Exhibit B: so stinking sweet
I mean, I knew how it would be, so I’m not complaining exactly. Maybe lament? Lament is fair, I think.
It just kind of hit me strangely as I was pushing Iris around the block on her scooter, Ollie asleep in his carrier, knowing that with Easter coming up I have a whole string of very long days ahead on the parenting front. Three years is a long time not to finish a project. And I have large chunks of two different books written, so I do actually write. I just can’t sustain anything. Because: colds, babies, laundry, dishes, teething, deprivations both mental and physical.
This was the right time for our kids, and nobody is making me stay home. But life is rarely as black or white as all that.
Sometimes I wonder if I don’t finish things for psychological reasons.
You know, like I’m afraid of failure or afraid of success or afraid of whatever sounds most legit at the time. Pondering my mental health is always a good time, but I don’t really think that has much to do with it.
Or maybe it’s just that writing is hard. Although writing was always hard. And I still finished things before.
Maybe it is kids.
It’s hard to know what to fix sometimes. It’s hard to weigh my kids’ inevitable freak out if I leave the house with my own inevitable freak out if I don’t. Sometimes it all just feels like a lot of freaking out.
A lot of it is not having external deadlines.
On the plus side, it’s given the stories an unusually long time to percolate. And I realized today, somewhere around the block with Iris waving hello to every fire hydrant, that on some deeper, unplanned level one of the stories is about purpose and the other is about happiness, and sometimes my switching between them has nothing to do with unconscious fears of failure and everything to do with the ideas churning up at the time in my own life.
Two of my brothers are writing a collaborative book of essays about our childhood vacations at Disney World, and last week Joel emailed me his latest piece on aesthetic appropriation. You know. The way Disney mimics and recreates other places, and the way we as kids mimicked and recreated Disney in our own stories and ideas about travel and culture. It was an insightful, fun read, but while aesthetic appropriation is obviously huge in anyone’s creativity, I think emotional appropriation is the bigger playground for me.
There is nothing autobiographical about any of my plots, unless you count “and then she grew up” as plot, but the emotional lives of my characters are always very vivid and familiar to me… although, of course, I have varying success getting that on the page. And I think this is why it’s been hard for me to finish anything lately. The equation of very limited time with having two books with such enormous topics—it’s like every day I pull up the lobster trap of my daily experience to see if I’ve got anything useful for either of my works-in-progress, and let me tell you, that is a killer slow way to finish a book.
Or maybe I’m overthinking it and it really isn’t anything more profound than the fact that it’s really hard to write with a baby giggling and farting and fussing on your lap.
I feel like that’s probably fair too.