your judgment is a little off

Whining writers are not interesting. Nobody wants to hear somebody who spends inordinate amounts of time alone making up stuff complaining how hard it is….blah, blah, blah…I get tired of myself sometimes. This is why I write fiction–I can pretend to be listening to somebody else.

Now, while it certainly is said that worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet or may never happen or won’t happen for a while in the future is a drain on a person’s energy and a huge waste of time, it is also true that worrying about the future helps pay the bills and puts food on the table. We’ve all heard the story of the grasshopper and the ants. Of course, perhaps the ants weren’t worrying about the future as much as doing something about it, but there had to be some concern before there was action.

Anyway, I worry that I simply can’t continue to function in a healthy way by losing so much sleep for my writing. I worry that when my son’s schedule changes, I will lose my afternoon time too. No. What I really worry about is that I will lose my writing time. My art time. My sanity time. Now, this is not a mom-blog. I read lots of good mom-blogs, but I don’t write one (except by default–I’m a mom and I blog) because I don’t write to become a better mother (though maybe I should). I’m selfish. I write to become a better writer. After all, if I fall into a black hole tomorrow, I’ll still be a mom, but if there are no pens and no notebooks, I won’t be a writer.

Don’t say I’ll be a writer because I’m one in my soul or wherever or anything of the kind. You’re not a mom unless there’s a kid; you’re not a writer unless there are words on the page. Feeling like you ought to be either of these things is not enough. My son will still exist if I’m crushed inside that black hole. My words won’t. If I’m a writer, I have to write, and to write, I shall have to make time. Ha! I can’t wait to pull that trick off–make time. What exactly does one need to do that? Hammer and nails or measuring cups and a mixing bowl?

When people ask me why I don’t want another child, I have a list of acceptable and truthful answers (although for some folks, there are no acceptable answers to this question). But the real, in-my-heart reason? I want to be a writer. I don’t want to lose more time to midnight feedings and diaper changes. I want to be a mom and to be a writer and the best way to do that–as Alice Walker once said–is to have one. Yes, I know many wonderful writers have more than one and they write–but you know it is just that much more difficult and I don’t want more difficult.

A fortune cookie recently told me, “Your judgment is a little off.” When was the last time you got a negative fortune? I couldn’t believe it, but now I can’t shake it. I stare at my novel and think–it is all a little off. I’m a little off. And the recent cover of The New Yorker doesn’t help. Okay, so people don’t want to listen to a writer whine, but hey, this is my blog and if I can’t whine here…what does a whine sound like in a black hole anyway?

13 thoughts on “your judgment is a little off

  1. Okay, now I have to go check out the new New Yorker. I usually only see old issues when people leave them in the laundry room. I’ll be at the newsstand today, and I’ll think of you as I look at the cover.

    When my kids were younger, I didn’t write and IT DROVE ME CRAZY. Or, maybe it’s better to describe it as – I disappeared. I functioned and was content and I have no regrets about becoming a mother – but I did disappear for a few years.

    Oh, I wrote a bit during that time. I participated on an online mommy message board. I seriously think that board saved me not because of the mommy company (I really don’t care that much about diaper choice), but because I wrote at least a little something every day.

    Soon, though, that wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, not even close to enough. So I came back. I started writing again. And here I am, whining with you that this life of squeezing in writing time is freaking hard. I don’t like feeling guilty about the time it takes. But this is better than it used to be when I was up at night with a baby.

    A big turning point for me was when the kids were old enough to make their own breakfast. Happy day that was.

    Tie a knot in the rope and hang on. Don’t slip away.

    p.s. You always hit on such great issues as a writer. Truly, this blog is a wonderful place for me to visit.

  2. Just don’t tie a knot in the rope for any other reason!

    I hear restlessness and self-knowledge in this post, as well as a degree of urgency, tangibility, maybe impatience, and some defensiveness (?). (Feel free to holler at me if I’m just plain off-base here.)

