My 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.