I have to play dodgeball to have my writing space.
I have to dodge the kids. They’re old enough to know that once I sit down at the computer, I’m more or less inaccessible. So the older one goes upstairs to her room and the youngest turns on the TV. That means I have to dodge the guilt. Why can’t I be a normal mom and do things with my kids? Because I want to write, that’s why.
I have to dodge writer’s blocks; my own id, ego, and superego; and the doubt. Anne Lamott likened it to two hard-rock stations blaring in your ears at the same time from different sides of the earphones. One side of my mouth says it will all be worth it someday. The other counts the minutes I spend typing against all the productive things I could be doing. At least when I write nonfiction no one can tell me to change my plots, characters, or settings. All that is left is negotiating the details. So that makes doing this all easier. They (the voices in my head) can’t argue with me if all I write about are the facts.
The doubt is the worst. The inner doubt isn’t so bad anymore—it/s amazing what a few publishing credits does for your confidence. But other people’s doubts hurt. The editors that reject, the friends that wonder how long you’re going to stick with the “writing thing”. You wondering if your dad asking how it’s going is out of concern or derision.
I write every day. I have a blog I keep up daily except on weekends. I write for class—analysis, creative writing, discussion pieces. I send out pieces about three times a week. New stuff, old stuff, simultaneous submissions–hoping to catch a break some place that will pay off somewhere down the road. I write what I have to and what I want to—a nice balance at this point.
I have to dodge other tosses to claim my writing space in my life. Like chores—laundry, cleaning, cooking meals. Obligations–taxicabbing my children around, going to church, working in the food pantry, going to the doctor or the hairdresser or to lunch with a friend, I write in spurts—while the kids are gone to their grandmother’s or to school, once they’re asleep, in between conversations with my husband, who is a regular citizen with a regular job that allows me to do this writing thing in the first place. I’m grateful and guilty at the same time. I think of the Toni Cade Bambara quote–“I do not have anything profound to offer mother-writers or worker-writers except to say that it will cost you something.” What is my writing costing me?
But then I think about what it is giving me—such as readers around the world with my blog. People who write me and tell me I’m funny, or I’m right, or that they just like my stuff. People who say my story helps them. And the clarity of mind that I get out of writing about my days every day—about myself in nonfiction and my characters in fiction. How I sort through my problems by writing about them, either privately in my journal or publicly on the blog. Writing is my thing—sometimes the only thing I can ever get right on a daily basis.
So even with everything I dodge, I still write. Every day, a little or a lot. If I can, you can, too. So get to it. Dodge that ball. Just write.