every second, especially if I can sit where I can see the action just by looking up. I don’t need to spend the whole time critiquing team performance (though I may mentally be cataloguing the coach’s performance and making sure my child is safe). And I don’t need to talk ad nauseum about the season, upcoming events, other teams, etc.

I need to be writing.

You know how these types of weeknights go: get home, snack, homework, barely enough time to breathe before starting dinner, chow down quick enough to get ready and go. By the time you get home that night, you’re exhausted and creativity has disappeared beneath the tidal wave of To Dos. But my schedule doesn’t wait for me to have time, its there for me to MAKE time.

Here are some of my options for writing (or writing related activities) during these little pockets of kid activities:

1. Be Prepared

I’ve found this is easier if I’m prepared. I keep a tote bag packed with a notebook, headphones, pens…just waiting for me to drop in my iPod, plotting notes, and alphie. What’s that, you ask? When writing on the go, I find an Alpha Smart to be really helpful. This is a portable, almost indestructible word processing unit (I bought the basic Neo with no option for connecting to the internet) that saves immediately and can download directly into a Word document. Lite enough for me to carry it everywhere and it has 8 different files that I can work on. I also carry a small notebook in my purse, so if I’m caught out I can at least make notes or hand write scenes on that and transcribe it later.

Music Lessons, Anyone?

2. Actually Write

I have to start writing immediately, before I get sucked into conversations or daydream away the whole hour. I find a comfortable chair (or spot on the basketball court sidelines — I’m not above sitting on the floor) and pull out the alphie and notes. No piddling! If I’m not in the mood to dip into my story, I can easily write up a blog post, article, or notes during that time.

3. Editing Anyone?

Some people can’t write with people or noise around, and I totally understand that. But even if you can’t write, you can try editing. I have to have my (old and heavy) laptop for this, but I can get a lot of editing done in this space of time. And the screen on my laptop does even more to deter conversations than the flat alphie.

4. Antisocial Much?

For some, this approach is a little too antisocial for them. I get it. But you could still get something accomplished during “bleacher time”. Don’t start off talking — its too hard to rein that puppy in once it gets started. But give yourself 45 minutes to write, then pack up and spend the last 15 minutes connecting with the parents around you.

Even More Game Time

5. Non-writing Options

If you aren’t prepared to write, then there are a few other things you can do to make this downtime worthwhile:

-People watch: Gain some insight into people’s actions, how they move, gestures, how they talk to each other, etc., to make your characters come to life.

-Read a craft book: Keep a craft book or Kindle with you and spend some time brushing up on techniques that will deepen your skills.

How do you fit what you need to do into the “bleacher time”?

Dani

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2 thoughts on “Activity Time: Make the Best of It

  1. I once became very offended at an article a friend posted on FB that stated women who brought things to “do” during sports practices, rehearsals, etcetera, weren’t supportive and encouraging. It even went so far as to say that if you talked on your cell phone instead of focusing completely on your child and their team/performance/whatever, you were depriving your child. Needless to say, I fall into the category that believes the teacher is the one who needs to focus completely — I can do other things and allow them the freedom to guide my child in an area I know very little about. That’s supportive as well.

    I often used my laptop (I don’t own an Alpha Smart) for writing/editing time while the kids are busy. I also try to be patient if my muse won’t “kick in” during those times, so I tend to have a couple of possibilities just in case. But the thing I’ve found most helpful is the notebook. I can write a scene or just jot a list of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cohesive, but it can be a way to get in gear and accomplish some of those little things on my writing to-do list that I always put off, like brainstorming new ideas.

  2. Oh, Ella, I’ve faced the same type of condemnation. Mostly in person! Drives me crazy that other parents feel free to judge me when they know nothing about my life/time/schedule.

    If I can’t focus while “out and about” getting those little things done is really good for me. Especially blog posts or emails I need to work on. Great idea!

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