Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Get a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold

Half this post was composed in my head as I held a Magic Eraser in my hand.  This does not bode well.

Last night MathMan and I took a quick drive to the library to drop off an almost overdue Midsomer Murder DVD.  I actively listened to him talk about his first day back to school with students and tried to respond appropriately.  Sometimes my ability to contribute to his work-related conversations is limited to nodding and exclamations of "That's true."  or "I see."  or "Well, I think these kids are lucky to have you as their teacher because you care so much."

These words may sound shallow and hollow, but I do mean them.  It's just that sometimes it's as though he's speaking a foreign language and I'm struggling to keep up.  Slope? Derivatives? Calculus?  Short of knowing that it's some form of mathematics, I can't even tell you how Calculus differs from Trigonometry.

But I can spell both words without using spellcheck.

As that conversation dwindled, he turned the topic to my favorite subject: me.  "So did you get any work done today?"  Now, work is code for writing.  You guys know that, right?

I fiddled with the DVD box that I held on my lap.  "Well."

The truth was I didn't write yesterday. I ran some errands, did some tidying up, goofed around with Chloe before she left for school, surfed the internet, read some blogs.  But I didn't write or revise as I'd said I'd do.

"I don't know. I think when I'm panicked about money and other things, it's hard to write," I finally got around to saying. I'd been thinking this quite a bit during the day as the minutes, then hours slipped by without my nose coming in contact with the grindstone.

"It's hard to be creative when you're stressed," he answered as I handed him the DVD to drop into the overnight box.

I looked at the profile of this man with whom I've spent over half my life and considered how lucky I am.  The highs have been high and the lows have been miseries the likes of which I hope we never experience again, but in that moment I felt confused.  Did I want him to be this wonderful, caring, understanding man or did I want him to kick my undisciplined ass?

"Thank you for that, honey."  I chose grace.  For the moment. "But how long can that be my excuse for not getting these pieces finished so I can find an agent?"

"You're going to do it.  But I understand. You can't force it."  He knows, of course.  An artist in his own right, he understands the need to concentrate, to clear the mind of the clutter.

The reality is, I am a stress junkie on some level so this idea that I have to have a clear mind?  Nonsense.  I do some of my best writing while I'm in blind furies or the throes of some low-grade fever of depression and self-pity.

This morning we woke early so MathMan and Nate could get to school for early basketball practice.  As they prepared to leave at 5:30, I had big ideas about how my writing day would go. By 5:50, the litter boxes had been scooped, the kitchen floor swept, recycling organized and put in the bin, the dishwasher emptied, water bottles had been washed and refilled, the microwave washed out, cleaning supplies were ready to go in the bathroom and I was standing on a chair scrubbing the cabinets over the stove with the Magic Eraser.

I looked at my reflection in the black glass of the microwave and shook my head.  "Please don't let yourself down again."

Finishing these two works in progress has to be my number one priority.  A clean house is not the legacy I want to leave behind.  It's that simple.  And whether these manuscripts ever make it into the hands of readers, having finished them will be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

And while I can depend on MathMan to be understanding, I know there's a shelf life to it, just as there has always been a limit to his patience with my antics large and small.

At some point he's going to come home to a house smelling of bleach with hints of Comet and undertones of Lemon Pledge.  He's going to shield his eyes from the glare coming off sparkling table tops and mirrors.  A laminated cat will saunter by and toss a doleful look his way.  He'll come looking for me and bang a shin on some piece of furniture that's been moved yet again.  He'll find me in the laundry room color coding the clothes hangers while the upright vacuum stands sentry, its motor still running from when I'd interrupted myself in the middle of sucking the lint out of the dryer's lint trap.

He'll give me that look and switch off the vacuum.  And then the hard, but necessary words will come.

"It's time for you to get serious and write."

When do you know it's time? Time for what, you ask?  You tell me.

I'm going to need my soundtrack to get going...


  1. I'm a procrastinator as well, with a hefty helping of ADD thrown in to derail my best intentions.

    For instance, I'm supposed to be culling and categorizing my last two months worth of photos, but here I am commiserating with you on the sad fact that I'm commiserating with you.

    Go figure.

    BTW, if you're reading this, GET BACK TO WORK, WOMAN!!!

  2. "But I can spell both words without using spellcheck."

    I love that about you.

  3. A laminated cat will saunter by and toss a doleful look his way.
    How do you laminate a cat and what with??? Enquiring minds want to know.

  4. last night, after wading through a bookstore with my dirty chai in hand i sat at at table in my favorite coffee shop and wrote, "either i get this project out to agents by the 15th or i sell my laptop, all my books, my desk and every other goddamn writing tool i have and never look back. no more coming up with errands or wasting time looking at books instead of writing them."

    i feel your pain, missy. like a mullet in my chest.

  5. I too was partly driven by the legacy thing ... then I realized "legacy" doesn't really care that much what I'm doing so I shifted to a more selfish POV. Now I do things because I simply want to do them.

    Added to that, there seems to be a loose carpet, an overly full closet or a leaning tree about to fall in everyone's life. Some will step over the carpet and not trip, some will not open the full closet door and the tree will fall on the neighbor's house instead of their own ...

    At a basic level, you answer to yourself, make use of your time, ignore the small stuff and aggressively set-up your wares along side the highway ... after that, fate is in control.

  6. I could have written this. I probably HAVE written this at various times in my life. The fact is, writing is not easy. Here's my take:

    It takes far more than discipline to be a published writer. It takes a combination of time and opportunity, unbridled creativity, a good-night's sleep, optimism, clarity, dogged determination, dedication, do-or-die-deadlines, self-confidence, belief in your story, momentum, a reputation to live up to, a support team, writing prowess, and some prior successes. Plus a few other things too, I'm sure. That's the perfect writing world.

