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Cathy: Stopping the analysis

The February Finish-a-thon has been a great tool for all of us to realize where we fit in setting ourselves deadlines, what project we’re working on, how far we have to go, and whether can we finish it in a certain time frame.

For me, it turned my otherwise small penchant for analysis of why I’m not writing as much as I set out to into a life’s purpose in a public forum. I spent more energy on thinking about not writing than I spent on writing my manuscript. In the meantime, and it took 21 days of this, to realize that I was actually keeping the same pace I had been keeping on the manuscript since I re-opened it last spring: exactly the same pace. The six weeks around the holidays were taken up with the holidays and everyone in the house being very ill in long phases, including me. Otherwise, I have written a small burst of between three to six pages on one day per week, while Baby C naps in the morning, since the beginning. Those naps are rare these days.

There are reasons for this, not excuses. I am incredibly sleep deprived, and can barely function on normal household stuff, let alone have a clear thought for continuity in a novel. I am now on the older baby chase besides her usual kicking keyboard cuteness. She motors everywhere and I follow. We don’t have baby gates up or cabinet locks on, etc. I am all for letting her learn her world. The rest of the world doesn’t have baby gates, why should I here, except it would make my life easier in getting basics done. I am vigilant, and how will she learn to cope on her own, if she doesn’t understand how to get around safely. She needs to learn the stairs, so we teach her, when she wants. She wants to now, so there I am, following the climber up, and keeping her from repelling to her doom. I hold her hand while she scoots down on her butt. We do this over and over, and she laughs and learns a little more each time. The dog and cat enjoy it, too. We’re having a blast.

In the meantime, the little nagging voice in the back of my head tells me I’m making excuses to go fly kites, tend the baby, and bake cookies to avoid the writing. Once, it was a huge voice in the front of my head that told me who the hell do I think I am to write? Who wants to hear what I have to say? The voice shrinks and fades into the background, because, yes I am almost done with this novel. Now it’s just the voice that still wants a voice as I gain my own. During Feb-Fin, I let it out and let it inhale deeply in order to spout through my all my public analysis of not writing. Well, it’s time to show that voice the back door. I won’t give it anymore fanfare.

I will escort it back to where it belongs, as the distant echo in the back of my head. I will get on with writing, my little bit as I can. I will tend the baby, bake cookies, and fly kites. I will enjoy my kids, my husband and dare I say, the housework. I will do so without the dread that the time I am doing something else, or better yet, nothing at all, is time not writing. If my ideas percolate away from the keyboard, so be it. They will form better in the single two to three hours I really have to hobble all those ideas together.

As for the writing itself, I have blogged before that I can’t set a schedule for it. That’s just an axe at the throat of my writing. I can set a maybe schedule, but have to be realistic that if I “set aside” three mornings a week, really only one will serve for the possibility. John Updike may have written six days a week, but that’s just not how my muse works. Mine sprints and recoups. She’s always been like that to an extent. She’s never been a marathoner. Since motherhood, it’s her modus operandi. Regardless of my whining online about not writing, I really have been pretty good about recognizing this pace and letting the writing happen in its own time, and Baby C’s.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Liz #

    Maybe you just need to relax, go easy on yourself, and wait it out for one more year, when baby C is more self-reliant and less dangerous. Last summer I was very depressed, because Romana was in that “run into the street!” “eat choking hazards off the floor!” “Try to drink the water from the gutters!” phase. It was easier with just Nadja, because I could walk around after her. But with the two of them, Nadja wanted to run off in one direction and Romana, repeatedly, in the other. It got to the point where I’d just keep them in the playroom in the basement for awhile in sheer exasperation. Then, the guilt set in.

    All I’m saying is that first mobile stage (10 months – 18 or 20 months) is really difficult. Especially if you aren’t inhibiting her mobility! (hats off to you!) So, I think you have the right attitude. Baby c is only going to let you take care of her for so long, before she says “Mom – buzz off.” And the day she says that, you will respond, “No problem! Now I can finish my novel!”

    February 24, 2009
  2. cathy #

    thanks, liz, i think that’s what my friend i mentioned earlier was trying to tell me about putting ms down for now, too. but i feel it now, know what i need to write, have the story arch nearly at the the pot of gold, and frankly, want to get it done. i’m just recognizing that my pace with sleep dep and mobile baby is about 3-6 pages a week, in a one shot.

    like miranda said, in comments yesterday, i want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk…so what if my walk is in baby steps. contrary to what it may seem in many posts and comments of mine this month, i really have been taking it pretty much as it comes. i’ve just been overanalyzing it and whining here that it’s not going as fast as i’d like.

    i do appreciate what you are saying, especially since i hear the sounds of tearing paper coming from the other room, after miss crawl away’s brief disappearance. 😉

    February 24, 2009
  3. stopping the analysis….yep. good for you, cathy. liz said what i was thinking, for all of us, in the “going easy on yourself”. i’m not sure why we have to be so hard on ourselves so much. i’m all for letting that go. i think some of the discussions have been very telling for all of our personalities here lately. talk the walk vs walk the talk…i think that has it’s place, and it also has it’s time. i agree with liz and your friend that suggested maybe to just take a step back right now….and just enjoy baby c.

