[Editor’s note: When I read the post below at Kate’s blog yesterday, I knew it belonged here too. Kate graciously agreed to cross-post at Creative Construction, and she’s going to post here next week to update us on her new writing routine. Brava, Kate! And if you haven’t met Kate yet, it’s never too late for Breakfast.]
I’ve been in such a funk this summer, which is unlike me because I love summer. I love the green and the heat (within reason) and the long days. But the days have been so very long with the two girls, and I’m always scrambling to squeeze in one more thing. I have been taking Zoë with me to work for a couple of months now, and frankly, it doesn’t work. She usually falls asleep in the car on the way there, but she wakes up after about ½ hour, and then I nurse her and put her on the floor next to my desk or hold her as I type. I share the office, which is slightly larger than a broom closet, with two other people, and while they are gracious about my crying and fussy baby, I know that they must want to wring my neck or Zoë’s neck or both of our necks. So, after another ½ hour, I pack up my things and the baby and head home. Zoë sometimes falls asleep again on the way home, only to wake up as I pull up in front of our house. By the time I nurse her again and bounce her and get her ready to fall asleep for real (whatever that means), it’s time to go pick up Stella from whatever camp I’ve enrolled her in for the week. Sometimes Zoë falls asleep for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, during which I work a little and play with Stella. Later, we have dinner, Stella showers (she has declared herself too old for baths) and we read books before bed. All of these things are accompanied by Zoë’s fussing and crying and Stella’s late-afternoon whining. (Sometimes Zoë cries so much while I’m reading to Stella that I just put her in her crib in the other room and let her wail as we make our way through the three books of the night.) When I finally get them both to sleep (about 8:30), I pour myself a glass of wine and sit on the porch and stare out at the street, semi-comatose. This is when D usually gets home. We talk for a bit and often watch an episode of The Wire, which is fabulous and heartbreaking. Then I go to bed, wake up three times to nurse Zoë, then begin the day all over again.
Things will be easier in a couple of weeks because D won’t have to coach in the evenings anymore, so he’ll be home to help with dinner and kids and bedtime. Also, I’ll be done with my job in two weeks, and that will be a relief.
But the thing I can do in order to de-funk myself is to carve out serious writing time, and I’m determined to do this. D has agreed to go into work a little late so that I can write everyday from 7-9 a.m. It’s the only way I will make progress on the essay I’ve begun. I also need to dive back into my book because I finally figured out what it is really about. If I were one of my students, I would have pressured myself into this discovery about, um, a year ago, when I finished the damn thing. In workshops I always ask them to identify for the author what the piece is really about. But I failed to heed my own advice, failed to answer my own questions. (I hate when I do this.)
But this morning while I was changing Zoë’s diaper (after waking many nights feeling despondent about my “this is no market for this” book), I realized that the book is really about learning to live with uncertainty. Having a preemie is the situation, of course, but the real story is about uncertainty, control, and having faith that I will be able to handle the unexpected. (If you haven’t read Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story, you should—she’s the one who makes the distinction between a memoir’s situation and its real story.) Knowing what the book is about won’t change the perception of my book as a preemie book, of course, but it will make the book better, and this makes me feel hopeful again.
The other thing that makes me feel hopeful is that D will be back tonight (he’s been gone all weekend), and tomorrow I’ll start my morning writing. It will help snap me out of my funk. I’m sure of that.