Momming, Writing, and Thanking #NeilGaiman

Momming is hard.  (I assume that Dadding is hard, too.  But, not being a Dad, I wouldn’t presume to know.  It just seems like it would be.)  Momming takes time and energy (so, so much energy).  It takes patience, and it requires a certain tacit agreement to go without sleep.  Momming means changing your child’s clothes a dozen times a day…on days when you may not even manage to change your own clothes even once.

Momming is especially hard when you try to pair it with something else that is hard like, you know, Arting.  Arting is hard by itself.  Arting takes time and inspiration time and dedication and time.  And…well, did I mention time?

Yeah…with one husband, three children, three cats, four chickens, and one beagle, time is at a premium.  I know, I know.  I’m not special.  What was it that Neil Gaiman said?

quote-you-get-what-anybody-gets-you-get-a-lifetime-neil-gaiman-35-41-19
Image Credit: AZ Quotes

“You get what anyone gets – you get a lifetime.”  ~Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.

Smart man, that.

I really like Neil Gaiman a lot.[1]  I like his books.  I like how he talks about books.  I like that he appreciates librarians.  I even like how (for whatever reason) my beagle barks incessantly whenever I listen to Neil Gaiman’s audio books, as if she is convinced that a well-read Englishman has broken into our house and might decide to steal her kibble.

Not too long ago, I read a lovely response on Tumblr that Neil Gaiman had written about, well, writing.  In part, he said:

Set aside time to write that’s only writing time. Put away your phone. Turn off or disable your wifi. Write in longhand if you wish. Put up a do not disturb sign. And make your writing time sacred and inviolable. 

 And in that time, this is the deal. You can write, or you can not do anything. Not doing anything is allowed. (What not doing anything includes: staring at walls, staring out of windows, thinking broodily, staring at your hands. What not doing anything does not include: alphabetising the spice rack, checking Tumblr, taking your pen apart, playing solitaire or running a clean up program on your computer.)

 You get to pick how long a day your writing time is. An hour? Two? Three? Your call.

Doing nothing gets pretty dull. So you might as well write. (And if you write 300 words, one page, every day, you’ll have a 90,000 word novel in a year.)

Let me be the first to admit that I absolutely defer to Mr. Gaiman on the subject of writing.  He has done it longer.  He has done it better.  But I have Mommed longer than he has—what with him not being a Mom and all.  (Yes, yes, he has Dadded—his is Dadding–I know.  Hear me out.)

When I read Mr. Gaiman’s writing wisdom with a friend, I choked at the bit about picking how long a day your writing time was.  Seriously, an hourTwo?  Three?  *snort laugh*  I know of Zero mothers who have an hour to set aside without someone bellowing Mom?  Mama?  Mommy?

The Mom Version of this would be more like:

You get to pick how long you can ignore the crashes and whining coming from the other side of the door, or how long you can hide in the bathroom until your kids/spouse/co-workers find you. Ten Minutes? Fifteen? Until the person in the stall next to you asks if you have a roll to spare?  

Your call.

I understand that writers must write.  I do.  I get it.  And we do learn to steal our moments where we may.  For instance, in order to carve out about 30 minutes of writing time in the morning, I get up at 5:00 a.m.  I also write on my lunch hour.  I write at football practice.  I write in the stadium while waiting for color guard practice to end.  I write on my arm at stop lights.  I write on the back of envelopes.  I have even written out a particularly pleasing turn of phrase in the steam on the shower door, then attempted to fog up the room again to retrieve the snippet.  (Yes, it worked.)  But I honestly cannot tell you the last time that I had an uninterrupted three hour stretch of writing time.

With three kids, all of my vacation time and sick days are used tend to the needs of others.  Sick children.  Teacher conferences.  Rehearsals.  Recitals.  Dentist.  Asthma attack.  You pick.

Still, I do take his meaning.  And, honestly, I am grateful for the reminder.  It is the doing of The Thing that makes The Thing possible.  In other words: if I want to be a writer, I’d better write.  So, I do.  God help me, I do.  I set my alarm to an hour that even my chickens find deplorable.  I also linger in the bathroom longer than strictly necessary for bodily functions.  In between moments of Momming, I find time to do something else.  I write words.  I turn phrases.  I craft Art.  Perhaps the method is haphazard but, for now, it is the only method this mom can manage.

