This week’s topic is the importance of NOT writing and I was sorely tempted to turn in a blank page as my offering. Who doesn’t love irony?
When I first heard I’d been selected as a Debutante writer for 2018, I experienced a brief thrill, followed by an immediate stab of horror. What had I done? Producing an article a week—on a strict schedule, on top of having to produce an actual book or three—might kill me. But it turned out writing for The Debutante Ball came easily; I’m so obsessed with writing that writing about writing happens almost effortlessly.
Writing a book, though. That is a whole other level of difficult. Anyone who’s ever tried writing a book—particularly on a publisher’s timeline and to their specifications—knows you can only sit there and do it for so long until your head explodes. Taking breaks, sometimes long ones, is paramount. It is essential, as a writer, to allow yourself some time to regroup, to mentally recharge, to digest what you’ve done so you can see it in a new light when you return. To that end, I decided yesterday I would treat myself yesterday to a day without writing. Here’s how it went down:
The children have been awakened, fed, and deposited at school. (I made that sound easy, but take my word for it: no.) Time to get my relax on! It’s raining and dreary out, and there is no greater pleasure in life than curling up in the golden glow of lamplight to delve into a well-written book, coffee in hand, maybe with the competent and cerebral voices of NPR murmuring in the background. Yes, yes, yes. Kai Ryssdal’s voice is so weirdly alluring. I wonder what he looks like? Hmmm. Oh God, this so blissful. Perhaps I will forgo writing as a career and become a professional rea—dang it. Phone.
Is the children’s school. Child #2 has slammed his thumb in a door.
I’m back from school. There is a heaping, malevolent stack of mail metastasizing all over my desk that I really should address, but the entire point of a break from writing is to do something rejuvenating, not something that makes you want to tear off all your clothes and run shrieking down the street like an agitated toddler. I’m ignoring responsibilities right now. I fill the tub with hot water and a few drops of silky, lavender-scented oil and ease in. I might pass out from delight: I love baths, especially since I’m always cold. This is heavenly, I could stay in here forev—what in tarnation is that sound?
There’s a small creature at the back door, yowling at the approximate decibel level of a jet taking off. This is not even our dog. We have a dog, but it’s a West Highland Terrier and while this thing is the same size as our pet, it’s a hideous brown color, not a nice snowy white. I look more closely. Oh, for the love of—motherf—what the—is that actually poo? Our dog has rolled in a pile of dinosaur-sized crap, apparently.
Regrouping: the dog’s bath is over, the owner of the mangled thumb has been soothed with Motrin and seems much better, given that’s he’s currently working the X-box with all the dexterity of someone typing 1000 words a minute. Hmpff. I’m going to salvage what’s left of my day off before the other children get home.
Lunch with my writer’s group! Headed out the door now—phone. Ugh. Is credit card company: did I just purchase twenty-eight sets of luxury tires in Michigan, Utah and Florida? No? Okay, the card is now defunct and a new one will arrive in 7-10 business days, and I will need to cancel all automatic payments. I do a quick check: I have 740,000 automatic payments set up. Decide to have lunch anyway, because cannot face the thought of sitting at the computer for hours for something so mindless and boring. Wait, can I afford lunch? Have no cash.
Called away from lunch to pick up child #1, who has developed raging conjunctivitis.
This day has spun out of control. Decide to get a little physical activity in, before school inevitably calls to announce last remaining child has come down with leprosy or something. Here’s the thing about writing no one tells you: it is devastating—devastating—for your bottom. And it’s physically dangerous: sometimes I become so sucked into whatever I’m writing that I don’t even unbend my legs for hours, thus putting me at risk to keel over from a blood clot. I’ve literally been known to rise from my desk and crumple over sideways when I try to take a step because my legs have gone numb without me realizing. So as a matter of policy, all writers must incorporate exercise breaks into their work days. I’m stretched out on the floor to commence some Pilates—gotta counteract the blood clots—when something wet strikes me in the face. I look up. The ceiling is leaking.
This is the time of day when I wouldn’t be writing anyway, because a) my brain is fried, and b) the people come home. The truly intolerable thing about children is this: they expect to be fed dinner Every. Single. Night. Oh Lord, the pressure of trying to feed five people day in and day out, especially when they dislike all the food groups. Not to mention the fact that all their little activities—the soccer, the field hockey, the gymnastics, the guitar, etc—-all wait to schedule their practices until the last possible second and then they schedule them for the exact same time, necessitating the world’s most complex evening carpool schedule.
Did I mention the soccer? Get home at 9 p.m.
I’m so exhausted from a day of not-writing that all I want to do is burrow into bed and stream old episodes of The Office, but it occurs to me this article for The Debutante Ball is due is in ten hours and that sucker is not going to write itself. Heave self out of bed and over to computer, where I compose the masterpiece you are currently reading. Lurch back to bedroom in drowsy stupor and kiss snoring spouse on the forehead.
Addendum: Middle of the Night.
Motherf***ing smoke detector is beeping. There are a million of these in the house, all optimally positioned at the highest point in every ceiling. Wake up sweet husband and we trudge to garage for ladder. Finally identify the culprit in child’s bedroom. (Child does not wake up, despite presence of parental units in bedroom, lights being turned on, and alarm screeching every ten seconds, thus completely negating the entire point of smoke detectors.) Replace battery. Go back to bed; cannot fall asleep. Finally drift off hours later, only to be awakened within ten minutes. Another smoke detector beeping, this time in our bedroom. Fetch ladder again.
Turns out we are out of batteries.
You can learn more about Kimmery’s debut novel THE QUEEN OF HEARTS here
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