It is after midnight, and I am up. I was asleep, two hours ago, when my daughter woke, screaming in pain from an earache. Now, she is on the couch with a hot compress on her ear, watching Sesame Street on Netflix, and I am still not sleeping.
I am six days from a deadline that, at the moment, seems impossible to meet. And I feel absolutely helpless to meet it. I don't even have ten thousand words written, how can I possibly come up with an entire novella by March 7th?
I think back on the past few weeks, when I should have been writing the book. I start by blaming my children's school. Three weeks ago, they decided to have some staff training. To accomplish this, they gave the children Thursday and Friday off. And for midwinter break, they decided to give them the following Monday, as well. The next week, a snow day obliterated any sense of normalcy in the household. This week, two half-days and a day off.
Stack on top of those circumstances my son's testing for an autism spectrum disorder, an hour's worth of travel for an hour's worth of testing, once a week, during my prime writing time. I always take a notebook, thinking I'll write. My husband spends the time flipping through fashion magazines and openly criticizing each photograph to me. Not much writing is accomplished during this time.
The field trip, that's something, and the preschool pick-ups and drop-offs. Some important tax papers, that I had been putting off, needed faxing. Two separate trips to the only two civilian fax machines in town resulted in nothing but lost time; the treasure department for my state can't spring for a dedicated fax line, apparently.
On days when my daughter is not at school, her demands are constant. She's used to unwavering attention from her classroom's teachers- two of them, for eighteen children-, as well as the constant stimulation they provide while she is there. She now expects the same at home, and is not content to color quietly.
I begin to look at my day in hour-long chunks, hoping I can squeeze some words out here and there. 6am, get up, get the kids breakfast. By 8:30, they should have all been dropped off at school and I can return home, where the kitchen needs to be cleaned. By 9am, I can sit down to write. The phone rings off the hook. This bill needs paying, this appointment needs rescheduling. The dogs need to go out, now they need to come in. I haven't eaten anything all morning. I have to pick up daughter from preschool at 11, what time is it? 10:30? Already? Maybe I can get some writing done while she naps. I bring her home, serve her lunch and time to wind down from the stimulation of preschool. She's down for a nap by 1pm, finally I can write. But I have to have my lunch, as well. I fix it, and sit down to write. It's 1:30, and my first-shift husband comes through the door, tired and cranky about his job. He wants to talk about it. Now, it's 2:30. Finally, I'm writing. For an hour, interrupted by phone calls. How much have I written? A sentence? At 3:30 my son comes home, the signal that my work day is over. He and his sister will fight. There will be slapping and pushing and screaming, and my husband will be too exasperated by them to effectively solve the problem. He'll become exasperated with me, too, when I lose my temper because I just. Need. To Work. My brain is already too tired from fighting for time to write. I'll just wait until after dinner. But after dinner, after the baths, after the kids are in bed after multiple trips to the bathroom, for water, whatever excuse they can dream up, I'm tired. I give up. I go to bed. Tomorrow will be different.
But tomorrow isn't different. Tomorrow, I get up, I get the kids ready for school. I forget the testing appointment, FUCK! I have to call the school, and they're put out with me calling yet again when I should have sent a note. At 10am, we're headed to the far-off testing appointment. By the time we get home, it will be after 1pm, daughter will have briefly fallen asleep in the car, negating any chance of a nap for the day, and I will be too emotionally exhausted to try and write. It's very hard to face that your child might have a handicap, that this might be the new reality. You can't write about something as trivial as werewolves fucking, when you're realizing that your child isn't normal, and your brain is busy spending that time blaming everything you did, from daring to watch television when he was an infant to having him vaccinated. Meanwhile, I guiltily give in to my daughter's every demand for my attention, even if it means I can't do my job, because I'm worried the concern for her brother is leaving her in the cold.
I don't know how to fix this problem. I do know that the book will be done on time. This will be accomplished through too many late nights, not enough sleep, at the expense of the house looking like the worst home ever featured on hoarders. I know I can do the work. I know I can write an excellent book. But at what cost?
It's almost 1am. My daughter is still not sleeping, and my manuscript blinks at me while I guilty type this blog. No one wants to read about werewolves who can't get their jobs done, though, and sometimes, you just need to let out the bad before you can use the good.