    Not to say you must have all those things to succeed at writing; just that when you're down and evading your keyboard, it's the discipline for putting your butt in chair that looks you in the eye and complains shrilly. Discipline is the squeaky wheel. Discipline benefits from your muse being in optimum shape, and vice versa. Maybe it's the positive energy you need to focus on, and the act of writing will follow?

  7. I know you'll write as the words come to you. You're prolific and wonderful. Thank you for this post and for sharing your journey. xo

  8. Oh Lisa, you are so right when you say:

    A clean house is not the legacy I want to leave behind.

    Bum in chair girlfriend. And I need to follow that advice,too.

  9. I procrastinate at talking about stuff that is bugging me.

  10. You really do need to stop procrastinating and concentr -- ooh, look, a squirrel.

  11. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT beat yourself up. Seriously, woman. Discipline is for little kids and Type A personality men in their off hours (usually at the hands of some statuesque brunette in thing-high boots who gets well-paid for the task). For married women stressed out over everything from a frustrating job search to how often those cats make their litter box unusable - it is quite expected.

  12. CR - I'm glad I'm not alone. And get back to work isn't quite right. I still must GET to work.

    BSR - Thank you. That love goes both ways, you know.

    Kulkuri - If I can figure out how, I'll be rich, don't you think?

    amyg - We are going to have to push each other perhaps. Today has been a zero writing day so far, but there's still time. But dinner is almost ready and Sophie had freshly baked chocolate chip cookies when she came home from school.

    Will - Well said. In the end, it's just the doing of what we can control. I'm not expecting miracles.

    Fragrant Liar - Thank you. You are good. And thanks for the other.

    Jennyablue - You are always so supportive. I really appreciate that.

    Downwith - We can do this. Is it time for an accountability group?

    MommyLisa - I do, too. And it often gets worse while I procrastinate. I don't change though.

    Randal - Where?!?

    Geoffrey - You are very kind. Snap! Oh that? It's just me testing out Old Skinny, my favorite riding crop.

  13. The problem is that, what with all this cleaning, you've surrounded yourself with bright and shiny objects. No wonder you're distracted!

  14. It's easier to be creative if you are little bit of a slob. The only reason I organize is so I can find my craft supplies again later.

    But I get the drift. If I am faced with a looming need to finish a writing project, look! Suddenly I urgently need to put in a few hours of volunteer work, web admin-ing and outlining lessons. My house cleaning is mental, as in, in my mind, not crazy go nuts cleaning.

  15. Writing is not my aspiration, but I do understand that feeling of doing anything to avoid facing what I should be doing. You are lucky for MM. But that music? Sorry - that would inspire me only to leave the room in which it is playing!

  16. Count me in for an accountability group. I've acquired a neurosis that almost makes it impossible to create in a messy environment. I never had a problem with it before. Another unconscious act to set myself up for failure.

  17. So sorry to hear you have financial pressures and writers block. Now go write something.

  18. My Writer's Group lead (Andy) sends me random texts that simply say "B + C = W!" That's no math problem, it's shorthand for "Butt + Chair = Writing!" That said, sometimes stress, anxiety, rage and frustration take the front seat to creativity.

    Sometimes they spur it on, too. You can do this. Leave the dishes in the sink tomorrow morning, grab a large mug of coffee, and task yourself with "x" pages of editing before you can do the dishes/do laundry/sweep/mop/whatever. It may make you crazy for a minute, but YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!

  19. First, I'm not sure I entirely knew what a Magic Eraser was before this post. (I was thinking Magic Marker at first.) Second, don't confuse your writing with "antics." :) Anyway, you can do it!

  20. Put down the magic eraser and walk away from the kitchen...

  21. I seriously wish I were like you and procrastinated and took out stress by cleaning.

    Stuff is clean enough already, though, and you know it.

    (This from possibly the biggest procrastinator on the planet.)

  22. I love to clean too.

    Good luck with staying on track with your writing projects.

  23. Absolutely there are times when it's easier to do anything other than what we know we should be doing. I've been having a hard time getting really involved in my own work since leaving the job. Where once I felt those 40 hours were hampering my creative spirit, now I've discovered it was all connected and the one thing had been feeding the other for years. The only thing that's beginning to work for me is to schedule at least four hours a day of sitting at my drawing table. Even if there's nothing I'd want so show anyone at the end of the day or even the end of the week at least I know progress is being made and eventually something worthwhile will appear.

    I know you don't need spellcheck :-)

  24. When I was studying for the bar, the bathrooms in my mother's place were sparkling. Yeah, I would clean to avoid studying. Just saying. At least you were cleaning instead of going out to cop some crack, there's that, no?

    In all honesty, sometimes you need to go through these periods to build up the proper amount of desparation that somehow taps into creativity.

  25. I'll do anything to avoid starting on work (as I believe it's called). I arrived at the office over 30 minutes ago and... I'm reading your blog - much more interesting!

  26. Okay, first: Calculus deals with CHANGE (stuff is moving or changing). Trig stays still (mostly).

    I love you wishing the MathMan would kick your butt, but if he won't I will. Two words my friend: ROO TEEN. If you sit, same time, every single day, and don't let yourself move until time is up, the words will come. They may not come on day one--the muse doesn't know you're serious yet, but HE WILL SHOW, and believe me, he will dance like you like.

    I hear you on the stress--I actually do a SUDOKU before I write each night to turn off real life. (maybe for you it is a crossword)--just brain stuff that is disconnected from reality. My only 'can't write' days are when hubby is being really obnoxious and when a NEW money issue arises. Every other day this tactic works.

  27. Stress is horrible. It totally changes who I am.

    Do you write best when you feel happy? Or just secure?


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