I take great delight in reading my previous post from September — seven months ago — and seeing how excited I was to write. To write! Excited and determined! I’ve written almost nothing since.
I did take another whack at my novel-in-progress, the one I’ve been working on since 2014 and have already revised twice, but I discovered something about myself: I am very unmotivated to revise a novel for a third time under my current circumstances. My current circumstances being 1) I am now fully embroiled in the Time Warp that is mom life, in which the ruling equation of the universe is not E = mc 2 but E < TA (or Energy is less than Time Allotted) and 2) Well I actually forgot what #2 was in the process of writing Circumstance #1. I’m sure it was equally important, and may have had something to do with my essentially not desiring to write when faced with the many other much more enjoyable things in my life, e.g. eating tuna on toast with my baby while she laughs in her high chair and the many much less enjoyable but must-be-dealt-with things in my life, e.g. cleaning up Aforementioned Tuna.
(Shameful admittance and side note: I’ve never really been sure of the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.”)
As I write this, floors are going unswept and dishes undone. My old standards of housekeeping, which I had clung to as lately as September, were: does it sparkle? is it fragrant/redolent of Method cleanser/can I see myself in it? Seven months on, my new standards are: does it reek/is it rotting/is it dangerous/does it pose an immediate health hazard? I am amazed at the change in myself, at my newfound ability to watch TV with tiny sticky handprints on the screen (and finding the handprints adorable), at my ability to walk right by visible dust bunnies in my front hallway, to sleep in a bed alongside tiny crumbs of unknown provenance. (Pro tip? Flip flops. Wear them around the house so you’ll never notice or care how grubby your floors are. You’re welcome.)
And yet there is still so much to be done, so much that writing invariably gets shunted into the background again and again. On any given day, instead of writing I will likely be found engaging in one of the following:
- Laundry/laundry/laundry/more laundry x infinity
- Grocery shopping/running errands/etc.
- Cooking/picking up the house again and again and again….
- Feeding the baby/changing the baby
- Washing dishes/cleaning the high chair/wiping the floor around the high chair
- Walking the baby/taking her on outings/to playgroup/swimming lessons, etc.
- Napping with the baby (the world needs my novel less badly than I need sleep)
- Reading (a must for any writer, no? if you’re writing and not reading, I don’t want to read what you’re writing)*
- Stretching/exercise/self-care/personal grooming, showering, etc. (yes, I now have to budget time for this)
- Spending a precious 2 or so hours an evening with my lovely and adorable spouse (2 hours which mostly consist of bathing the baby, putting her to bed, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, eating dinner, cleaning again, looking at the 10,000 photos of the baby that I took that day, reading for 15 minutes, collapsing into bed)
- And, oh yeah, working on my business, a.k.a. that little thing that makes the money
And then there was that five hours I spent last Saturday in traffic school. Yes, I am learning to drive! Stay of the roads, New Yorkers!
Given that list of 11 Other Things I Do In A Day, you can see that the phrase, “I have no time to write” is a legitimate truth and not, say, laziness. I find myself nearly constantly asking other parents who write (or otherwise do Creative Things For A Living) how they manage their time. Note I am saying parents here, not moms. Dads I have spoken to also admit that it’s hard. That’s the number one thing you’ll hear from moms and dads: IT’S HARD.
In fairness to my child free friends, I understand it is also hard for you to make a living, especially in an expensive urban area where you likely live, while also writing/doing creative things. I recently noted that an email I received from a woman who is an incredibly hardworking person and a successful writer was time-stamped 4:30a.m. It’s hard for everyone. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard.
HARD. It’s a good word, isn’t it? No-nonsense, onomatopoeic. Makes me think of drudgery and NOT engorged penises, which is just where I am in my life right now.
So, anyway, I tried to re-work the draft of this novel for the nth time and I really found myself not wanting to do it. I couldn’t figure out why. Partly it was because I was in a very different head-space than I was when I started it, partly it was because, without an editor/agent/deadline, there was very little external motivation, partly for the previously mentioned reasons about being too busy/happy to want to, and partly because I found that I was shockingly blocked. I would stay up to 3am re-writing the first chapter again and again, and simply making it worse and worse.
Perhaps, after a relatively long writing hiatus during which my entire life, body, mind, and everything completely changed, I was so out of practice and so fundamentally different that I needed to ease back into writing this particular thing in a new way. Or possibly put this particular thing on the back burner for a while while I re-calibrated absolutely everything, while I learned how to write again after the writing muscle had atrophied for so long. Maybe I needed to work on a new project, or turn this novel into a more manageable novella or novellette (I do feel like I’m straining a bit to make a fairly slender ghost story meet novel-length word count, though at the same time feel like I could flesh it out more).
Or maybe it’s just science.
Anyone who has studied the concept of “Flow” knows that the first hour is just warm up and that the real creative work can’t get, well, flowing, until hour 2 or 3. And when you’ve got a wee bairn who needs you 24/7, you don’t have 2-3 hours. You’re lucky to get one. I got one this morning, and I’m happy that I managed to write this blog post. Now, just as the coffee is kicking in and I’m feeling warmed up, I have to stop and go get lunch started.
So maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe right now, at this stage in my life, what I need to do is document said life in little blog posts like this one. Because my other regret, in addition to not writing my novel, is that I didn’t really write down all the cute and funny things baby Alice did in the past year. Perhaps there is an elegant solution to both these problems.
I realize that some of you may be thinking, “Hey, lady, there’s this great thing called day care? a babysitter? ever heard of it?” Yes! Yes dear reader I have! Let me tell you what happened when I tried to put my baby in the care of another human being who was not me, in the exciting continuation to this post. Sneak preview: it did not go well. Stay tuned!
Now: turkey burgers, butternut squash soup, spinach, finish laundry, medication, baby story hour at the library, swings. That’s just my internal monologue for y’all, in case you were wondering what goes through my head most days.
Until next time.
*Books I’ve read in the last three months/am reading: Lincoln in the Bardo, Wilderness Tips, Killers of the Flower Moon. All amazing. I’m on an excellent reading streak right now.