Two things I’m often heard complaining about: I don’t have enough time to write and I don’t get enough sleep. What I do have is a full-time job and two little kids, so my beefs seem pretty legitimate. There’s a supportive husband in the mix, but no extended family close-by, and we don’t have the money to hire much in the way of time-saving. We do the cooking, the cleaning, the yardwork (or we don’t). We skimp on or swap for babysitting.

At this point, some readers are probably like: You have a yard on top of all the rest? Cry me a river of unspilled ink. Others might be thinking: You clean your own toilets? Glad I’m not you, but honestly, it’s irrelevant, and it’s sort of pathetic that you bring up the fact that I don’t.

There’s a lot of snark and defensiveness around the issues of time and money. This is evident everywhere from the rhetoric of the Tea Partiers to the comments sections inspired by mommy warriors like Caitlan Flanagan, sure, but exhibit A in my trial is my experience of living with myself. I am still rankled by an interview in The Rumpus in which, when asked how she does it, what with two little kids and a nonprofit and a writing and editing career and all, Vendela Vida  says that everyone can find two hours a day to write. That interview appeared over six months ago, but many a day ends with me shouting in my head: Do you see two hours of writing time in this day? DO YOU SEE TWO HOURS OF WRITING TIME IN THIS DAY?

And then a little internal voice might say: Well, if you’d gotten up at six and jumped right on the computer you might have been able to get an hour in. And admit it. You probably spent at least an hour today dawdling online—you read that interview, didn’t you? And what about those two episodes of Friday Night Lights you watched back-to-back the other night?

And then a much shriller voice says: Six o’clock is not sustainable! She said everyday, and didn’t you hear me say already that I don’t get enough sleep? And am I not allowed to ever relax with my husband? To exchange news with a friend on Facebook? To read a book?

And then, the loudest voice of all screams at ear-splitting volume: No! You’re not! (That voice runs out of breath the fastest.)

There’s also a reasonable murmur, which calls for order: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Show some compassion. And don’t be too easy on yourself, either. Employ some self-discipline. And definitely don’t waste your energy whining. Calm down, and write or don’t. No one really cares by you.

Indeed, it’s true. Which is both a relief and salt in the wound.

The thing is, I do care. When my son was born I kept up a writing schedule for a while, but I ceased any regular exercise. By the time he was around two, I felt crippled. Curled into a child’s pose in yoga class with my back screaming in pain and relief, I swore that as God as my witness, I would never go two years without exercise again. It’s the same sort of difference between writing and not. Except that two or three hours of yoga in a week makes me easily feel great, whereas two hours of writing a week can sometimes feel like worse than nothing. Especially when had on consistently inadequate sleep.

So I get back to ole woe is me, and the plaint that it’s hard to sustain a creative project while raising kids and working.

But this year when going through a box of old journals that had been packed away for years, I came across an entry from, oh, about 1995. I was child-free, lived alone, worked close by, and my only obligations were to spend some time with my friends and my boyfriend. And what was I complaining about in a journal so old it was now turning to dust in my hands? That I didn’t have enough time to write and I didn’t get enough sleep.

Hmmm. So maybe just: Writing is hard. (And sleep is sublime.)

The other day, I enjoyed this post by Victoria Patterson on Three Guys One Book, talking about the dangers of Facebook and Twitter for writers. (Found time to read that too, did ya?) Well, yes. I clicked on it while procrastinating on writing an essay about my writing process with my first novel, and the combination of the post, the procrastination, the memory lane made me recall that when I was writing Currency, I felt the need to keep eliminating things from my life: I drank less, I socialized less, I more or less dropped friends who required a certain kind of effort, and I ceased my involvement with the zine I co-published. I didn’t write anything else, for anyone, no little reviews or essays. One after another things got hauled to the chopping block, even during a period when I had a life as conducive to finding writing time as mine is ever likely to be.

And that was before the distractions of the internet had multiplied so splendiferously, before online networking time became almost as important a part of a writer’s schedule as writing itself.

I remember a conversation with a writer friend who had a semester off. He went away to a solitary residency somewhere, and when he returned from the mountains or the meadows or wherever he’d gone, he was a little rueful. He’d felt that at home, even with no formal obligations in the way of class time or teaching, his social life impeded his writing progress. But alone for a month or two, he found that having no demands at all didn’t necessarily speed things along. Sometimes it’s not the time, exactly, that we need. Even the most concentrated beam of hours can’t always melt away the difficulty. Uninterrupted concentration often breaks on its own, and depending on where, or why, it can leave one happily spent or empty and unsatisfied, sticky and fidgety with loneliness and doubt.