    there’s very little that i can cut out to find more time right now. that’s what i’ve been realizing lately. and sure, losing two friends to heart attacks in two weeks has most definitely made me reevaluate some things. i’m up at 5:30am to get myself ready for work and feed the girls breakfast and get them ready for school. i leave the house at 7:45am to the take the girls to school, go to work, and get home at nearly 6pm. dh is out the door by 6:15am since his workday starts at 6:30am; he picks them up from school at 4pm and does homework with them. then when i get home, we have dinner, baths and reading and cuddle time. by this point it’s between 8-8:30pm. tv? don’t really watch much of that so there’s not much to cut! 🙂 by 9pm, i’m past pooped and ready for bed. so my point is that while, sure, i may want to be more creative, the time simply is not there, and i can’t force it to be there. weekends brings housework, laundry, and most important to me, family time. and then whatever creative work i can fit in if time allows or if i can find a way to do it with my girls. (and as far as letting housework and laundry go…just can’t do it….nothing stifles my creative juices quicker than a messy house and loads of laundry that need doing.)when i have shows looming, yes, that’s when i’ll stay up late and crank out some work. that’s how my world operates right now. short of winning the lottery so i can quit my day job, i just don’t see that changing any time soon.

    not sure if any of you listen to country music, but there’s a song by darius rucker currently in the top 10 or so that makes me tear up everytime i hear it. it’s called “it won’t be like this for long”:

    He didn’t have to wake up
    He’d been up all nite
    Lay’n there in bed listen’n
    To his new born baby cry
    He makes a pot of coffee
    He splashes water on his face
    His wife gives him a kiss and says
    It’s gonna be OK

    It wont be like this for long
    One day soon we’ll look back laugh’n
    At the week we brought her home
    This phase is gonna fly by
    So baby just hold on
    It won’t be like this for long

    Four years later ’bout four thirty
    She’s crawling in their bed
    And when he drops her off at preschool
    She’s clinging to his leg
    The teacher peels her off of him
    He says what can I do
    She says now dont you worry
    This will only last a week or two

    It won’t be like this for long
    One day soon you’ll drop her off
    And she won’t even know you’re gone
    This phase is gonna fly by
    If you can just hold on
    It won’t be like this for long

    One day soon she’ll be a teenager
    And at times he’ll think she hates him
    Then he’ll walk her down the aisle
    And he’ll raise her vail
    But right now she up and cry’n
    And the truth is that he don’t mind
    As he kisses her good night
    And she says her prayers

    He lays down there beside her
    ‘Till her eyes are finally closed
    And just watch’n her it breaks his heart
    ‘Cause he already knows
    It won’t be like this for long
    One day soon that little girl is gonna be
    All grown up and gone
    Yeah this phase is gonna fly by
    He’s try’n to hold on
    It won’t be like this for long
    It won’t be like this for long

    sorry for the very long comment! i guess i’ve just been feeling a bit out of sorts with all this. i love you guys to death, but i feel like my life is very different from most of yours. i’m not a writer, and i work full-time outside the home in addition to trying to find time for my creative side. it’s truly a juggling act that i haven’t been very good at lately…..and after it all, right now i’m just fine with that. 🙂 it won’t be like this for long.

    February 24, 2009
  4. cathy #

    keeeeelly! thanks for the welling up, and i have absolutely been where you are in not having the actual physical time to just enjoy the kids. (that was partly mentioned in a previous post of mine – when my oldest was a baby, i was gone from him over 10 hours a day commuting and working at a job i hated until he was 19 mos old) that’s why i am enjoying this one and my time with her so much. last night i was helping my oldest pick his high school classes for september! i couldn’t believe that time had past so quickly since he was a little one.

    i’ve definitely been living baby and kids first, writing second. that’s why i got mad at all my feb-fin whining.

    February 24, 2009
  5. cathy #

    oh, and the no income right now is definitely affecting my desire to finish this book and sell it…

    February 24, 2009
  6. Kristine #

    I love your new attitude about all of this, Cathy. I’m doing the same thing. (I’m having a Superwoman costume burning party over at my blog.)

    The thing is, life is too short to worry about everything we can’t accomplish. Our little ones are only going to little for so long and when they grow up, we’re going to be wishing they were small again. As Kelly pointed out, “It won’t be like this for long.” There is a time and place for everything.

    I’m going to make a valiant attempt to write something every day, as writing is my anchor for when things go crazy in life. But the days of trying to do everything are over for me.

    Kelly–I totally understand where you are coming from. Juggling motherhood and a full-time job is tough, but I think you are doing an exceptional job at keeping everything in perspective.

    February 24, 2009
  7. I wrote a response to this post at 7:30 this morning, but then Sam was climbing all over me and John was swiping at the keyboard and both of them were vying for morning snuggle time when Sam kicked, the page disappeared, and I lost the comment I’d been struggling all morning to write.

    I was glad it was just blog comment and not a manuscript. I would have felt pur unadulterated rage if I had lost a morning’s worth of work, and life is too short (as Kelly pointed out in her sniff-worthy post) to be angry at my boys because they are preventing me from writing.

    But you know how it is when you keep trying an idea on for size, talking about it incessantly, trying to make yourself believe it? I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that I really am going to put the writing aside for awhile. It seems like such an alien concept to me. I feel like I have to keep reminding myself of all the good and rational reasons that went into that decision. I think I feel the shock before the grief sets in…

    February 24, 2009
  8. cathy #

    i have to go read yor blog, kristine!

    brittany,i know the feeling! how bout write little things, like vignettes as they occur, or poetry or one act plays? when my boys were little, that was all i could muster. typically, that’s all my brain can hold attention for, anyway. i wrote poetry and short stories and many unfinished bigger ideas over a lifetime. this is my first go at actually finishing a novel, and it’s small for a novel. however, i have 2 huge horizontal file drawers full of my writing small things. and many lost docs on burnt out hard drives…..

    in other words, rather than grieve writing altogether, do what you can w/o the guilt or resentment toward the little ones.

    February 24, 2009
  9. cathy #

    i meant to add – but the old keybord kick – that while i’m only writing in my ms one day per week, i am still writing bits of whatever from poems to emails. and yes, they count.

    February 24, 2009

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