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Kate: De-funking

[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.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I get in funks, too, and you’re right, getting back to your writing will probably help, though sometimes it’s hard to start again, isn’t it? I find that my funks are usually wrapped in procrastination. I’m the world’s worst procrastinator and I tend to use the fact that I work best under pressure as an excuse. So far, though I can have some pretty stressful days, that’s working!

    I can also relate to living life with a preemie. Two actually! I, too, had a severe case of preelampsia called HELLP syndrome, which brought about the early delivery of my girls by emergency c-section. They were born at 33 weeks. All I can say is the NICU nurses are God’s special angels. But thankfully, now five years later, S & O show no ill effects of their early arrival. Best of luck to you in writing your book. I look forward to hearing more about it!

    August 20, 2008
  2. Cathy #

    i love that you didn’t follow your own advice to your students, that you sit in a stupor waiting for hubby to get home, that work is trying to allow you to bring the baby with you, but how realistic is that? and how realistic is it to even do the home-house stuff without the baby on you 24/7? i also love that the book is about living with uncertainty. because, really, what is certain? not a whole lot.

    i am right there with you. minus the funk because i have been forcing myself to be creative and to view everything through a creative lens. it’s still not really working for the laundry or the box of papers i need to organize, but i’m hopeful i may get there one day.

    good luck, and appreciate the supportive dh!

    August 20, 2008
  3. Thanks, Kelly and Cathy. (And always, of course, to Miranda.) Kelly, I’m so glad your girls are doing well and going off to kindergarten!

    Cathy, it would be difficult for me to view laundry through a creative lens, as well. Is that even possible?

    August 20, 2008
  4. Cathy #


    August 21, 2008
  5. I know you guys are going to tell me I’m crazy, but I honestly believe that even laundry can feel creative. No, it’s not the same as working on your novel, but the physical routine of laundry gives me a chance to reflect while making tidy little folded piles. With laundry I am often able to tune in to the beauty of the everyday, and enjoy the satisfaction of putting things where they belong. Maybe it’s too big a stretch for most, but for me I connect that quiet space to my creativity. (Internally quiet, of course, as I may be folding in the midst of chaos.) Maybe part of it is that the whole laundry cycle, from gathering and sorting to washing, then advancing to the dryer, then folding — can’t really be rushed. It is what it is. Even the folding is pretty hard to rush — you can only go so fast. I like having to slow down a little bit. And oddly, I usually drift off in thought about the person who’s laundry I’m folding, which is usually a motherly reflection of sorts. (Are you calling for the men in white coats yet?)

    August 21, 2008
  6. Cathy #

    no white coats, your description is very ‘chop wood, carry water’ – something i try for, and whenever i get to the ironing (read never), i do feel that way. it’s very meditative once i’m in the midst of it. my mother figured that out about me and the ironboard when i was about 6 years old. guess who did the ironing in that house! except dad’s, i could never get the military creases right, so he did his own shirts.

    but folding and putting away? i’ve caught merely glimpses of the buddhist way. hmmm, enlightenment attained in laundry……

    August 21, 2008

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