Although staring down my own novel project was difficult, I also felt a huge amount of momentum. The momentum was the mudslide that pushed away other things that were enjoyable and important to me, that made me sometimes resent invitations to weddings or writing events or pleasant outings with friends.

If I were on fire with momentum now, would I be hauling Facebook up to the chopping block? Maybe. Probably. But what about the tender arm of a toddler? What about the lean buttock of tweenaged boy?

Because here’s the thing about the having-kids part: I don’t want to resent spending time with them. I don’t want to be any more distracted and impatient with my family than I already can be. And when I’m immersed in a world I’m creating, everything that competes feels like a hindrance. To walk the tightrope every day between my outward and my inward life, to trot out the litanies for strength and mantras for balance—that’s exhausting in its own right, and makes me need a nap that much more desperately. I resist writing not (only) because it’s hard, but because it’s hard to come back from. It’s hard to keep in perspective.

That sounds good, right? That sounds like I might actually be a writer, and not only a divisor of elaborate complaints? I hope so, because that’s the image I’m going for. But also, I believe that it’s true.

In 2007, I traveled to Duluth to hole up with three women I’d met at an author’s retreat in the previous decade. At that time, I’d not been doing much writing for the past few years. I’d worked on no fiction at all, beyond some scribbling in notebooks. But rereading the scribbling had a powerful effect on me, and after spending a couple quiet days with those notebooks and myself, writing many more pages in a frantic hand that became illegible as the hours wore on, I had a passionate and almost violent outburst in a deserted outbuilding of our motel. I was absolutely frenzied with both my desire to surrender to the fermenting ideas and with my need to defend my family from that happening. My son was five at the time, and parenting was becoming slightly less all-consuming, and perhaps the wrenching that I felt was the emergence of a submerged self from a chrysalis. It’s hard to say for sure, because within a couple months I found myself pregnant and undergoing a career crisis. My full attention was called for elsewhere.

All of us in Duluth had raised or were raising children, but when we first met, I was still a maiden, affianced. I remember studying Ladette and Allison, who were already mothers, because I knew even then—before I really knew anything, really, about what was in store for me with parenting—that it was an achievement to have maintained a writing life in the face of supporting others economically and emotionally. When I asked Ladette about how she’d done it, she quoted Toni Morrison, a single working mother when she had written The Bluest Eye, as saying that she wrote her first novel “in mornings and noon hours.” I can’t confirm the quote, but it’s stuck with me. I know that Alice Monro wrote her first collection in the scraps of time she found while raising three kids, and that there are many other parent-authors who have written in the margins of busy lives—but if I stop writing now to do some research on exactly whom overcame what I will never get this post up before my kid wakes up from her nap.

So suffice it to say that some of our greatest living writers are part of the “everybody” who can find two hours a day in which to write, no matter what. And yeah, I doubt they all had even occasional housecleaners. But they’re not me.

As for me, now, the house is unusually quiet for a weekend afternoon. My daughter is asleep, and the other half of the family is at a friend’s house watching the Bears-Packer game. (That’s what I’m missing today. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying.) If all the stars align—which they could, because she was up for chunk in the middle of the night, and I along with her—I might manage to post this before Lilli wakes up and still have time to close my eyes for ten minutes myself. I won’t have worked on any fiction this weekthe long haul versus the quick fix is a whole other topicbut still, that’s a pretty good day.

(I am not even joking when I say that literally at the moment I typed that last line, my daughter woke up.)

(And I did get to watch the Steelers win, so it was an extra good day.)

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ZOE ZOLBROD's first novel, Currency, won a 2010 Nobbie Award. She was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania; went to college in Oberlin, Ohio; and got a MA from University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in educational publishing and lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband, the artist Mark DeBernardi, and their son and daughter. She's currently at work on a memoir.

41 responses to “Had We but Sleep Enough, and Time”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Fantastic post, Zoe. I identify with it too well, and I don’t have (yet, although I may have to soon) a fulltime job. The only thing that helped me finish my book during the days of parenting absurdity was that my book is about the parenting absurdity, so anything that happened went right into the book.

