Friday, May 4, 2012

Boogers versus Books

In the classic war of boogers versus books, boogers win. Every time.

Like most of the writers I know, I have a job outside my writing career. In the past, this meant that I would get up early to write, clock out on my lunch break to crank out a few scenes, or scotch-tape my eyes open and write late into the night. Now? Well, not so much. See, I’m a new mom, so my days are spent getting up early to feed my little guy, clocking out on lunch to run that desperate errand I’ve been putting off for two weeks, and scotch-taping my eyes open simply to make it through dinner without nose-diving into my mashed potatoes.

I have one day a week for writing. Unfortunately it's also the day that I get to play stay-at-home mom, so all bets are off. Take today, for example. It started off promising, I managed to get mostly dressed and eat something before my son woke up (though I may or may not have brushed my teeth).

I had planned on spending the morning reworking the first three chapters of my manuscript. Instead, I found myself wondering exactly how much poop can fit into a belly the size of a grapefruit. Answer: always more than I expect, and definitely more than one diaper can hold. Okay, shower off, regroup, sit down—time to write.
Guess again.

This time, I get sidetracked by feeding the baby. Alright, no problem. So now he's calm, he's fed, he's ready to be put down and I'm just about to open my laptop when he throws up down my cleavage. And let me tell you, nothing quite compares to a vomit-soaked bra.

It's now 10 o'clock and I haven't even opened my manuscript. No nap insight, I do the next best thing to writing: thinking.

My mother used to say that when it comes to getting things done, it's all in the getting ready. For me this means a clever combination of e-mailing myself scenes from my phone (thumb-typed in the dark as I try to stave off sleep), voice recording notes one painstaking sentence at a time, and routinely escaping into thoughts of writing.
So on days like today when I find myself wondering if that sticky substance on the back of my son's head is bananas or boogers, I take refuge in thinking about my writing. I think about my characters, the current events in their world, their favorite foods, where they're coming from and where they'll go after our story is through. I rehash conversations I've had with beta-readers, go over writing classes I've taken, and recall notes I've made to myself along the way. I build mental soundtracks, pick color swatches that invoke the story’s tone, and even snip photos from magazines that remind me of scenes I’ve yet to write. And on days when I’m really desperate, I plop down on the floor next to my son and flip through the photos while listening to the music, telling myself that murky triphop is just as good for his development as any other music, and that a few mouthfuls of paper never hurt anyone (much).

Not every day is perfect. Hell, most end with my laptop sulking in the corner while I get doused in one bodily fluid after another. And because boogers beat out books and diapers outweigh drafts, my writing is often forced to take a back seat. But it’s never on the back burner; writing is always there – simmering, stewing, waiting – so that when that rare, beautiful moment of opportunity comes, the story and I are ready.


  1. Oh, man, Sarah. I have been there a million times. My youngest is now 15 and I'm STILL there, only now I'm demanding and protective of my time, just as he is of his, but the HEADSPACE reserved for our kids takes up so much room, always, and so it goes with loving and caring for others. Sigh. The eternal struggle between life and art.

    1. Yes, I don't expect it will get any easier, I'm just hopeful I'll get better at it - parenting, time management, writing, going weeks at a time without know, all the good stuff. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!