Day: September 20, 2012

An Illustration of the Difficulties of Writing while Parenting

I had 30 minutes before I needed to pick up Kiki from school. Then I had 50 minutes between returning home from that trip and picking up Gleek and Patch. Link would arrive home by himself about half way through the 50 minute period. In theory, I had a good hour of time for writing, so I grabbed Calcifer and headed out back, away from the internet, to begin typing.

15 minutes later Howard came looking for me because he wondered where I was and to check that I had a clock to keep track of departure time for picking up Kiki. I did. Calcifer, being a laptop, is clock equipped. The conversation with Howard touched on a couple of other topics and together we used up 10 minutes. I wrote for 5 more and then closed Calcifer to depart for Kiki’s school.

Kiki and I talked in the car on the way home. I like being the one to pick up my kids from school. It gives me a chance to hear snippets of their day and to assess their mood so that I know how the afternoon is likely to go. Kiki was tired, but chatty.

We arrived home and I had about 50 minutes before the second pick up run. I grabbed Calcifer and headed back outside. The weather was too lovely for being indoors. Kiki followed me, mostly to find our kitty, but also because her thoughts weren’t done unspooling after the school day. She sat next to me and kept talking. I like talking to Kiki. She is clever and funny. We laugh a lot so long as we’re not in a contentious conversation, which this one wasn’t. We laughed together for about 20 minutes before she wandered inside to take a nap.

I had 30 minutes left for writing, with one likely interruption when Link came home. I began typing.

Kiki came back out of the house with the phone. Link had called from his school to tell me that he was staying late and would need a ride home as soon as he finished something up. It would probably be another 10 minutes or so. I stayed inside to be near the phone and settled to begin typing. 25 minutes left.

No sooner had I settled myself and woken Calcifer from sleep when the phone rang again. Link was done because the computer network at school was down. Could I come get him?

I drove to retrieve Link, a 15 minute round trip. We walked in together and spent 5 minutes finishing off our conversation and settling him in for the afternoon. I had 5 minutes before I was due to leave.

I typed, just barely hitting the post button on the blog post I’d written before heading out the door about 3 minutes late to pick up Gleek and Patch.

Total elapsed time: 95 minutes
Time spent driving: 30 minutes
Time spent talking (while not also driving): 40 minutes
Time spent writing: 25 minutes in five pieces.

The blog post I wrote was the one that precedes this one. I wonder if it would have been a better post if I’d been able to focus on it uninterrupted. I’ll never know, but I do know that I wrote today. I also do not begrudge a single minute of those interruptive conversations. They were each important for different reasons.

Preparing to Unfold

Next Monday I’ll board a plane to attend a week-long writer’s retreat. This week has been one of preparation. I’m working to help Patch finish his book report early so that Howard is not stuck with a last minute homework scramble. We’re practicing with Gleek and Patch so that they know how to do bedtime on their own. We’re helping Link and Kiki meet deadlines ahead of time. I’m doing laundry, cleaning house, and stocking the larder. At the same time I’m letting some of these tasks be incomplete, because one of the points of this trip is for me to learn that Howard and the kids do not always require my help, and for them to learn how to step up and help themselves. This learning is necessary since I do things for my family without even thinking about it. I am always performing small invisible tasks which make life go more smoothly, even when I should let the kids struggle with doing these things for themselves. I’m working on it, but truly the only way to convince myself that disaster will not result if I stop doing is for me to step away completely and see that disaster does not occur.

The other reason for the trip is writing. I am quite curious to see what happens when I fold away all the parent thoughts, house care thoughts, and business thoughts simultaneously. What will emerge in the space thus created? I’m hopeful that it will be lovely words and stories. I realized today that I’ve been feeling the same reluctance about writing fiction that I do when contemplating starting a new book or TV show. I know that the story is going to take up residence in my brain and use space until it is complete. I have so many ongoing projects that it is hard to want to sign up for another one. Yet I’m going to. During this retreat I’m going to unfold four writing projects which have been waiting for me.

1. The Strength of Wild Horses. This is the follow up picture book to Hold on to Your Horses. I’m going to attempt to focus on this one first because I want to emerge from the retreat with a completed text.

2. My middle grade fantasy book about a video game playing Tomte (think house elf or brownie) who befriends a young boy. I’ve got the first bit of the book written, but it needs to be restructured and expanded.

3. A magical realism book for which I only have fragments and pieces. I know where it is set, I have a couple of characters with attached emotional issues. The book wants to have themes of dealing with mental illnesses and the fairy tale Tam Lin will be referenced in relation to those. This one feels important, but I really need to collect more pieces before true drafting can begin.

4. Somewhere Before the Blinding Light. This is a short story/novelette/novella which I’ve already drafted once, but needs significant revision. I want to set it on a colony world which was primarily settled by people from India. This means that I need to do some research into Indian history and culture in order to get the social structures right. The story deals with themes of memory and choice because there is a technology which allows selective memory erasure.

Those are the projects I intend to work on. It is entirely possible that some other project will materialize and demand attention instead. This is the danger of turning over so much brain space to my writer self. I am certain that I will also end up with ideas for essays and blog entries, some of which will be completed and posted as the week progresses. Next week is definitely going to be interesting.