Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On Writing with Family




I've not had days to myself at home for a long time. I think the last time was a couple of years ago when the rest of the family went camping at Glacier, but I was too sick to go. So I took care of the pets and wrote, and missed my family and watched old movies ...



This weekend, my husband helped drive the Boy Scouts for their annual summer camp, and he took our daughter along for a little fun and games on the way home. I thought surely I'd have the second half of my novel ship-shape. Ummmm. Nope. I did the laundry, cleaned house,
 tidied the kids' drawers -- does a girl really need to have an *entire* drawer full of socks? I took long walks with the dog. I watched the hamsters play, and petted the cat. I savored the quietness. I frittered away time on the net -- I watched funny cats, Argentine tango, listened to some old Marathi songs my mom used to sing, read blogs, commented on many, drank iced tea, looked through photo albums. It was procrastination at its very best.  

I did eventually get to revising my novel. And I made progress (about 50 pages). I did big picture stuff and left notes for myself to rewrite scenes. I rewrote some. Cleaned up others. But I'm sure happy to have my husband and daughter at home again. And I can't wait until this weekend when my son will be back from camp ... and I'll have to do several loads of laundry, and tell the kids to stop bickering, and clean up their rooms, but when I have everybody under this roof at night, I am content.

I tell you, no matter how much I might whine about juggling too many things, one thing is for sure -- my family routines are integral to my writing routine. Take away my family and I waste time. A lot of time. They also keep me on the straight and narrow path, the right path. I think without my family, I'd sink again into a den of iniquity, becoming self-absorbed and selfish.

Family life and writing go well together. For all the young mothers who struggle to carve out precious time to write while taking care of the myriad needs of their children, take heart. Write when you can. The children grow up too fast, so savor and enjoy them. There will be time enough for the books you want to write. When I look back at the little stories I wrote in 15-20 minutes of stolen time at the kitchen counter, and the revisions we did together at the dinner table (they'd draw cars in the margins or write their name on the papers), I feel a sense of accomplishment. Now that the children are older and go to school, the rhythm of the day is different, but it pretty much revolves around the family, and I do get my work done.

Sometimes I am envious of the writers who seem to write fast and well, who jet set and go off to amazing retreats where all they have to do is write and take care of personal hygiene. Even meals come prepared ... but I think I'll take my family and all the tumble and chaos they bring with it. Katherine Paterson said it best in her wonderful book The Gates of Excellence: "The very persons who took away my time and space," she says, "are the ones who have given me something to say."

Have a safe and happy 4th of July. God bless America. Let freedom ring. And when you fold your flag, think of these things. I learned about it on Flag Day, which we celebrated on the Yorktown with the Boy Scouts. Below are some pictures I took then. Enjoy.




  




8 comments:

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Love the Katherine Patterson quote, Vijaya. It is so true!

wordwranglernc said...

I am finding that I write better surrounded by my kiddos than away from them. They might be reading, coloring or playing, but they are there. I would love to take a week's writing retreat and finish up some of my longer works, but I would NOT want to do it all the time. Too much time away and my heart aches!

Mirka Breen said...

I recognize your life (minus the cute hamster and dog) as mine from five years back. You are right- they do grow up fast.
Your day, your ‘Home Retreat,’ seems very productive to me. You can look back and see that it was *good.*

Ruth Donnelly said...

So easy to get sidetracked by funny cats! It sounds like you made great progress even without the structure of routine.

Faith E. Hough said...

I agree completely, Vijaya--with you and Katherine Patterson. People often ask me how I write with three little ones, but I don't know how I'd write without them! I also like that the demands of motherhood make it very clear when you really do have time to write--so you don't waste it as much.

Bish Denham said...

Oh Vijaya, even without kids, I find I'd rather spend time with my sweetie than writing (most of the time.) Life is too short and we just don't know what could happen between now and this evening or tomorrow. He is more important than all the words I could ever write.

Vijaya said...

Ruth, KP is a gem and so are her books. You'll love the book.

Donna, isn't it amazing how we are more productive with our children around? But I've had scholarships to one-week writing workshops, and it was unbelievably good for me -- I think because there was a mixture of being together and being connected with people, and the quiet time to write. We are nothing without others.

Mirka, yes, it was good. Next time I'll have to invite a writer friend to spend it with! We'd be doubly good.

Ruth, funny cats are too distracting. My sister sent me a Rossini clip (cat duet) and now it is stuck in my head!

Faith, yes! The smaller chunks of time do the focusing for us, no? My ideal is a 1-2 hr. chunk. And it's a myth that you can do nothing in 15 min. You can!

Bish, you are right that relationships matter more than books. That's what it all boils down to. People first, then things.

MollyMom103 said...

My chickens are flying the coop. I do feel at odds sometimes without the whirlwind. It's mostly only me, and Jack and Tim now. It's pretty quiet her. Jack does have a few friends but they are off to four winds right now. I am even out of junior high now. Jack starts high school in the fall.

I wish I could get through 50 pages in a day. I limped through 5 today.