I am a writer who has not written much lately.
Oh, the justifications are innumerable, of course, as they often are for many women writers, and fair enough. Life is hard. Work and family life get crazy-busy, and it is not difficult to lose sight of yourself when you have so many different roles to fulfill, often in the same day, sometimes within the same hour: wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, colleague, coach, student, teacher, doctor, chef, maid, chauffeur, entertainer, role model, warrior, and so on. Phew! (If you think it was exhausting to read that list, bear in mind it is, by no great stretch of the imagination, incomplete.)
Please don’t get me wrong, of course I absolutely adore my darling chaotic life, and most days, I would not change one single thing about it. Truly, I know how blessed I am. Still, I tend to get overwhelmed when my To-Do-List does not naturally evolve into a To-Done-List. Like the monster under my childhood bed, it just keeps growing, morphing, multiplying and expanding, reaching out its dark tentacles toward tomorrow. My work is never done, responsibility never ends, and if I want some time to write, I have to steal it from somewhere—or someone—else, because there never seems to be enough of it, or me, to go around. Not by a long shot.
A typical day begins at ridiculous o’clock, with little girl toes digging into the small of my back, or lispy whispers in my ear. After waking the boys up to get dressed and eat breakfast, I rush to pack lunches for all four kids, scramble around frantically to find missing headbands, socks, shirts, shoes or what-have-you, tug a brush through the tangled mess of my daughter’s syrup-sticky golden locks, and throw on a pair of something that looks like my pants (only to discover—more often than not these days—they are, in fact, my eldest son’s).
At that point, I usually begin to shout, loudly and repeatedly, “Let’s go! Let’s go, we’re gonna be late!” I have been awake for approximately 43 minutes. God help us all.
By the time I get back home from drop-off, I am usually ready for a nap. But naps are not taken at 8:17am, so instead, I warrior on through the rest of my morning. Maybe send a text to my husband to give him an update. Go online to check my email, Facebook, blog, and Twitter accounts. In no time at all, I realize I have somehow managed to get lost in cyberspace for over an hour, despite the fact that I have insane amounts of schoolwork to do, so I close my laptop. Often, the phone rings right then; it is a girlfriend I have not spoken to in a while, or a stubborn bill collector.
Either way, I get distracted again. Guilt sets in.
I set to work, furiously, for about 13 minutes, until I have to get up and check on the dogs play-fighting in the middle of my living room. Don’t they know the House Rules clearly state that roughhousing inside is considered unacceptable behaviour, and will not be tolerated? I sternly remind them, and head back to the office. Sit down. Read a paragraph, twice over, and then remember: every towel in the house is dirty. Oh, shit! Once the clothes have all been gathered, sorted, and the wash cycle has begun, I am ready to work in earnest. After a snack, of course, and the dogs still need to get out…
A few short hours later, if I am really lucky, a decent dent will have been made in my course work or research. Eventually, I recall something about finishing the laundry. But it is 2:09pm by then and, as pretty much everyone knows, 2:09pm is the best possible time for an afternoon nap. So I do that instead.
After the kids are back home and dinner is done, dogs and cats are fed, dishes are washed, dried, and put away, counters are wiped, toys are tidied, family time has come and gone, and everybody who needs a bath or shower has had a shower or bath, it is time to put on p.j.’s, read stories, sing songs, and tuck the kids into bed. Don’t even ask about the days when I have to clean the bathroom or sweep and mop the floors.
When it is over, I am depleted and spent, hardly more than a shell of the person I was when I first woke up. I cannot even think, let alone, actually form complete sentences. All I want is a steaming hot bath, some crappy t.v. or a good book on the couch, followed by a bowl of ice-cream. Honestly, I may be a lot of things, but if I did not have Rocky Road, I truly do not know who I would be.
For these, and many more reasons, it can be challenging to find the right conditions in which to write. Not for school, or for some other business matter, but simply for me. I write essays, midterm papers and final exams, plenty of research for my first book, Facebook statuses and posts, Twitter tweets, short emails drafted in haste. I have eight started (and abandoned) blog posts waiting for attention in a disorganized file folder among half a dozen or more unfinished poems. I have to remind myself fairly often these days that I cannot possibly do it all, or if I can, maybe just not all at once. Step by step, we can make it all the way home, as the saying goes.
A huge part of writing is living in full colour.
A storyteller cannot tell worthwhile stories if she does not have any of her own. Also, as a dear writer friend wisely pointed out to me recently, “All writers have fallow periods,” a vital and necessary time of cultivation and preparation. Perhaps, I am only now discovering something many other writers know: sometimes being a writer involves not writing much at all. Possibly, I have also been too hard on myself, another occupational hazard, because after all that, looky-looky what we have here: a completed blog post! In the end, maybe the most important thing to do is whatever feels right, just write.
*This post first appeared on Living the Dream blog*