Deb Sarah talks about the joys of writing… at Chuck E. Cheese

082_Sarah_Pekkanen_4X6My workspace? Sometimes it’s my minivan, when I’m parked outside school and I’ve got 15 minutes before the doors open and my kids come racing out, backpacks flying and sneakers pounding against the pavement. Sometimes it’s in my bed, late at night, with my husband and black lab, Bella, snoring in harmony next to me. And sometimes I knock out a page or two at Chuck E. Cheese while kids screech at the antics of a giant mouse (who I think looks suspiciously like a rat).

It’s not exactly how I used to imagine writing a novel. I always thought I’d write a book when I had more time — when the kids were older, when I lost those last five pounds of baby weight (fine, eight!), when I became the kind of woman you could see shopping at the Container Store and actually USING the stuff she bought, rather than having it become even more clutter. I imagined myself breezing into the perfect little coffee shop, where, after sipping a steaming espresso, I’d affect a thoughtful gaze. I’d position my fingers above my laptop’s keyboard and watch as a flawless novel unfurled.  I wouldn’t write the whole thing in a single day, of course – it would probably take a few weeks. But as long as the conditions were just so, creative inspiration would emerge, almost like a separate entity, and I’d sit back and watch it go to work.

Huh. I’ve since learned writing, at least for me, doesn’t work that way. I have to write when I’m exhausted. I have to write when I’m grumpy, when I’m bored with writing, and when I’m convinced I’m the worst writer in the entire world. I  need to write in little pockets of time as well as big spaces. I can’t make writing too… precious, for lack of a better word (and I’m a writer; I really should have a better word), or I’ll never get it done.  It’s the equivalent of a runner faithfully getting out there on freezing cold days, on rainy days when every passing car splatters water on her, and on days when her shin splints cry out for mercy. Sure, there will be days when she feels like she’s flying; when the sun is gentle and so is the breeze, and she could run forever. Those golden days exist in writing, too, but I know I’ll never stumble upon them unless I’ve done the gritty, painful training.

Here’s one thing I try to remember: It’s not about Maxwell House in my chipped mug at home versus pedigreed espresso served with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Writing doesn’t need to be gently coaxed out of me, like it’s a skittish unicorn that will disappear if the conditions are less than magical. 

Hey, Chuck E. Cheese? I should’ve thanked you in my acknowledgements for giving me a few more minutes of writing time. 


16 Replies to “Deb Sarah talks about the joys of writing… at Chuck E. Cheese”

  1. Wait, the Chuck E. Cheese mascot is not actually a rat? You’ve blown my mind. Seriously, though, I always use the metaphor of athletic training to explain to people what it’s like to write, and most of them just don’t get it. But it’s so true, isn’t it? Good luck, and let me know if you ever find out what to do with that stuff from the Container Store….

  2. Actually, precious is a perfect word, there. You and I feel just the same way, and partly it’s of necessity. When you have little ones, you have to cram the writing in wherever and whenever it will fit, inspiration or coffee be damned.

    I have joked many times that I should have thanked my baby swing manufacturer in the acknowledgments for REAL LIFE & LIARS.

    Oh, I thought I’d wait until the kids were older, too. Life had other plans. (Also, I now realize from watching my friends with older kids that it doesn’t really get easier.)

  3. You see…what you do with the containers is…

    Yes, it’s true, not only am I easily distracted (and was still thinking about the beauty of the container store when I got down to the running analogy and had to reread it), but I’m that woman in the container store (you know…instead of the one who should be at Chuck E. Cheese writing) trying to decide how many to buy and what colour! Very funny post!

  4. I always seem to want to make my office perfectly neat, myself presentable, my workout and errands done, and my house clean before I write. But writing, for me, actually seems to be about spending hours avoiding all that stuff and then writing out of a sense of despair and crushing guilt for being such an awful procrastinator.

    Hey, whatever works!

    And Chuck E. Cheese is horrible. We took our friend there for her birthday a few years ago and the “mouse” just looks lascivious in the photos. Then I found a picture of myself as a child with a Chuck E. Cheese who doesn’t seem to have any eyes! No wonder I write about evil beings trying to murder everybody.

  5. I spoke to a group of aspiring authors last week and one of them had a list of great story ideas but wanted to know how he could ever finish a novel considering he really just did not have the discipline to sit down and focus on the writing! And, he wanted me to tell him what to do about it. I suggested he NOT become a writer.

    Chuck E. Cheese, the corner coffee shop or the little corner of the upstairs landing that I call “my office” – it doesn’t matter so much where you do it or how much uninterrupted time you can devote to it. You’ve just got to find the time and place (and focus) to write if you want to be a writer.

    Now, I’ve got to go write ….

  6. Glad to know I’m not the only one that feels this way! Do you think we all want to make our environment neat and controlled because writing a book is such a scary and overwhelming leap of faith?

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! It’s very reassuring to know we all have similar feelings.

  7. One of my best friends (who is very petite) worked as the mouse in Chucky Cheese. She said wearing that outfit combined with the kids yelling and the smell inside that giant mouse head scarred her for life. LIFE.

  8. Go Katie!

    And Eileen, how awful for your friend! I once had to put on a giant Winnie-the-Pooh costume (don’t ask) and the cute boy from my high school class, whom I’d invited to see me “modeling” (yeah, there was some confusion there) showed up. The horror!!

  9. You’ve inspired me to use pockets of time to write on my blog! I haven’t been posting regularly like I used to, and I want to get back into that. It’s not that I don’t have anything say, it’s just that it’s gotten harder to find the time! But I guess I don’t need hours to write a little bit. 🙂

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