Writing and Reading (and blogging!) around the edges of a busy life –

I can’t claim the above title as mine – I read something similar in a literary journal once (wish I could remember which one!) The author wrote about how she went to a writing colony for a couple weeks with the express intent of finishing up one short story but found the solitude stifling and she ended up returning home early and finishing the story around house-cleaning, child-rearing, dentist appointments, etc.  She called it writing around the edges of a busy life.

Sometimes I feel a bit – inauthentic. Is that a word? I feel inauthentic because I at once consider myself a writer – a person who both writes to earn her living and a person to hopes to eventually write to earn her living writing HER way, but I am not one of those writers who, say, rigorously wake up at 4:00 every morning to work for three hours or only works odd jobs in order to maximize her time writing – one must have a retirement savings, no? I am practical.  And I have slovenly habits, one day waking up at 5:00 to write, another working late into the night even though I have to work the next morning. I still remember those heady graduate school days when I awoke at 7:00, wrote in my pajamas until noon and only then showered and moved about the world – no wonder I wrote a whole loooong book and even revised most of it! But that was my life then, and it is not now – now I have eye doctor’s appointments and laundry and pants I need to get hemmed, a checkbook to balance, dinner plans with friends, and yoga class – obligations for my work and obligations for S.’s work and obligation to friends and family and for a long time I resented or felt guilty for every minute I didn’t spend writing, every minute I spent spending with friends or in the movies or scrubbing my floors, but last week I had a bit of a revelation – I can write and read around the edges of my life, right now. I mean, for Pete’s sake, I turn 30 in two months and when I reflect on the last decade I spent FIVE of those years in school – FIVE.  That’s ridiculous luck and privilege, right there. Ridiculous.

Last week after the Yogurt Incident I confess I took a mental health day, something my dad let me do in high school when the world was too much with me.  It is one thing to feel a little stressed out and another entirely (at least if you are me) to find yourself crying in the women’s bathroom because your yogurt is gone.  On my mental health day I slept in absurdly late, and then I cleaned my house – and did I ever clean it! I scrubbed and dusted and mopped and organized, I returned library books and I returned dvd’s and I deleted everything from my Tivo that I hadn’t watched and now I sit this morning in a house where I don’t owe the library any books, Blockbuster any dvd’s, and all my bills are paid.  I’m quite sure there’s a biblical quote somewhere about now that your house is really clean, so is your mind? Maybe? At any rate.  I’m the sort of person who spends time with her friends and her family, whose life will only get busier with the addition of children (hopefully), who must work and who is primarily responsible for the household in terms of groceries, meals and dusting (S. does clean quite a bit).  So last week I decided to take some of the pressure off – no more reading challenges, for one. I had too many books going to concentrate on and I found myself watching television instead of reading which I have never ever ever done even when young.  I was watching television instead of reading because I couldn’t slog through anymore Tolstoy or Berube and so I put Tolstoy and Berube away, opened I Am Charlotte Simmons, and life is so much better.  And, so television isn’t a distraction, I deleted every television show I had taped, which truly was an embarrassing amount.  It’s okay, I decided, to catch a show here or there but it is not okay to fall into tivo’s trap, which makes every television show in the world available to you.  And finally, with my writing, I do need to keep submitting essays and to keep putting fingers to keys, every day – but it’s okay if I’m slow.  One of the frustrating things about the whole literary journal thing was not the rejection so much as the fact that I recognize I need to resubmit as soon as possible but I write so slowly the essay I submitted is the only appropriate piece I had for it! So it’s okay if that, too, takes time.  Because I am writing and reading (and blogging!) around the edges of a busy life, and I’m quite blessed –

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10 Responses to Writing and Reading (and blogging!) around the edges of a busy life –

  1. BikeProf says:

    I keep trying to think of something witty to say, but I keep coming back to “thirty in two months.” I think that feeling of inauthenticity never goes away. I’ll be forty in two months, and I still feel that way.

  2. Stefanie says:

    Sounds like your mental health day did its job. Yay for mental health days!

  3. Emily says:

    Once again, we’re on the same wavelength. Bob recently read some writer (can’t remember who) said that in order to be a writer, one has to read four hours a day and write four hours a day. I, as so often happens, found myself getting all concerned. You mean my one hour of reading a day and half hour of writing (when I can get to both) won’t work? Then I woke up and realized, “We’re not all monks here. Nor are we all independently wealthy.” And then I remembered that I think I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter while commuting on a train. And then I came to the conclusion, “That’s what THAT writer needs, but not ALL writers do.” And then I read this post. I feel much better all-around.

  4. litlove says:

    Sounds like you are really getting your head in order, Courtney. Good on you! Just wish I could do the same thing.

  5. Make Tea Not War says:

    I think you’ve got your head screwed on. Nearly thirty is young. There is lots of time. You only have one life to live and I think its reasonable to want friends and family and a reasonable lifestyle- AS well as to be a writer. And personally *I* wouldn’t want to try to combine having kids with a starving artist lifestyle. It’s much better (IMO) to be in a position to pay medical costs, buy presents, go on holidays etc.

  6. Dorothy W. says:

    Mental health days are wonderful — I usually take one a semester. And I wrote my dissertation on an hour a day — sometimes less. It took me forever, but I made steady progress and was happy doing it, and I continued to read for fun and ride my bike and hold down a full-time job while writing it, so my life wasn’t so bad. So and steady works perfectly well, I think.

  7. LK says:

    I took a mental health day and watched TV. Whoops.

    How wise you were to clear the decks, physically and mentally. It helps one to go forward with less of that “boulders slung over the shoulders” lugging a burden kind of feeling.

  8. Andi says:

    You’ve put it all into perspective quite nicely. I’m attempting to do the same. I’m keeping my focus on what needs to be done RIGHT NOW, but I’m using the edges for projects I enjoy and that enrich my life: reading, writing (‘zine and a novel I started eons ago), and I’m seeking out new opportunities that I can embark upon when this grad school business is done.

    I’m a HUUUUGE believer in mental health days. I took quite a few of them when I was teaching high school and it seemed like every day was too much. Sometimes I was ready to crack.

    And I’m a house cleaner when I’m stressed, too. I start throwing things out left and right! 🙂

  9. smithereens says:

    I so wish for mental health days, but it doesn’t exist here. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed myself these days, so your post was quite a relief, to see that other face the same difficulties and find solutions! Thank you so much for that.

  10. hmm, i just tried replying to everyone and it’s not showing up…test…test…

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