We came to Romania so I could write. The book I’ve been working on, the massive project spanning three years, three continents and three languages is finally wrapping up, and I had a deadline for myself to get the first draft done. So because we were in Europe, and because we don’t have a home, anywhere, we looked at the map and I said, “ooh Romania” and then we were here. It’s perfect for writing, it’s quiet, easy, cheap and the internet is super fast. I sat down with my notes, years of notes, and my research, just volumes of it, and I start pounding away. There’s this moment when you are writing, and the edges of yourself fade, and it feels good. It’s like that last dream before you wake up, when you’re aware of being in the bed, the light has started to stream in through the window but you don’t get up, “not yet” you think, and you try to catch the last taste of the dream that has almost, but not quite, slipped away. It’s delicious. I love to live in that space, to fall down rabbit holes and keep going until something — or someone — pulls me out again.
Like my kids.
This is Cole, my four-year old, in the orange t-shirt. The caption should read, “ARG! Play with me! HELLO, new friend, did you know you can chase me? Do it!”
Then there is Stella. She’s 18 months going on 47. She’s very serious. Except when she’s alone with you, then she wiggles her butt to the music, nods “yes” emphatically to whatever you say, and talks up a blue streak about how the chocolate is hers, not mama’s but hers.
“Don’t eat my chocolate. My chocolate.”
“Okay, I won’t eat it, it’s for you. That’s Stella’s chocolate.”
She nods emphatically.
Then she eats one piece slowly, while eyeing me up.
Drew takes care of the kids. Sometimes I find things he has drawn for them. This was the bike we rode across France. “Remember that Cole?” Yup.
But as two stay-at-home parents, and even with my husband looking after both kids, there is no bubble I can slide into to write. I considered hiding in a hotel, but it’s been impossible. Even in my desperation, with Stella teething, Cole coming to find me, and a looming deadline, I couldn’t do it. One friend wisely noted: “You’ll just miss them too much to get any work done.”
So instead, I cut down my other work, I disappeared from my online spaces and I stopped blogging. For a month. I didn’t get to write all day, like I had hoped. Instead, I wrote in 15 minute chunks, little spaces where I slipped into my book, and then, just as quickly, I was pulled out again. Stella wants me to hold her. Cole has a story to tell me. So I stop. I hold. I listen. I force myself to repress the emotions that want to come up, the panic and anxiety about my deadline, the frustration, the resentment. I stop and I just switch gears.
The incredible thing I’ve learned over the last month is that I can do this. I don’t require perfect quiet to write, or even both of my hands free. I can fill my kids up, enjoy them, then return to where I left off. I have gotten better at being a writer, my time is my major limitation, but that has forced me to be more efficient. I don’t need to be inspired to write, I just write. If I have a moment. If there’s nothing else. If I am alone. I don’t have to ramp up to it, prepping myself like some kind of elite athlete, massaging myself into it. It just happens now. Fast. I’ve got this.
Just a month ago, I thought that disappearing was part of my process. That I needed that, to be creative. Now I am thinking that maybe creativity is just like a muscle, and if you practice using it in certain ways, it gets stronger.
My inbox is full of unanswered mail, something that would have bothered me once, but now I just think, “What and miss this?”
“Be here, right now, with me, mama,” that’s what I hear them saying. So I say okay and close my laptop.