Friday, January 22, 2010

Learning to Juggle for the Adulthood Circus

I believe it is also referred to as the Writer's Lament.

I remember spending a summer as an Undergrad, 18 years old, still in the glow of a completed freshman year, making a deal that would give me the most unrealistic glamorous view of a writer's life I would ever have. I had come home expecting to struggle through another summer butting heads with my father, the proverbial workhorse, about getting a soul crushing summer job to toughen my skin. My father was a big believer in life lessons through distasteful experiences. My first official job was working as a stall cleaner at a local horse farm through my entire senior year of high school. To this day, I can't go near a horse without shuddering.
However, I recieved quite the shock when my father sat me down my third day home from college and proposed a deal. If I could commit myself to writing 8 hours a day at least 5 days a week throughout the summer I would be free from Summer Labor. This was a double surprise as my father and I had, to put it lightyly, disagreed on my choice of major and life profession. Ever the practical thinker, this was my father's method of acceptance. I seized the opportunity like a crocodile pounces on raw chicken. I wrote through the night, slept through most of the day, and became the writing hermit. It was quite theraputic. By the end of the summer I had produced 250 pages of a novel and two 50 page novellas.
I will never forget that summer, it was the last summer before reality hit. That year, I fell in love, and by next summer moved into a tiny apartment with my respected significant other (and two other people), got a soul crushing job (at Macy's), and found I barely had any time or will power to writer. I went back to school after an exhausting summer with maybe 20 pages (maybe) of new writing. Definitely a lesson in the trials of adulthood. I told myself, after graduation it wouldn't be like that, I would get a career, blah, blah, blah, best laid plans and such.
Okay so obviously I was a little naive about the immediate job opportunities for post bachelor degree English Majors. And after two months of scraping by, I had to turn to another retail job. (Border's is just as soul crushing as Macy's but with more reading material) And after my significant other and I became husband and wife, then father and mother of one hyperactive bright eyed boy, I really found myself crawling into bed most days, lucky enough perhaps if I graced the keys of my computer for more than an hour or two a week. It took the better part of two years before I found The Job.
Now working The Job in a family run used book store, able to bring my son to work, have run of the place, and build an encyclopedic knowledge of children's books, I found a balance to work with. It isn't that miraculous summer between my freshman and sophomore year, but my soul is feeling pretty good, barely crumpled. Its amazing how much time you find yourself having when your child goes from completely dependent to not so dependent. It feels like I have almost reached that level of Zen, like where you can balance standing on a small round ball while carrying two trays of three tier triple chocolate death layer cakes and not be tempted to lick the closest one. I have learned how to juggle for the adulthood circus, between work, family, wants, and needs. I even find time for the occasional netflix movie.
Now I am adding another chainsaw to the juggling hoop, hoping not to upset the flow. I feel, however, it is worth the risk. Going back to school, while adding a whole new strata of pressure and stress, will bring back my focus, my drive, and hopefully give me an excuse to occasionally dump complete parenting responsibilities on the hubby for a couple nights a week so I can work. And write.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

Writer's Lament? Sounds like a Writer's Triumph, to me.

1. I have never known -- or heard of anyone, except for Jo in Little Women writing her story -- who could write for 8 hours a day. Four hours a day is extraordinary. I'm incredulous that you managed to do this, and think it speaks for your passion.

2. Passion: Which, if I had not noted its existence in our first meeting or in reading your first chapters, would have jumped off the page [screen] in the rest of your Lament/Triumph. You appear to be indomitable, which is good: you will have to be to succeed as a writer, and even as an English major.

3. I'm glad you love your job. I must also mention that last week when I asked my editor for advice for a college senior mentee (person who gets mentored), she said that her best assistant editors had worked in retail.

4. Juggling is good, when it's self-induced the way you are inducing it. You will succeed. I wrote my first novel in a 20 minute a day slot of time during which my youngest child had not woken up from her morning nap, the middle child was still enjoying his only nap, and the oldest child had not yet arrived home from kindergarten. 20 minutes a day is 100 minutes a week, and from this the pile of paper that would be a novel came. When you can't write any minute you can know that it's all in your head processing, and you can trust that when you finally get to sit down and write, you'll have something to say. (In fact, you can plan on it.)

5. Above all, trust yourself.

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