Sometimes everything goes perfectly. You’re spot on schedule, writing away, making your word counts. Your life runs like a well-oiled machine. But what happens when your children need extra attention, the dog runs mad, you have four hundred errands to run, and there are things all over the house that need fixing?
Summer is like that. While it’s lovely to have the children around all the time (isn’t it?), they, on their own, can destroy the most disciplined writer’s plans, generally through no fault of their own. See, they have this outlandish need to wear clean clothes, be entertained safely, and eat three meals a day. It can be absolutely maddening to see yourself falling behind, losing momentum, because of things that don’t seem important. Minutia. At these moments, I have to fight to remain patient and not to flip my lid over looming deadlines.
It’s a tough patch for me, work-wise. In the next three months, I need to write two books, one partial, one proposal, and a short story. I walk around in a perpetual state of panic over this, and today, instead of writing, I ran errands. Things that had to be done, mind you, or the family doesn’t eat. So I went to the farmer’s market with my son, and we bought fresh cheese, tortillas, from a smiling woman beneath a sun-warmed red awning. We lingered in the fruit stall with the scent of fresh strawberries mingling with cut mangos, the juice sticky on our fingers. My son tasted prickly pear for the first time, and we spat seeds over the curb, watching them bounce into the drains. And it was good. This evening, when I planned to make it up, my daughter needed me.
I could’ve been upset about this lost day. But I’m not. See, in twenty years, if I am blessed, I’ll still be writing for a living. But my children will be grown. Nobody will need me to watch Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares with them until two in the morning, listen to their concerns, offer reassurances and give hugs. So I tell myself to treasure these moments. I can always work harder later. I can make up the lost time. I can’t make up lost moments with my daughter or my son. I don’t ever want to look back and say, wow, I wasn’t there for him / her because I chose not to make time. My job as a mother is just as important to me as my work as a writer, and it’s not wrong to take time for your family. Don’t feel guilty if they need you. You need them too.
I’m a workaholic. I admit that. I work incredible hours, fourteen hour days. Five days a week. I seldom take any time off. I almost never take sick days. So acknowledging that, I bring an important –crucial– message to my colleagues.
Without fresh experiences, your work withers and becomes frail. Brittle. Lifeless. You need the sunshine and renewed vitality that comes from being away from the computer; it permits you to give more to your work later. Life isn’t what prevents you from writing. Those in-between moments fuel the best and brightest of our words; we catch them like birds in flight. And so I say: Let yourself live.
What are you going to do today to replenish your stores?