Monday, April 20, 2015

How To Find Time for Hobbies as a SAHM

I'm not an expert at this in any shape or form. This is all just my own little opinion and tips I've discovered, that when I actually DO them, have worked to open up some free time for hobbies while being a stay-at-home Mom. For those who may be looking to find some free time to do the same, I hope that this can give you some ideas. So here's some tips that have helped me personally, to have time for things like writing, music, and exercise:

1. First, make a to-do list every night for the following day. For me, lists are ESSENTIAL. I have a hard time remembering what it is I'm supposed to be doing in the 5 or 10 minutes the boys are busy building blocks together. When those moments of free time suddenly appear, I can take a look at my list and be like, "Oh ya! I got to make that Dr's appointment!" It's nice to write a list the night before too, because once the kids are awake and going in the morning, I may not have a chance to think straight enough to even make a list for the day.

2. Next, decide which of the things on your list can be done with kids present. Try to get as many things done while the kids are awake as possible.
 Here's some activities I find possible with kids:
*Laundry. I just fold all the clothes on top of the bed so the kids can't get to it, and I block the nightstand with a pack n play so they can't crawl on the bed and throw the laundry everywhere. The kids love handing the clothes up to me, so it's a win/win.
*Exercise... well, depending on what you're trying to do. Just work with what's possible. You can do a quick set of push-ups. If they jump on your back while you are trying to do them, just think, you are going to be even stronger than you were planning :) You can also pick the kiddos up as you would weights and lift them up and down. They are sure to giggle a lot, especially if you blow on their tummy every time they come up, another win/win! Squats, dips using your couch, sit-ups, jumping jacks, pull-ups on a pull-up bar, definitely running outside in a jogging stroller (for me, a jogging stroller is essential)...lots of things are possible. And if all else fails, you can turn on music and dance, because that's definitely exercise and they're definitely going to love it.  Or you can just get a gym membership with childcare, which may be the best option of all.

*Small cleaning projects or tasks around the house. These include getting dinner in the oven, wiping down the kitchen counters, sweeping, dishes, and other quick/simple to-do's.  It may be trickier, but the more you can realistically do while they're awake, the more free time you'll have during naps and when they go to bed, which brings me to the next thing that's helped me have more time for hobbies...

3. Scheduled naps and bedtimes. I am totally a pro-scheduled naps and bedtimes Mom. Before we had our twins, I read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins" by Marc Weissbluth or "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby" for the singleton baby Moms. It was the best book I ever could have read to prepare for Motherhood. Our boys get at least one good nap together every day and go to bed really early...6:30pm. Now to some that may seem TOO early, but I'm telling you, it's wonderful. So during those naps and after bedtime, I try to quickly finish up any of the necessary to-do's I couldn't complete while the babes were awake, and time!

4. Another thing I think that helps to find time is organizing craft/writing nights with other women. It gives you a specific time to work on your project and you can't make excuses not to, because other people will be there. I recently joined a little writing group where we share our writing projects and discuss our goals. It has motivated me so much to work on my books and find time to write!

5. Go shopping on Saturday without the kids or as a whole family. If I don't have to go to the store during the week, then I have more free time, plus it's WAY easier than taking the boys by myself.

6. One huge factor that has given me so much more time in the day is cutting out TV. I pretty much stopped watching it almost a year ago and I've had SO much more free time since. It's amazing how much time we waste when there is a television show in the background to distract us. Of course the internet is the mother of all distractions. I have made so many attempts to limit my internet time. When I'm successful at it, my "free time" increases immensely. If you just take those 5 minutes when the kids are busily playing to sweep the floors or unload the dishwasher, instead of browsing facebook, then remember, that's one less thing you have to do later, and you'll have more time to work on being creative.

Now if you're like me, your creative hobbies can start to compete for your attention when you should be putting your priorities elsewhere. Although it' good to find time to work on hobbies, I believe it's also important to limit them. It's a delicate balancing act. I know that God wants me develop myself and my talents, but I also know that Motherhood is my number one priority. And I definitely know that I shouldn't be revolving everything else around my hobby time. There are days that I would really love to work on an idea I have, but I have to realize that if too many things are going on, it will just have to wait. There's that lesson in patience again. You may have a project that you could easily get done in like 4 hours, if only you just had 4 hours straight in peace. But as a SAHM.. you possibly never will. Well, maybe at night, but even then, there's a million other more important things to just remember to be patient. Do what's most important in your life first. It may take awhile to get your creative projects done, but keep working on it little by little, when you can. 

