HelenKay’s post from yesterday hit home for me. 2012 has already, a little more than three months in, been a tough one for me. Sicknesses, inconsistent childcare, and a variety of home/life issues have conspired to make it nearly impossible for me to work on anything like a regular schedule. According to the schedule I laid out for myself at the beginning of the year, by this time I was supposed to have written two short stories, be finishing up the final round of edits for my latest manuscript (which I was supposed to have finished in January) and be well on my way with a new one. Instead, I’ve written two short stories and am in the middle of rewrites for my manuscript, which didn’t get finished until March.
This also happened in 2010. I was pregnant, and very sick, and unable to finish my manuscript. Thus the book that was originally scheduled for a 2011 fall release is going to be out this June. I established my writing habits at a much different time in my life, when I was single and childless, and could easily put all other aspects of my life on hold while I hunkered down over my keyboard. HelenKay’s depiction of unwashed hair and sweats is an accurate one for a writer on deadline, but it’s one that applies to this harried mother of a toddler on a normal day right now. I can’t ignore her for days (or even minutes) on end while I try to work. And it’s not just a matter of feeding/dressing/changing/rocking/reading books, either. There’s an emotional energy component. I know a writer with kids who used to argue “I’m not a faucet. I can’t just turn on and off.” Just because I have fifteen minutes to myself doesn’t mean I’ll be able to concentrate for that time.
Or does it? I used to swear by the power of what I could get done in fifteen minutes. Back when I had a day job, it would be “write on the subway, write during lunch hour, write on the subway, write while dinner was in the oven…” I wrote six books that way, fifteen stolen minutes at a time. Am I just getting older, or is it something else?
During times like these, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the latter. Even back in the day, when I wasn’t writing, I didn’t have a lot of other concerns. My brain space was still very much in the world of my book. But now, even as I type this blog entry, I’m thinking about whether I need to go grocery shopping or if my daughter is still too young for an Easter basket. This morning, I spent twenty minutes trying to arrange childcare for next Tuesday. While driving to and from daycare, instead of thinking about my book, I was singing songs and trying to distract my daughter from the apparently all-important fact that she’d dropped her hairband in between the car seats.
Clearly, I’m losing “mental” time that I didn’t used to account for during my “fifteen minutes.” I know, I know, welcome to motherhood. I also know life will get easier as my daughter gets a bit older and can deal with her own darn hairbands. But this is my job — I can’t put it on hold. If anyone has some tips for how to get my head in the game, even while reading “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” for the thirteenth time that day, I’m all ears.