Thursday, May 24, 2012

When Do I Write?

When Do I Write?

After the kids have gone to bed, and come in (finally) for the last time to get a glass of water/hug/reassurance from a nightmare/to see what I am doing.

I know I should be kind and wonderful and warm at those times - a mother from a TV commercial, a modern, brown, less operatic version of Maria von Trapp -- but the sixteenth time they do it, I usually yell, “Mommy’s got work to do – Go. To. Bed.” And then I feel bad, but not too bad, because I do. Have work, I mean.

I always have work. There’s always something to write.

I write when they’re in school. The days I don’t teach. After I exercise and shower, and before I have to pick them up. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time, I must say.

Which reminds me: why isn’t the school day longer? Who can I talk to about that?

Sometimes I write while I putter around the kitchen making dinner and they sit at the table doing their homework. But that’s usually on the sly – laptop on counter, attention cleverly divided in a thousand different ways.

“Mama’s just checking a recipe, guys.”

One time, I tried to just sit down with them at the table with the computer but the looks of hurt on their faces sliced any creative thought clean from my mind.

I don’t have the same compunctions when it’s just my husband.

When do I write?

Not on the weekends, at least not while they’re awake. Unless there’s a deadline. In which case it’s usually on the couch with everyone around me and I don’t actually get much done. But I don’t feel as guilty, ‘cause I let them sit on my outstretched legs and we take intermittent tickle breaks - which are actually very helpful to most creative endeavors.

Seriously, there are studies that prove it. It’s well known that Dostoyevsky – heck, all the Russian novelists – were quite fond of tickling.

When my kids were babies and they still breastfed, I could write and mother at the same time and sometimes feel like Wonderwoman doing it. (Only sans the American flag hot pants and bustier.) I had the technique down pat – if I sat up in bed with a back pillow and propped the baby’s head on the arm rest, bent over at a fairly uncomfortable angle, and curved my arm around just so, I could actually type with both hands while nursing. I liked to think my body was so nourishing I could feed my child and the hungry computer screen at the same time.

I was so full of crap.

But now at least my children are old enough they can read what I write and want me to succeed so badly that last week, when I got a letter from a publishing house about something else, they screamed and screamed from the kitchen: “Mama, come quick! Someone is publishing your book! Someone is publishing your book!” It actually hurt my heart to tell them they were wrong.

Why don’t I have an invisible plane? I think it could be a useful way to sneak up on editors who have your manuscript and find out what they really think of you.

When do I write?

I write when I can’t not write. Which is most of the time.

Sometimes, it’s not even on paper or the computer, but in my mind, on my skin, on the insides of my cheeks. I write like this in the car, in the shower, when waiting in line at the grocery store. I keep promising myself I’ll buy one of those teeny tiny tape recorders to capture the gems of my brilliant thoughts as they spill pell-mell from my skull. But I haven’t had the time to go get one yet.

Which reminds me, I need laundry detergent.

To read the rest of this essay please visit writer Anjali Enjeti's blog She Started It! I was honored and delighted to add my voice to the writers already there answering the complicated question: When do you write?


  1. Well I typically write in the am and edit in the pm. Although, I'm going to have to be more strict on my schedule since my writing, editing and promotion seems to take too much of my free time from my family. So I'm slimming back a bit.

  2. I usually write when I can't not write. But off late that feeling just hasn't descended on me :(

  3. Thanks for your answers LM and Srinidhi! I know that many people are really good with strict schedules, but besides "when my kids aren't awake or at home" I can't seem to find a schedule that works! Be easy on yourself, Srinidhi, maybe it's time to nourish and take in - read, go to museums, relax... I'm a firm believer that you've got to take in creativity to produce creativity! :)