Once Upon A Time

Hey, remember when I called myself a writer? I don’t.

The other day I got an email out of the blue from an old friend who was briefly my editor when I wrote for Creature Corner. Last time we talked, Will and I were shopping DOGS OF WAR. And oh my, a lot has changed since then. Like how we stopped writing screenplays. And we don’t write together lately (we did put together a comic book pitch a few months ago, but it didn’t go anywhere). And Will is writing novels. And I don’t write at all unless you count my column or this blog.

Not writing feels like this huge part of my identity has just been rubbed out.

Compounding the problem is the feeling of utter aloneness I’ve had lately. Friends have asked me to do non-playdate things with them exactly twice all year. Tim took me to a concert for my birthday, and Morgan took me to dinner when she was in town after Comic Con. And frankly, I don’t get asked on many kid dates either–but when people do ask me to do things, it’s in my capacity as a mom.

Everyone urges mothers to not lose their identity. But no one ever mentioned that my identity might be taken away. I feel that I am only thought of as a parent by most of the people I interact with. Will pointed out that most of the people I know now didn’t know me before. Which is depressing as all hell because that means they didn’t know me when I was skinny. Yes, that is incredibly shallow of me. No, I am–sadly–not really joking.

(Incidentally, I immediately emailed a friend who is also a mother and asked her out for a no-kids cocktail. It was wonderful.)

So I got this email from Dave, who knew me when I was skinny and not a mother and still writing. And he asked what I’m up to. And I told him, and he was shocked. Mostly by the fact that I write knitting patterns. And I’m not in any way ashamed of that–I seriously love designing–but it’s such a wholly different identity than the one I had just four or five years ago, and I’m not sure how it happened.

I like what I’m doing now, but I don’t like not writing. I know this is just an extension of the whole not having enough time thing. You know, that thing.

But I need to find time.

How do I do that? Other than putting the kids in school/care, which I won’t do.

17 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time

  1. Jessica

    August 6, 2010 at 10:21am

    For me, writing involves a lot of discipline which is hard for me to get back because I can always make the excuse that something else really needs to get done and I’ll get back to writing later, which I never do. The only writing I do anymore is the stuff I do for work…which really seems to sap my soul rather than fill it…and occasional blog posts.

    My approach has been to make up a writing project and set up a schedule. When the project is in full swing (later this year), I will have to write a reflection every day for a year. Not a lot, but consistently. So, the alarm will be set earlier so that I can get 20 minutes of writing time in before C wakes up. I have no idea how well it will work, but I do know I need to start doing it again, particularly when I don’t have “work” to fall back on as an way of defining myself.
    .-= Jessica´s last post ..Ribbit =-.

  2. Amanda

    August 6, 2010 at 10:21am

    My suggestion would be to find another mom/dad who’s in the same boat and trade childcare. It would be difficult to find the right family, but in the right circumstances, your kids make new friends and parents get that me-time.
    .-= Amanda´s last post ..Just Like Summer Vacation =-.

  3. Katherine

    August 6, 2010 at 10:22am

    I don’t know! I’m a total hermit! I’m never busy but I don’t have any time to do anything! And I don’t even have kids! So, I can only tell you that I think you’re a Writer.

    I also remember when you were skinny! I still think of you as skinny. You and Min are my tiny friends!
    .-= Katherine´s last post ..August Doldrums =-.

  4. NovySan

    August 6, 2010 at 10:24am

    There is a large part of the population that knows me only as “Connor’s Dad.”

  5. Elle

    August 6, 2010 at 10:34am

    I really like Amanda’s suggestion. My daughter is almost 16 months, and lately I’ve been wanting to do something for myself, whether it be a class or going out to see a movie…in an actually movie theater. But then I get this guilt and can’t do it. *sigh*
    .-= Elle´s last post ..TMI Friday =-.

  6. B

    August 6, 2010 at 10:46am

    I’m with you. On everything you’ve mentioned here – except one tidbit that puts it in perspective for me is that I’m not going to homeschool beyond pre-school, so the kids will soon (like, really soon if I think too hard about it) be in school and I’ll be back at some crap job and I’ll totally miss these days. Stuff like that has motivated me out of my slump and made me get out of the house more the past week, doing the sorts of things I wanted to do when I made huge financial sacrifices to be a SAHM.

    Which of course saps my physical energy a bit, puts me more behind on the things I need to do around the house to keep it running – and leaves me even further away from dedicated time to write.

    But it’s been an emotional boost. I drove over an hour (both ways) yesterday to surprise my two best friends and only saw each of them for about an hour but it was the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long, long time.

    Amanda’s idea has a lot of validity. And it could, in the long run, be worth the work of setting up such a relationship, especially if in your case you could find an unschooling family to do this with for the long haul. But I also read her idea and just felt the huge weight of trying to seek out that kind of situation. And on days when it’s hard to even contemplate how I’m going to make yet another meal and then clean up after it let alone do a tub of laundry because I’ve been up off and on all night with one or both of the kids…
    Argh.

