Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Art and Life

I've been getting up early for over a month now. I think it's starting to take its toll. Yesterday I realized I had been walking around all morning--taking Kara to school, running errands, grocery shopping--in mismatched shoes! True they were both running shoes, but obviously different running shoes. Different brands, even!

Oh well. It's not exactly like I'm known for my style and fashion sense.

This morning Kara woke up at 5:30 and Kyle woke up at 5:40. Granted, it was only a half-hour earlier than they usually get up, but I force myself out of bed at 4:30 so I'll have an hour and a half of quiet and I don't want it cut short, even by a few minutes.

Actually, that's only true most of the time. I don't mind terribly if they wake up early when the writing's going badly. When I'm struggling, bring on the distractions and interruptions! Give me any excuse to stop! This morning, however, I was clipping along pretty well and therefore kind of annoyed not to get the full 90 minutes.

But, you know what? That's life when you've got kids. And it's okay. I want to write, to be sure, but I also love being a mom and I adore my children. I'm a mother first, and a writer second.

I started writing this novel almost three years ago. From day one, it's been a balancing act: a supreme effort to juggle the demands of motherhood with the focus and determination I've needed in order to write regularly. Sometimes I've gotten really frustrated that I couldn't dive into the story and write for hours at a time. I've longed for the freedom to write as much as I want, whenever I want.

Did you ever see the Johnny Depp movie Secret Window? It's not that great of a movie, but I love the setting. He's a writer who lives alone in an isolated mountain cabin. He wanders around the house in his bathrobe, takes naps in the middle of the day, writes whenever the spirit moves him--the stereotypical eccentric artist. He doesn't have to change diapers, make snacks, do laundry, drag the Little People play sets up from the garage, all the while desperately hoping his toddler will take a nap that day so he can have an hour to himself: a good description of my life at the time I decided to write a novel, and about as far from Johnny Depp's Secret Window life as you could possibly imagine.

But remember that Stephen King quote?

"Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

When I started my novel, I felt so stretched and tired. Stretched because almost every waking moment was spent taking care of small people. Small adorable people to be sure, and people I loved tremendously, but demanding, sometimes unreasonable people, nonetheless. I loved being a mom, but I was also really tired and wished there was some way to escape mommy mode for just a little while every day.

Writing brings me that escape. It gives me something for myself--a way to create and feel productive and use my brain. What's more it helps me become more relaxed in my role as a mom; I have so much more patience when I've been writing regularly.

So I try not to get frustrated and annoyed when my real life interferes with my creative life.

Art supports life. It makes it richer and fuller and better, but it's not more important.

I wouldn't want to be locked away out in the boonies, wearing my bathrobe all day, completely alone. As frustrated as I can get about trying to balance writing with motherhood, there's no other way I'd want my life to be.


rowena said...

Hi Renee,

I stumbled upon your blog and can really relate. I'm a new mom (6 months)and am trying to get back into my writing and art. What I was doing before kind of petered out, but I have a new story percolating... but I know the rule, writers write. Sigh. If only I could figure out how to balance all the mom stuff and the writing stuff. Good luck.


Renée said...

Thanks so much for commenting, rowena! Being a new mom is tough. I never could have gotten my act together to write regularly when my first was 6 months old. Becoming a mother required me to make such a huge mental shift about myself and well...everything! I didn't have anything extra in me to take on such a big project. Aside from the physical demands of taking care of a baby, I was pretty overwhelmed by the mental demands. There's no way I would have had enough energy to do what I'm doing now.

That being said, it sounds like you are already an artist. I wasn't at the time. Since you already have experience with the demands of creating, I'll bet you figure out a way to get back at it fairly soon.

The thing I finally realized was that I didn't have to have hours of uninterrupted time for writing--just a little every day enabled me to make progress. I earmarked nap time to write, and wrote--not a lot, but enough.

Good luck to you too. I know you'll figure it out. It just might take some time.