August 16, 2004

writing lesson

This is my last week of non-mommy hours for a while. I want to stockpile them, like saving Halloween candy under the bed for the lean times in mid-November. Barring that, I want to exploit every single minute of to-myself time I have. Mostly I want to write my heart out, write reams of pages on my novel to stem that craving and make the next few non-writing weeks okay.

But it doesnít work that way, does it? I sat down to write this morning and wrote a sentence. Then another. Then I got up to, um, I forget. Brush my hair again? Pet the cat? Something vitally important. Then I web-surfed and wrote another sentence. Writing when youíre not in the flow? Not fun. Sometimes you just have to get past the stuck part, though. Just write through it. Some sections are like that, they donít get your juices flowing.

A few sentences and an hour later, I went to get Damian from his morning Ė now only Ė school. His last week of this school too, then another graduation to attend. Heís excited about this one because theyíre going to sing. He likes that. He was singing the song (do-re-mi a/k/a "doe a deer") to himself this afternoon and was surprised when I joined in. ďYou know that song too?Ē As if the teachers had invented it. But I digress.

During my half hour drive to school, I thought about my scene. Why was it so hard to write? Why did it feel like working while tied to the chair by heavy ropes? Mostly this novel hasnít felt like that. Why was this scene different? Itís a fairly interesting one, or so I would have thought: one character watches a video of another character, intrigued by what it will reveal about her.

Somewhere between Pico and National Boulevards, I realized what was wrong. It always comes back to this, doesnít it? I wasnít being true to the characterís emotional state. Going into the scene, heís been mad at this person. Intrigued? All wrong. Pissy and wanting to find fault is more like it. And just like that, the scene has juice. Because his emotional state is stronger, more charged, which is always easier to write. Also because it feels right for him in that moment. Definitely easier to write when youíre not fighting the material.

I was all charged up, ready to rush back to the computer and fire up Word. But wait. With Damian in tow? I donít write with Damian around, at least nothing as intensive and enveloping as fiction. And a floor timer was due at the house in an hour. (Yes, we actually have floor time hours this week, glory be and god bless the fabulous bestest-of-them-all floor time therapist who moved to Chicago last month but is back for a single week, bored and looking for work. I love him. Iíd marry him but heís not my type. Besides, it would be bigamy and I hear thatís frowned on in most states. But I digress again.)

Anyway. Floor time is, well, itís often noisy. Especially with this particular dude. Lots of loud games, running around the house, shouting at each other, dueling and shooting lasers and flying through portals and such. Hard to concentrate in that kind of racket, yíknow? I usually plan fairly mindless work for the floor time therapist time slot. Cleaning. Exercise. Photo tweaking. Wallpaper removal.

And yes, while the floor time session was in full swing today, it was noisy indeed. But after Iíd lifted weights and sorted photos, I had two choices. Organize my office, the smart thing to do. Or try and write. The ridiculous thing to attempt.

I opened the file. Copied the boring version into a just-in-case file. Started writing. Heard shouts from the other room. Yeah, whatever. Kept writing. Footsteps thudding past. I looked up, registered two male bodies flashing by. Head back down, kept typing. Words coming out. Feelings coming out. Felt right. Flowed. Got to the end of the scene. Saved the file with a satisfied sigh. Listened to the echoed noises of silly games geared to help a six year old boy keep his focus and affect high for an extended imaginative session. Felt the buzz of a good work session.

Thereís a lesson here beyond the obvious one I keep forgetting and then remembering (when writing, stay true to character feelings, keep emotional stakes high where possible, conflict whether external or internal drives the story). The lesson is this: My writing time has been limited not by my personal commitments and chaotic life, but by my belief that these factors will limit me.

After this week, Damian will be out of school for nearly three weeks. He may have a floor time session or two but mostly weíll be in each otherís hair morning, noon and night. This can be fun. I want to set up play dates and museum outings and baking sessions and science experiments. But although Damian wants a lot of attention sometimes, he also likes to play by himself a certain chunk of the day, spinning froggy scenarios and investing in his imaginary world. And thatís good for him. Itís also good for me. If I give myself permission, I too can spend that time investing in my imaginary world. Iíll be a happier and more fulfilled mommy as a result.

Posted by Tamar at August 16, 2004 11:25 PM