Cinderella Understood Writers
Well, I'd say she at least understood married, female, mommy writers. Because writing does not yet pay the bills for me, it too often remains at the bottom of my to-do list each day. I've heard all the suggestions about carving time out for writing, about making it such a priority that you hang a sign on your home office door that says, "Don't bother me unless you're bleeding. I'm writing!"
As things tend to go currently, there are a few things wrong with these suggestions at my house. First, my home office has no door. The house used to be apartments, and my office used to be the upstairs kitchen. There was a bifold door on it when my son used it as a bedroom (the only bedroom with a sink and cabinets), but that's now buried somewhere up in the attic. Trust me: No one wants to venture up there to look for a bifold door just so I can hang a paper sign on it.
Another dilemma is that I was blessed at birth with an innate sense of panic, anxiety, and guilt. If someone in the house is upset, it is automatically my fault and I must make things right. If someone feels bored, I must entertain the masses. If someone needs a load of laundry done, I must drop what I am doing and take the laundry basket down to the basement. Despite being a mediocre cook, and despite having a semi-empty nest, I am responsible for dinner, and in some cases lunch. I pack lunches for family members who work outside the house. I also do grocery shopping, clutter-control, and the modest amount of cleaning I can bring myself to endure.
And, of course, I do freelance copy editing, proofreading, and sometimes typesetting as projects come in. I rarely turn down projects -- part of that "Just Say Yes" syndrome that guilt-ridden folks are born with. We don't wish to hurt anyone's feelings, even clients we've met only through e-mails, and so we say yes to everything and then hope a calendar day magically becomes 40 hours long.
In my guilt-ridden mind, all of these things must come before writing. I pick up on the unspoken opinion that the writing should come in dead last, after I take out your trash or paint your living room or run to the bank or take you to the movies or a trip to the store for some Very Important Personal Shopping at the last minute.
I don't know why I buy into these opinions. I don't know why I cannot hang that sign on the rhetorical door and force family members to fend for themselves for a few short hours every day. One thing I don't buy into, though, is the theory that I probably don't take my writing seriously. I do. I've wanted to be a writer since grade school. I've accomplished some things with my writing, more now than ever. However, I think I take my family seriously too. What I need to do is find a way to help them understand the difference between needing me to do things for them and simply wanting me to do those things.
And, I suppose, a little shot of writing-self-esteem and a suppression of that conflict-guilt would go a long way toward finding daily time to write. After all, even Cinderella found time to make that dress and go to the ball. Granted, she had a bunch of singing mice to help, but as I look around my office at the guinea pig enclosure behind me (housing Murray and Ajax, who keep me company up here), I somehow don't see either one of them singing and cooking up a nice ham dinner for me so I can spend my time writing instead.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to put the laundry into the dryer and run to the store. We're out of milk. Again.