    What I’m saying is you may feel lonely, but you’re far from alone in this.
    .-= B´s last post ..easing back in =-.

  7. Jim

    August 6, 2010 at 10:51am

    I recommend giving up what you consider to be a reasonable amount of sleep at night; 5-6 hours is sustainable once you get yourself used to the schedule. I get up before everyone else to get my priority stuff done. Also – get those kids out to play early in the day – tire em out and they’ll more likely to let you get stuff done later in the day.

    I also also like to sedate them with video games, brain rotting TV and junk food on occasion. But, this tactic must be combined with a physically active lifestyle or it will yield little piggies, and not the cute house building story book kind.

    Come on over to NY for a non-play date anytime :)

  8. Calee

    August 6, 2010 at 10:58am

    Oh, how I agree with this whole post. I remember when we first decided to have kids I knew that my screenwriter days were pretty much shot. It didn’t have to be that way, but really it did and I came to terms with it. Just before baby #2 was born, I felt like I was beginning to develop an identity again- there were wide swaths of grad school classmates who has never met my daughter and freelance clients who didn’t know (or care) that I was married with a kid. Bedrest literally halted all of my “just me” activities and now I’m gearing back up for school and work but with an infant in tow. Yikes.

  9. Swistle

    August 6, 2010 at 11:21am

    I think of it as waiting to get back to it. It’s very very very very very difficult to do ANYTHING with a preschooler and a baby, but in a couple of years it’ll be wayyyyyyyy easier. So you do just a little, and soon you’ll be able to do way more.
    .-= Swistle´s last post ..Kitten Naming =-.

  10. Nell

    August 6, 2010 at 12:47pm

    Amanda’s suggestion is what I originally clicked through to suggest, but now that I’m here I thought of something else. When Freya was a baby (even younger than Grace is now) and Tilly was still only 2+ I enrolled in a writing workshop at the local community college. It wasn’t for credit or anything, but it gave me a deadline and a group of people to write for outside of myself and my world as a mother of two small people.

    Also, in relation to the trading childcare strategy, I started doing it with a mother I really hardly knew at all. She worked with Steve at the restaurant and had gone to high school with him and most of my other GB friends, so she wasn’t a stranger. But we traded childcare for almost three years and she’s become a really great friend.

    And finally, Swistle is right, it’s wicked hard to do stuff for you when the kiddos are small, but it does get easier.

  11. Kim

    August 6, 2010 at 1:26pm

    I started stalking you in your bettie from Buffylounge days and that’s still why I read your blog. Same humour, same interesting observations. Cute pics of your spawn are just a bonus.

  12. Amy

    August 6, 2010 at 3:09pm

    A few days ago something about one of our old pitch meetings came up in conversation and it took me a few seconds to even remember what Big D was talking about. Oh yeah, I used to write and even take meetings about writing. I almost forgot. Anyways, just wanted to say ditto on knowing how you feel.
    .-= Amy´s last post ..Judge Not The Hotdog Lest Ye Be Judged =-.

  13. allison

    August 6, 2010 at 6:40pm

    I also thought of trading care with another mom and particularly like the idea of another unschooling mom. I would think that even 2-3 hours a few times a week might really help you dedicate time for just writing. Are there unschooling groups or mailing lists in your area? That might be one way to find another parent (because I should have remembered that men raise children too! Bad feminist, no cookie!)
    .-= allison´s last post ..This post is entirely for Jenn =-.

  14. Jenn

    August 8, 2010 at 2:38pm

    In all, I need time that does not involve my kid to do my “brain” things. In my case right now those things revolve around marking or class prep – but same idea. I would no more be able to write during the day than I am able to prep during the day when I have Malcolm.

    Ideas Jim and I have put forward are:
    Getting up earlier.
    Picking evenings to trade off.
    Figuring out what we can push off our plates and no longer do (ie: housework stuff) so we can ‘get ahead’ during the day with malcolm and feel some freedom in the evenings.

    I use daycare (obviously) so that gives us 2 days a week. I also use a whole lot of weekend time for myself (ahahahaaaa whole lot = maybe 2hrs). I think the idea of finding another parent to time-share with is great, too.

    Side note: seeing some other Jim in NY commenting totally threw me off.

  15. courtney

    August 13, 2010 at 9:28pm

    Everyone has much more practical suggestions but take whatever time you can get. I think lots of people think, “How can I get a huge uninterrupted stretch of time to be REALLY productive in?” But if all you get for a day is five minutes, take it. (Not saying you wouldn’t or don’t do this–just throwing it out there as a suggestion!) If that five minutes gets you three words, that’s fantastic. That sort of thing. Also, I know typing is way easier but maybe carry around a notebook so if a free moment hits you when you’re away from the computer, you will be armed. Also go easy on yourself too.
    .-= courtney´s last post ..august through a lens =-.

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