When the children were very young and my days were filled with diapers and car pools, school conferences and laundry, I pined for the free time just around the corner when I’d have a few hours each day to myself. I imagined writing great prose, getting published, doing book tours. Sometimes, at midnight, I’d get a few lines written that made no sense the following day. Most of the time, I scrambled to make space for my creativity that I believed lurked just below the surface, if only I could reach it.
A neighbor was kind enough to loan me her porch once, where I could store paper and a typewriter and have some distance from the household chaos. One afternoon, I’d written half a page when I heard Ben teasing Sarah on the front lawn. I called and asked the housekeeper to put Ben on the phone.
“Stop driving your sister nuts.” I scolded.
“Where are you?” Ben’s voice held amazement.
“Everywhere!” I said and hung up.
Ben wandered down the driveway, searched the sidewalk, street, sky for some semblance of his mother. Watching him became far more interesting than whatever I was writing. Ten minutes later Josh and Matt scampered home from school. I threw the page in the wastebasket.
My children are grown, into their own lives with family and careers. I’ve time, finally, to write my days away without distraction. I can turn off the phone and the internet. I can approach my writing like a full time job. I can schedule eight hours a day or ten or twelve if I want to on my novel. I can write at six in the morning or four in the afternoon. Sometimes I do exactly that. But what surprises me is how often I don’t. Exploring that nuance has been revealing.
Sure, I want to finish my novel. This Burnt Chocolate blog is a more satisfying experience than I ever imagined. Topics like why some kids are resilient while others wither fascinate me. The satisfaction of a finished piece remains a thrill. But if Rebeccah calls, or Ben visits, or Zoe has a dance recital, I’ll leave a page mid sentence. In the past, I’d chastise myself for being so easily distracted, so uncommitted to my writing. Where was my resolve, my focus? With that chant in the background, it was hard to enjoy whatever co-opted my writing in the first place. The result was diminished pleasure in all directions.
After years of tussling with myself, I’m finally clear. I’m pulled away because I want to be pulled into the lives of my children. Family takes first place in any contest I’ve ever held. Writing runs a close second. A simple realization, perhaps, considering my history, but supremely worthwhile. Lately, I have more fun playing with a grandchild, planning a holiday meal or crafting a scene on the page. Days feel longer and fuller. I’ve fewer regrets. I’m living more in the moment with a greater sense of appreciation and acceptance for what I’ve created.
Would I love to write and publish a great novel? Absolutely. Now that I’ve got my priorities straight, that goal seems more possible than ever.