Life is short.  Kids grow up.  So, in the words of Neil Gaiman, I might as well write.

Thanks, Neil.

[1] I am especially fond of him because when my eldest child was eight years old, she decided to write to Mr. Gaiman and to send him a “book” she had written (and illustrated) entitled “Regina the One-Winged Owl.”  Mr. Gaiman was kind enough to very promptly send along a handwritten note of encouragement telling her how he liked the cliffhanger ending.  My daughter was thrilled.  She is now 14, and she still has the note.

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71 Days

There is only so much time. Each day has the same twenty-four hours; we just have to decide how we are going to use them. I saw a quiz (or maybe it was an app) on several friends’ Facebook pages this week. Apparently, the gizmo calculates how much time you spent on Facebook over the past year. I don’t think that any of the “totals” I saw were less than 1700 hours. *reaches for calculator* Uhhhhhh…that comes out to nearly SEVENTY-ONE DAYS on Facebook. Seriously. Seventy-one freakin’ days…nothing but Facebook. Now, honestly, who knows how accurate the thing is; but still, it made me think about how I spend my time.

There are a lot of things that simply have to be done each day, whether we like it or not. Life is full of time suckers. There is the commute to work (for me, that kills nearly 1.5 each day). I try to make use of that commute time, though—most days that becomes my Talk Time. I call my parents and talk about my day, their day, the kids, their health. And I consider that time well spent. I’m getting older which, of course, means they are, too. I want to make sure that I get in all the talks I can…while I can. *knock wood*

I also try to spend a bit of time each weekday on Twitter and Facebook connecting with friends, and readers, and people that will become friends and might someday read my stories. (Weekends I try to stay off social media, because, you know, Family Time.) And, like my parental talk time, this is precious, too. Some of my dearest friends are those I have never met in person, but when my husband had his heart attack they rallied around me. They are important.

Credit: hhttp://cristianmihai.net/2013/10/17/are-you-ready-for-nanowrimo-2/
Credit: hhttp://cristianmihai.net/2013/10/17/are-you-ready-for-nanowrimo-2/

I spend most lunch hours writing, but it isn’t enough—not nearly enough. I have been contemplating doing NaNoWriMo this year. If you haven’t heard, November is National Novel Writing Month. And, if you weren’t aware, yours truly is writing a novel. It is unlike anything I’ve written before, and if I can somehow coax All The Things In My Head onto the page then maybe I can do the story justice. But first, I need to finish the first draft. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in.

Apparently, I need deadlines (I also really need to win the lottery, but that’s another post). When left to my own devices, I meander and wander and lollygag. I need a firm end point in order to get things done. Yes, I know, NaNoWriMo is an artificial, self-imposed deadline. The world will not end if I don’t finish the first draft, no one will be sad or let down…except me. So if fake deadlines will make it happen, fake deadlines I shall have.

There are twenty four hours in the day, and I am squandering them. I am letting far too many hours slip through my fingers, and I can’t get that time back. But I can try to make the most of my time from here on out.

I can’t blame having young kids, or needing to cook or clean, or having to work full time, or having familial health issues—plenty of people have had all of these Real Life Things to contend with and STILL managed to write best sellers, or Science the Heck Out of Things, or write music, or…whatever. The difference is that they made their Thing a priority. That squeezed in a few minutes here, a few minutes there. They got up earlier, or went to bed later, or made story notes on the back of their grocery list while waiting in line, or at their kids’ bus stop, or on the sidelines at football practice.

There is always a good reason to NOT do The Thing You Love. There is always an excuse for why it has to take a backseat to All The Other Things. But the thing is, when all is said and done, I don’t want to have another excuse. I want to have another story (hopefully well told) to share.

So, starting today, I am going to “mind my moments” and try to use them to the best effect. And *nervous sigh* I am going to commit to NaNoWriMo. I might even share some of my daily words here…if I am feeling particularly brave (or masochistic, depending how you look at it).

Wish me luck.