I am not what you’d call a fast writer.
I’m also not great at fitting writing into little nooks and crannies. In order to get anything down that makes sense, I need decent chunks of time. In my next life I’ll be super productive (I’ll also play the banjo, have delicate ankles and a good sense of direction), but for now I have to accommodate this weakness.
Because we homeschool, solitude is in short supply, so I schedule a few hours on the two days when both my kids are in class, and I try hard to keep that appointment with myself.
I haven’t told many people about my writing time until now.
It feels undeserved. I haven’t done anything to earn it, in fact it actually costs me five bucks every time, on account of the dirty chai latte my thirsty muse requires.
But my life is full of things I don’t deserve. I am privileged AF.
PS: This is weirdly hard to talk about.
Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry compared the two kinds of naked? There was the attractive naked, he said, e.i. naked while brushing your hair, and the unattractive naked, i.e. naked while opening a pickle jar?
Stay with me.
Right now, I feel like I am naked, opening the pickle jar.
I imagine you wondering why, if I have this time—
- Do I have so many typos and grammatical screw-ups on my blog?
- Don’t I employ a fucking thesaurus instead of resorting to all the four letter words since they are (I’ve been told) just lazy writing.
- Do I not donate those five hours to helping others, instead of contemplating every waking moment of my completely regular life.
- And finally, with all that time, why don’t I get a job, or a degree, or at least a gym membership, for gods sake??
If you’re not wondering those things don’t worry, because I certainly am.
I told a friend on Facebook recently that when I hear that critical voice I try think of it as a man named, oddly enough, Donald, and I like to tell Donald to shut the fuck up.
Try it. It’s satisfying on many levels.
Donald thinks he knows what people should do. He thinks money is the same as value. He thinks the world has enough blogs, paintings, poems, popsicle trucks and hamster sanctuaries, so zip it already and just be happy driving the carpool.
Telling Donald to back off keeps me writing, and keeps me holding on to the hours I need to do it, but it’s not easy.
This morning I was talking to my friend Jo Dee, and I told her about my weekly writing date and how I’ve kept it secret because it feels self indulgent. Like a great pal, she didn’t miss a beat.
“It’s not self-indulgent, it’s your job.”
“Jo Dee, it is so not my job.”
“Writing is absolutely part of your job.”
“Writing is how I keep from going insane.”
“Well maybe that is your job… no offense.”
Ouch. That left a mark, but I loved her for it.
Up till now, I’ve hid my secret by just saying “I have some errands to run” or “things to do,” stopping short of actually lying, but not by much.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, she suggests treating your creative time like you would an affair. If you had a hot lover on the side, she says, you would steal any time you could to be with them. You would lie, you would sneak, anything would be worth just a few hours. She suggested we treat our creative time like that.
I love her analogy because that is exactly how I feel!
As Emily Dickinson wrote, “The heart wants what it wants.” Time is a luxury I can’t pay for, but I want it all the same.
So I steal it.
I steal it from my from my family, my community, the causes I support, and all the other things I tell myself a good person does.
When I was a teenager, my father once said to me, “You’re no bargain, Mag.”
That explains a lot, I thought.
Who knows what he was talking about. It might have had something to do with me being a pain in the ass, because I totally was. He didn’t know that I would drag those words behind me for the rest of my life like a corpse, forever trying to be what I thought he wanted: a bargain.
But I would never feel like one.
So when I was saying good-bye to Jo Dee this morning, she told me to enjoy my writing time. “Don’t lie about it,” she said. “Own it!”
But is it possible to own something you’ve stolen?
Maybe I should stop shaming on it and just say it. “I’m going to be writing from 9-12 today at the cafe across from the Indian grocery. I’ll be home after that.”
Bam. Just like that.
I am aware that it is not fair.
I am aware that I am not bringing in a dime with my writing. Not a dime. Probably ever.
I am aware that there are some things that don’t get done because I am here, from 9-12, at the cafe, across from the Indian grocery.
I am aware that Daddy may have been right. I am not a bargain.
But I am