I have three children. I have a five year-old, a three year-old, and an eight month-old. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week this is my first job, privilege, and responsibility.
My other job is writing.
This is how it works:
The baby and I get up at six and go downstairs. We play for about a half an hour. In this time I try to read a little Bible, a few verses to get me to my starting point. Then we start breakfast; the other two join us about seven. By the time breakfast is done and the kitchen cleaned the baby is close to taking his morning nap. When he goes down for a nap we do school.
The elder two gather the books and we plop on the couch where I finally pick up the cup of tea I brewed an hour ago. We read a Bible story first then do map time. My daughter “reads” her ABC book very seriously. My son reads his books very jokingly. And then we read about Indians, explorers, castles, or oceans, whatever theme we seem to be dwelling on at the time.
And then it is my turn.
They will play and I will sit down at my computer for an hour or so until its lunch time. I may have to play a game of chess or memory during that time. I may have to nurse a baby or call on a bill during that time. But chances are good I will be sitting at the end of my mother’s dining room table in front of my computer and the last sentence I wrote will be playing on repeat in my mind, my characters politely chatting on as they wait for me to move a pawn or flip a card.
Then there is lunch directly followed by a one hour nap time. During nap time I can write or, if I’m nodding asleep, I can nap and rise to write again.
From nap time until dinner it is a time for arts and crafts, park outings, errands, grocery shopping, and the like. Occasionally, I may get to write if everyone is content and everything is done. Then there is dinner and the daily marathon that is bath time and bedtime. I come downstairs when the kids are asleep at about eight. And at this point, if I have any energy left or if I don’t, if the kitchen has already been cleaned or it hasn’t, if the laundry is folded or isn’t, I will sit down at my computer and write for another hour or so until my husband comes home.
It would be easier if I didn’t write. I could watch movies and get into a new TV show or two; it would be relaxing and I would definitely eat more. I would do exotic meal planning and the house would be immaculate. But I’ve tried not writing and it doesn’t work. I don’t work right when I’m not writing.
I like when people call me to write something for them and my computer is out, and my day is already structured for writing. I like knowing when I will be able to get to it and how long it will take me to get it done.
I don’t like hunting for my computer and forcing writing time into my pre-planned nap time activities. I hate feeling that pang of self-loathing that accompanies the retrieval of my dusty computer from underneath the bed. And I hate that awkward bit of writing to get my pace, like a painful stretch after a long break from exercise.
I don’t write because it makes me happy. Indeed, sometimes it makes me quite miserable. But for me writing is terribly healthy. It gives me a center.
I write because I love words.
I write because I love stories.
I write because God wrote first.
I write because through the process of asking questions I arrive at answers.
I write because my thoughts are clearer and make much better sense after a good crushing edit.
I write because there are some images that I see that can’t be painted and for them I need to use words.
I write because, of all the people in the world, the characters talk to me.
I write because I am a scribe and scribes write what they are told to write.
I write because it’s my job.
In this case it is my other job, or one of many jobs. And it’s getting done like a million piece puzzle, one particular bit at a time.
In the past month I’ve written thirteen thousand words in my book, four skits, a prayer for a friend, some blog posts, and a twenty-minute script for a local theatre group. Those little bits of work seem to be adding up.
I’m hoping to look back at this period of my life and see it as a very fertile time, not only for my ovaries, but also for my art, when a lot of ideas were born, where a lot of work was done. But I can’t think that far ahead. I’ve got a half hour left of quiet time. For now, I just gotta write.