#AmWriting: More “Extreme Adventure” Than “Holy Grail”

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Photo by ezhikoff, via Flickr

When I first started writing, I had this vision of how it would be. In my mind’s eye, the whole concept was shrouded in a beatific glow. It wasn’t that I expected to spend all my writing time wrapped in that glow—it was just that the idea itself took on the attributes of a holy grail.

I still see it that way, but I often have to laugh at how very not beatific the process itself is.

Exhibit A: My very first conversation with Liguorian magazine, about the column that would be “Just Live It,” took place in my room, with two children in the bathtub next door, flinging water onto the tile floor while I was distracted. So much water that it took two bath towels to sop it up. (That ended up in the column, by the way.)

Writers often ask each other, “What kind of music do you listen to while you write?” Those who know me primarily as a musician might be surprised to know that I can’t listen to anything at all. My ear is trained toward music and if music plays, it takes over all my attention. Think of it this way: when you’re a mother (I specify “mother” because in my experience this phenomenon does not apply to fathers), no matter how deeply immersed in something else you are, the instant one of your children’s voices tickles your eardrums, you completely lose the train of thought. You could be talking to the President of the United States or Pope Francis himself about the one thing only you can do to save the universe, but if your child said, “Mommy, my cereal is like two doors,” you would hear only your child. Am I right?

I have that problem while writing, too. (This very moment, in fact. Michael is asking me about the shapes in his Lucky Charms. Generic, of course. And then asking where his magic wand is. And then running laps while very nearly crashing into walls at both ends of the house.)

This is why I don’t

(MOM YOU HAVEN’T HAD BREAKFAST YET YOU HAVE BROWN ON YOUR CHIN CAN WE SHARE THIS NAPKIN?)

often exercise at 5:30 a.m. anymore. I need every moment of “no kids around” time to focus on work.

Exhibit B: what was going on while I was preparing novel query letters:

balloon war

Which is probably how this happened:

balloon

…oh and also, at the same time, this:

pasta

I had to pause to kiss a little boy’s dirty stubbed toe, too.

I had a Very Important Phone Call on Monday while I was preparing after-school snacks. And another one on Tuesday in the van while driving to piano lessons. And despite being prepared with the words, “When this call comes, I have to take it,” the kids continued to interrupt me to ask why the sky was blue and why traffic lights are red, all the way there.

In the summertime, I keep earplugs in the drawer of my computer desk. Which sometimes makes it possible to work despite the boys playing Batman or Avengers ten feet away.

Michael Lucky CharmsFor years, I did half my writing one-handed because the other hand was occupied helping a baby to breastfeed. Now I do it one-handed because someone wants to snuggle, and there’s no way I’m giving up a snuggle. Even for the Holy Grail of Writing.
So

(WHAT’S THIS IN MY FINGER MOM?)

when I think of writing now, the concept is still surrounded by passion and reverence, but I’m always painfully (beautifully painfully, but painfully nonetheless) aware of the gap between that

(OH MOMMY, WE NEED TO RECYCLE THIS! CAN I CAN I CAN I, READ THE LITTLE MERMAID BOOK?)

vision and the messy reality.

And now you can more fully appreciate what goes into the finished product you read or sing on Sunday mornings!

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2 thoughts on “#AmWriting: More “Extreme Adventure” Than “Holy Grail”

  1. Well done, Mama. I never thought of myself as a multi-tasker until I became a mom. Not that I’m any good at it–I also would never be able to listen to music and write– but I definitely relate to those one-handed months (going on years!)

  2. Andrea

    Ah, so true of all things that mix parenthood with anything else. Teacher grading or planning (a comment on a composition that got handed back without a completion to the thought… My standard response is “Sorry. One of the girls must have needed something at that exact moment [and when I say back down to finish, I moved on the the next thought]. I don’t know how people work from home!!!

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