On November 1st, 2016, as part of NaNoWriMo that year, I officially started writing the Perfect Assassin. Less than a week later, the most bigoted, hateful, willfully deceitful human being was elected to the highest office in our nation.
Not a week has gone by in these past two years where I haven’t worried for my friends and family, where something more dire, more pressing, more terrifying has occurred to snag the headlines. Banning trans people from the military, Nazis running for office, school shootings, tax codes that penalize the poor, the constant attack on a free press, children in camps, children torn from their families, children forced to represent themselves in court, children told they’re less than, children left to cry on a cement floor, surrounded by uncaring guards, no knowing when, if ever, they’d see their parents again –
Deep breath. Let the tension ease out, the anger fade. Where was I?
Oh yes, distractions.
Three weeks before I started writing that November, I gave birth to a healthy human. Sleep was something I’d given up months before, during the most awkward stages of pregnancy, but the reality of an infant is quite a bit more than just a lack of sleep. It’s a constant needing, a constant attending, a knowledge that any moment – any second the newborn could wake screaming, hungry or wet or gassy. A knowledge that kept me from sleeping, let alone sinking into my writing.
But I had the spaces between. I had the walks, long with the desperate need to break up the day and see the sun and maybe, just maybe, get the baby to sleep. And during those walks, I let myself sink into the story in a way I couldn’t during the rest of the day. I plotted and I wrote in my head so that when I could finally settle my netbook between the baby on my chest and my knees, I could write.
I thought, oh. With sleep, this’ll get easier.
Reader: it did not get easier with sleep.
The newborn turned into a baby turned into a toddler. All the time freed up from rocking a baby to sleep is now spent helping the Toddler put her stuffed toys to bed, or supervising her with the cats, or helping her take off the caps on all her markers and then put them back on again. I enjoy every minute with her, but by the time she’s in bed for the night it’s little more than I can do just to cook for the week or pick up after her or do the laundry. Writing? Hah. I haven’t even had time to think.
Wait, what was I talking about again?
Oh yeah. Distractions.
I started this blog post last Tuesday. Since then I have spent uncountable hours staring at Twitter, doing dishes, chasing cats, chasing toddlers chasing cats, I have worked my dayjob and planned December and handed out candy and washed the laundry and folded the dishes and tried to figure out why the cat was yowling and worried about everything beyond my control and refreshed Netgalley a bajillion times and put up happy lights and put toddlers to bed and made toddlers breakfast and oh dear god why is that cat yowling again?
But also: life.
It’s harder now than it’s ever been to carve out the space for writing. It’s harder now than it’s ever been to stay present with my thoughts and not go chasing after the first shiny thing. I admit, I chase more often than not.
But I’m getting better.
Deadlines help. Small personal ones and even smaller daily goals. Music helps, enough to quiet the more distractable portions of my brain. If not music, white noise like Coffitivity. A set time of day. And if I still can’t keep off Twitter/Facebook/Fark/Wordpress/What Have You, there’s always Freedom or Strict Workflow.
And, when it gets real bad, I know how to turn off my router.
The world will still be there when I turn it back on. But the world needs stories, now more than ever.
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