Some days are better than others. There are some days that I get up with the sun push Milt out of the way and write for an hour or two before the kids are up at 6a. And then, there are some days I'm able to get to my porch at my favorite restaurant before work and write for an hour or so. Those are my “A+” days.
But of course that is not every day. Because three children want their momma, no matter how great their daddy is (and he’s pretty fucking great). Life always intervenes and tries to pull guilt in the wagon behind it. A child at 3a has a stomachache. You volunteered to be at school at 8:30 and then have to run to work after. A dress is needed for a dance and it has to be floral in the middle of winter and only you can buy it. Your partner needs a care giving break, so you add their tasks to your tasks. Your 12 year old needs to talk to you about her best friend right before she goes to school, right in the middle of your time to write. Your son needs a check (which you haven’t budgeted for) and when you give it to him you realize there’s a hole in his sneaker. Or the phone rings from NYC at 4a or 5a from your mom asking you to talk to your father with Alzheimer's so he can calm down.
That’s my life.
And on those days no writing happens…none! I used to dread those non-writing days. Now I'm okay with them (sometimes) because they are usually the seeds to new essays and new pieces about things I didn't know I wanted to write about.
But I've started to let the guilt about not "formally" writing go away. Only because this life (three kids, one at home husband, cooking, work, school, elderly parents 500 miles away, one car in a two car town, want a dog but having trouble paying the rent) is my reality. And it won’t always be this way, but it is right now. So in order to keep the guilt at bay, I do a little trick: I track everything and anything that remotely touches my BIG writing pieces, and I count it as my writing for the day.
Writing on the Starbucks napkin in carpool lane (counted), writing a haiku while waiting for my 7 year old to finish ballet (counted), typing on my phone in the notes section while at the doctor/dentist (counted), coming to pick up my son from a birthday party early and sitting in the folks’ driveway writing about Nancy Drew (counted), taking a picture with my phone that reminds me of my big writing piece (counted). Facebook posts, small blog entries, ideas on scraps of paper that go into my journals, it’s all counted as my “writing time.”
I'm no Stephen King or Walter Mosley, nor do I want to be. I admire their tenacity and their work ethic. I admire any folks who have the entire day to split into writing, reading, and editing times.
But that’s not me.
I'm a mom and a writer or a writer and a mom.
And I get my words down on the page when I can. Sometimes that page is stained with spaghetti sauce, but I still count it!