 In summary, I do believe the time for being creative is there, even if it's just a few hours every week. I hope I've given you a few ideas that might help you discover that time in your life, so you can start creating something wonderful! :) 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Publishing and Lessons Learned

As you know by now, my whole life I have dreamt about publishing a children's book. From a young age, I've written dozens of stories. I've even illustrated many of them. I always wanted to do something with my writings, but I didn't know the first thing about publishing or how to even begin the process, so I just kept piling the stories in boxes, and kept on dreaming.

Around 2010, I wrote a silly little story about a boy named Mitchie who hated wearing socks and shoes because it made his feet so awfully itchy!! 4 years later, I was determined to do something with it. I began illustrating. Now, I would not call myself a "talented artist". I've always loved to draw and produce "art", but I've never taken professional classes or made it my primary study. But my mind was made up and I was pretty determined.

I drew all the illustrations in photopshop using a bamboo sketch pad. It took FOREVER, and I was proud of the result, but quite frankly, it was very amateur, and definitely not the best illustrations I could do with my set of abilities. And that's one of those "ah ha" lessons I learned and want to share with you:  The key to creating the best project possible is discovering your own strengths and using them to your advantage, or rather, working with what you've got.

What's the flip side of that? What's a bad idea? This: Trying to create "your best" product by doing things you're not good at. If there's something you want to be good at and aren't, maybe take a class and do some research first. OR, do what you want simply for the fun of it, knowing that it won't be your best, because that's ALWAYS Ok! 

So anyway... I found that I could produce much better illustrations using a stronger skill set that I have: Cutting Paper. Sounds pretty weird, but it is one thing I can do, so I worked with it.

Long story short, about a year later, I finished my new illustrations. Yes, it took an entire year and a LOT of patience. But another lesson learned: Be patient. Wait until you can really create your "masterpiece", don't let yourself get lazy or sloppy in whatever you are doing, just to finish the project already.  I'm SO glad I didn't get impatient and settle for something less than I knew I could do, just to get my "dream" checked off the to-do list.

In the past 2 years, I've had many people read my manuscript, and give me their feedback. I edited the story A LOT. I cut it down from 2,000 words to about 1,000 (the general recommended length for picture books - I say 'general' because children's book length is debatable depending on who you talk to.) That also took a lot of patience, and here's the lessons I learned: Have people you trust read your book. Be humble, open-minded, and take all suggestions into account. HOWEVER, don't rush to make all the changes they suggest. If you have enough people reading your stuff, you'll find that some of the things one person loves about it, another person hates. If you love what you wrote and around half of the people who read it love it, I say keep it! (and if you're the ONLY one who likes it, well, maybe you should change it).

So my little book was finally done. I I hired a graphic designer for 400 bucks to enhance the image color, provide small edits, and format the book for submission. I then submitted my book to createspace using their FREE service. I ordered a proof copy to look it over and make sure I was 100% satisfied, and then I was ready to officially publish!

Now, I did submit my book to about 10 publishing agents before self-publishing. There were a lot of helpful websites online for this about writing query letters and how to format them. (I felt so proud when I saw my first rejection letter, I almost shed a tear, "look at that! I'm a real aspiring author!") .. I plan to  continue querying agents and am anxiously waiting to hear back from Harper-Collins that they LOVE my book and just can't wait to sign a contract with me... But in the meantime :) ... my book is published on Amazon. Yay for self publishing!

It's been a long journey, but my first experience with publishing  has taught me so much. I learned a lot about editing my manuscript, the technical parts of uploading and scanning images, formatting, and working with a graphic designer. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that patience and perseverance are KEY. Don't give up if you have to start over, or edit again, or change your story yet another time so it makes more sense. Keep going, keep working on it day by day, little at a time. Tell yourself you are going to devote 1 hour a day to your project. Or even 3 hours a week. Whatever you can do. I promise if you do that, you'll be surprised how fast you can finish it! Stop procrastinating. Whatever it is you want to do, give yourself a time limit of when you will complete it. Remember, you CAN do it!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

We are Meant to Create!

So, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA "Mormon". And my church comes out with these wonderful inspiring videos on a variety of topics. (Has anyone seen the Mother's Day Tribute one? It makes me cry ever. single. time.) Anyway, I feel like this particular message is perfect for what I want to share on this blog! It's about creating - being creative! It tells us how we are creative beings and how as we create whatever it is we can, it will lift us up and give us joy! I can 100% attest to that. Creating makes me so happy. And I know it will make you happy too!

What is it that you like or want to create? Writings, music, meals, clothing, wreathes, letters, furniture, cakes with fondant, cards, blankets, laughs, hats, flower clippies for babies, adventures??? The possibilities are endless. And if you don't think you can create anything, think again! And make sure you watch this awesome video:

I believe you can learn to do anything you want to! And you have to start somewhere...