I’m mired in self-consciousness today. I set out to write something about elementary school, and lost it to the voices of my parents in my head, correcting my memories, objecting to my interpretations. Then I thought I’d share the challenges of my Monday, with two children home from school and my lovely housekeeper already here cleaning and clearing, when usually Monday mornings mean an empty house–but seriously? Whining about having someone clean?
And with every word I typed, one of the two children hanging out at home appeared over my shoulder. Can I read you what I just wrote? Can I sit with you while I work on my homework? Can I just be right here where I might be reading what you’re doing? Please?
I typed and erased, typed and erased. I wanted to give up, in a big way. Call the whole day off, get a book, just concede. Then my older daughter, working away on editing a poem she’d written for English class, sighed.
“When I wrote this, it was fall. Now it’s winter. I’m just not … inspired.”
That’s the mark of a pro, I responded, or in your case, a good student. When inspiration fails, you keep working.
Yeah, right. I jettisoned the blog posts from earlier and opened the file for my book. I want to write about homework, I do, about the ways it kills us, the ways we can’t make it better, the ways we can. I do. But the voices in my head chattered merrily away. Now that they were done telling me what not to write, they had a lot to say about the little I was squeezing out. Awful stuff, it was. I don’t know that for sure, or that for sure, or that, either. Is that important enough for anyone to read? Does it matter?
The clock clicked mercilessly along, and so did they. I took a social media break, and they got louder. Everyone, everywhere, on Twitter, on Facebook, in my email, was writing more important things more intelligently, more brilliantly, and certainly more quickly than I. Who the hell put an email with the subject line “You can write faster than you think” in my in-box? Go inspire someone else, Jeff Goins. I can’t write at all.
I’ll never get anything decent done, never, not ever. Not today, for sure. Not tomorrow. Not over Thanksgiving, oh no–but all those people who do NaNoWriMo will, because they are all better and more productive than me. Everyone I want to be when I grow up had done more than I have before my age. I’m a wimp who gives in to the voices in my head, who even now is imagining the faint praise I’ll be damned with if my more accomplished peers read this, who gets a pat on the head for writing about children (aww!) and family (sweet!) and other topics only of interest to those who aren’t busily considering important matters of state.
Eventually I folded my laptop, ran my tiny treadmill intervals (3 minutes jogging, one minute walking, 4 times, nearly every day, because that’s something I can do almost no matter what). Took a shower. Got some chocolate. Built a fire that wouldn’t light, because my wood is wet, but it will another day. Cleaned up some dog poop, and washed the offending dog butt. Opened the file again, felt a little better, managed a few sentences.
Last week I wrote that it was ok to be happy, even when things aren’t “grate.” Today, I’m trying to tell myself that it’s also ok not to be happy. It’s ok to be discouraged, to feel a little defeated, and to still open the darn file and force something out. That tomorrow will be better, that little by little, I’ll write the book I want to write, the essays that sound so good in my head on those 4-hour hockey drives, even start that novel. That just sitting down today was a victory.