    I used to say, “I’m a writer who isn’t writing.” It always felt uncomfortable and threw me into questioning whether that could actually be true. Either you are putting words on the page or not.

    As far as this writer (and mom) is concerned, you ARE writing. I think it’s great that you know what you want and need – as a mom and as a writer. I hear stories from writers like Barbara Kingsolver, describing all those years of writing poems on the backs of napkins, and wonder if I’m like that. All I know is that I’m like myself.

    Keep going. You inspire me and clearly so many others with what you choose to share here.

  3. I agree with SBW. This is a great blog. For the record, I have files for my RSS feeds, and yours is under “Writing Blogs” not “Mommy Blogs.” Whether you talk about your child or not, I consider your blog a writing blog. So no worries. But, of course, this is an issue for a writer. There are no easy answers. I don’t blame you at all for not wanting another child. If you want to write, you are doing what you have to do. Hopefully it’ll get easier as he gets older. Hang on. I would like another child someday, but sigh, I don’t look forward to having no time to write. I went a year without writing with my son. How long with two? But I wasted so many years that I could have easily written – at least now I feel I have a good excuse not to write. In some ways, since I’m happier being a mom than I ever was with any other job, I am more motivated to write. To just do it.

  4. me too, on the one child thing.
    call it “selfish” or whatever else you want, we do all make choices.
    I love my son and I love my other babies, my words.
    Whatever it takes, I hope you find/make/steal/ time to write.
    And feel free to whine away.

  5. Oh dear, my comment about tying a knot in a rope sounds a bit dramatic. The phrase that prompted me writing that actually comes from a song by bluesman Lonnie Brooks that goes, “Tie a knot in the rope and hold on until I get back.” It’s meant to be encouraging, something to hold on to, but I see it could come off much more ominous than I intended.

    I don’t have a frim grasp on words.

  6. No fretting, SBW, I may not know my blues, but I got the idea behind the knot in the rope. And I do think you a frim and firm grasp on words. Let me know when you see that New Yorker cover, and thanks for letting me know that you whine a bit too about the writing life. It helps. (Muck in the end? What is that supposed to mean? Doesn’t sound good, I’ll admit.)

    Jena, I’m not going to holler at you because you’re not off base and I don’t holler. Okay, maybe I holler a little bit, but you didn’t suggest anything hollerable. But thanks for you comments. May we all know that we are just like ourselves.

    isabel, I’m always happy when you stop by. On your blog and in your comments you come across someone of vast understanding.

  7. Oh that mean New Yorker cover! I saw that too. Was that supposed to put writers into a Zen state over the transitory nature of our work — or was it supposed to make us depressed — or make non-writers gloat? Sometimes I hate the New Yorker.

  8. Best fortune ever: Cleverness is serviceable for some things, sufficient for nothing. The message was so clear I didn’t have to wonder it out. Still, being sufficient is the most difficult thing to do.
    And The New Yorker nails it, again.

  9. I have seven kids. Don’t worry. I completely understand your motivation for choosing to have one and I think it is a great choice. I did not think of myself as a writer until about three years ago, although I have mountains of journals dating back to my high school days. Even though only three children still live at home I have to clutch and grasp at writing time.

    I don’t regret all the children or the foster parenting or the people I met and experiences I had. If I can carve out time to write, it will be great material someday. And they are great kids, mostly. But I agree with you totally, there is only so much time and if it is used one way, it can’t be used another way. Better to have one child well loved and write than to have seven neglected children and write.

  10. Hats off to you, Bev, for making the commitment for seven children. I admire it if a little scared by the thought. One day a woman in a local toy store here lectured me on why I HAD TO have more children. She actually told me that the next time she saw me, she expected to hear I was having a second child. I’m too baffled by these people to even get angry. Here’s to everyone respecting everyone else’s choices, even if they are mystifying to us!

    And Karen I’ve saved only fortune from a cookie and pinned it over my desk–Good things will come to you this year. I think it is always true.

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