Writing is an inside joke. That’s what I’ve discovered. It’s something I do on the run. In other words, while making beds, or feeding the cat, or emptying backpacks. Whenever I read something by another woman, a wife and mother as I am, I wonder if she works the same way, maybe something like this:
7:45am Drives children to school.
8:00 Picks up groceries.
9:00 Back home, puts everything away and starts a load of laundry.
9:30 Goes upstairs to write.
10:00 Cable company arrives about wiring.
10:20 Internet is up. It’s down. It’s up.
11:00 Calls oil company about poor heat. Checks laundry.
11:20 Returns to writing. Internet is down again.
12:15pm Breaks for lunch of leftover tuna salad. Starts dishwasher. Adds milk to grocery list. Tidies up house and children’s rooms, throwing out candy wrappers found under beds.
2:00 Husband calls; chats with him.
2:10 Goes upstairs to write.
2:12 Husband calls again. Wants to bring friends home for dinner.
2:15 Revises grocery list.
2:40 Picks up children from school. One looks unwell.
3:00 At home, takes temperatures. One child goes to bed, turning on music unrecognizable as such. The other is told there’s no TV because the cable’s not working and how about cleaning the guinea pig’s cage instead. Door to playroom slams.
3:15 Distracted by teenage noise and upcoming hostess duties, begins to scrub bathroom. Outside it has begun to snow.
4:00 Oil company calls to say they can’t come to fix heat until the next day.
4:01 Books trip for Fiji.
For some reason, I always think good writers can escape anytime they like. It’s a throwback to authors my parents read and admired: O’Hara, Maugham. I remind myself that I am not in that category. Nor, I’m guessing, are most women writers, though I’m sure we all scrub bathrooms.
Here’s another dichotomy. My children cannot easily tell time by looking at an analog clock, which is surprising because that’s how they first learned, with hands on a face. Now teenagers, they stare at the one hanging in our kitchen and ask me what time it is. When I say Quarter of, they’re bewildered. Digital numbers is what makes sense to them, the thing that gives them a picture of late morning, school ending, home before dark.
Similarly, I am caught between two worlds, modern and old-fashioned, when I write. I sit down at the computer. Things come. I see them on the screen. But it’s when I’m driving back to the store to pick up the one thing I forgot, or detangling my daughter’s hair, or vacuuming under the couch, or pressing my husband’s pants, or finally tucking in my son, lights out, everything quiet, that the right word or phrase or bit of business gets my attention. And the only way to take care of it is to jot it down then and there, with my own two hands, before it’s gone for good.
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