I live in a mish-mash world of homeschool mornings and writing afternoons. The hours creep each other’s borders. There is never quite enough time. I carve days into recognizable formations, bordered by routines. One o’clock means “Quiet Time.” The girls invoke imagination kingdom, packed with projects and childhood innovations. The puppy naps, more or less.
I write. Or try to. It’s never as easy as I hope it will be.
There are usually distractions — requests for snacks, assistance needed in aisle Tutu, a puppy with a puppy bladder, my abiding afternoon exhaustion. “Quiet Time” is never quiet in my head, in any case. I’ve got characters clamoring for attention, tangled plot lines, misplaced dialogue, and the scritch-scratchery of emergent ideas. It’s just this side of bedlam — and where else would the stories come from?
I am saved by my own stubbornness, my blind determination to hack out words inside a rollercoaster day. It isn’t always lovely. Mostly, we slide along a spectrum, two very different scenarios perched at either end.
In Scenario One, the puppy is eating the couch. Rainbow Girl is has just thrown her pencil down in math-fact frustration, and Boo Monkey is practicing her five-year-old tantrums at ear-piercing decibles. Laundry is piled in such precarious mountains that we’ve taken to dressing ourselves from the stacks. The sink is a repository of misplaced meals. The carpet looks as if it is growing fur. Or grass. Okay, then, both.
In spite of all the chaos, or maybe because of it, in Scenario One, my writing is going well. My words flow. My ideas spark. I find the necessary balance in Chapter 23 and straighten out the mixed-up-mess of half-wrought tales. Characters drop in to chat and plot lines shake themselves into delicious combinations.
In Scenario One, nothing flaps my feathers. I am a duck, and the water of chewed shoes, thrown Legos, and spilled coffee simply pours off my preoccupied back.
This is writing euphoria. I’ve stepped inside the bliss of spinning tales, the rapture of words that fall together lightly. It’s as if the story has taken me up, instead of the reverse. I am capturing words as they tumble from a generous Muse. I am wrought and wired within the telling.
But writing euphoria never, ever lasts. In Scenario Two of this writer-mama household, the puppy is taking a long, glorious nap. Rainbow Girl is practicing piano without intermittent nagging. Boo Monkey has dressed herself in tutus and tube socks and is happily drawing pictures of herself and me smiling beneath a rainbow. The laundry is folded and put away. The sink is not only empty but clean. And you can see the color of the carpet.
And yet, my writing is a mess. I bite my nails to the quick as I grapple with intractable tales, with blinking cursors on blank screens, the defiance of stim-stammered words. I revise the same paragraph twelve different ways and still hate it. I practically weep at the injustices of Chapter 23. Characters are not simply mute; they are hiding in caves filled with vampire bats. If I find a plot line at all, it is chipped beyond recognition.
In the jagged folds of my stymied writing, I am very, very cranky. I yell at whispers. I growl. I might, in fact, resemble the fairytale ogres that give my children nightmares. I am fairly certain the veins in my neck begin to pop.
Scenario Two is not popular in our house.
Of course, there are variations. Both Scenario One and Scenario Two are flipside extremes. I spend most of my writing hours in the middle, halfway between the sweet-spot and a mud hole, wearing one high-heel and one ragged rainboot, clomping along, trailing streaks of my own untidy unraveling.
Still, I live for writing euphoria, the delicious hummm, that fragile, perfect balance. Even if there is glitter glue all over the linoleum. And scattered Cheerios. And who used toothpaste to paint the bathroom again? I’ve forgotten that I ever contemplated throwing the hard drive from the window. Or selling the dog to the gypsies. Or hiding in the bathroom from my kids. My words have taken over and I am relishing the flight.
My ogre self is much more common, with her crazy conflations of writerly despair and wild impatience. No one is fond of her. Still, she persists.
The truth is that writing is work. It is hard work, even on the best no-laundry-no-dishes-good-dog-good-kids-clean-carpet days. I wrangle words because they are tricky beasts and very rarely fall into place of their own accord. I hustle them, and nudge. I coral them here and prod them there. Sometimes they bite. Sometimes they lay down and play dead until I exhaust myself in pushing at their weight.
Only in euphoria do the words slip-slide easy, like melted chocolate on the tongue. Those are the glory moments, worth the waiting and attention, worth the aching shoulders, my butt half-asleep on the chair, the dog running crazed through a mishappen house, with children jumping beds and throwing markers.
Euphoria doesn’t have to be pretty. It simply has to fly. For that, I hold on tight. Catch my breath. And go.
I’d love to hear what type of creative euphoria gets you through the chaos. Do you thrive while cooking, painting, writing, walking in the woods? Please share!