    Ken Kesey said something along the lines of, “You can write a book anytime, but you can only have a family now.” Everybody says this passes quickly, this time with the little kids. (It sure doesn’t feel that way, probably because we’ve been awake for so much of it).

    As for the time element, I find that if I don’t have tension, or time conflict, I don’t write as well. Of course you need chunks of time, too, but if I were at some colony, I’m sure I’d waste a shitload of time.

    You should take solace in the fact that you wrote a really fantastic book. I mean, that counts for a lot, no?

    • Gloria says:

      Ah, Greg – I love the Kesey line.

      Cheers,
      G

      • It’s not the kids. It’s the relationship part that always gets in my way. lol. My kids are proud to say, “My dad is a wacky novelist.” Or whatever it is they say.

        Landen went on the radio a few weeks ago talking about his new album. The interviewer said, “You’re the son of blah blab blah…” I loved his response.

        He said, “My dad paved the way in this town so that people now know the name ‘Belardes.’ People can actually pronounce it and spell it. So I have it easy.”

        lol.

        • Gloria says:

          @Nick – well, it’s kinda the kids. Ironically, it’s more like Nathaniel says below – that they inspire his synapses to fire. So, it’s weird. The only time my creative juices are flowing are during my boy weeks. My non-boy weeks, I’m a zombie. But, yet, during my boy weeks, I have to be on and, thus, even though I think of 400,000 different things to write when I’m hanging out with them, I can’t stop and write about any of them. (And, yes, I keep a notepad with me everywhere I go.)

          I love that your kids think of you as a wacky novelist. There are worse titles kids can bestow. 🙂

          Hi Nick Bel-Ar-Des!

        • Aren’t you a big LOR fan? Your kids name reflect it, right? And I thought we were friends on Facebook? Sorry, I’ve been away for so long… Anyway, I’ve befriended a few actual Tolkiens. Really nice people.

        • Not sure what my kids tell people. But my point is they are proud. And they wouldn’t be proud if I hadn’t been writing around them all those years. They might even just say “Dad’s cool.” But I doubt it. lol. Love your energy-fueled-by-kids life… Hi Ms. Har-Ri-Son!

        • Gloria says:

          I do have an Indigo and a Tolkien. Tolkien was named thusly because his dad had just finished the trilogy when I was pregnant. We were trying to pick a name and this was the equivalent of throwing a dart at a baby names book.

          (I picked Indigo, by the way, because of the Spaniard in The Princess Bride. I know now that the characters name was Inigo – no D. But Andre the Giant added a D because of his accent so I got confused. Isn’t that a great story? Want me to tell it again?)

          I’m not on Facebook anymore. But in order to avoid totally commandeering Zoe’s post (Hi Zoe! Did you say kids??) I will send you a private message.

          XO

        • We did commandeer didn’t we? It’s because Zoe’s post is awesome and inspiring. Great story. Yeah, send a message.

        • Zoe Zolbrod says:

          I’m jumping in to this hijacked conversation to say that your kids have great names, Gloria.

        • Gloria says:

          Thanks, Zoe. They’re twins. They’ll be 9 on Valentine’s Day. We decided when naming them that there would be none of this rhyming name scheme thing. 🙂

  2. Everyone talks about balance — but I have found over the years of working, writing, raising two children and trying to maintain a marriage, that it is not so much balance, but allowing whatever time I have to shift to whatever needs me the most at any given time. And it is has been hard to accept that it’s not always writing. Even when I am deep in my make-believe world I feel the pull of that real world and I cannot let it go, cannot turn my back, cannot demand that the make-believe trumps the real even if that is the way my hearts really feels.
    When I have had the luxury of time I feel guilty for not always using it to write (I too admit the lure of FNL is pretty hard to resist). And I have mad envy when some of my writer friends post FB updates about their productive days and hourly status reports of word counts. ( social networking AND writing, hah!)
    So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m never going to be one of those writers who sacrifices it all for the word on the page and maybe, maybe that is the only way I can write.
    Forgive yourself the need to sleep those extra hours, spend time with your children, watch tv with your husband. Because it all goes so fast.
    You will write. You will write. You will write.
    It just may not be at 6 in the morning.

  3. Writing productivity is a mystery to me. Part of it goes along with the adage that the length of time a project takes expands to fill the time allotted for it. But it also seems, like Greg said, I get more done and am even more inspired when I squeeze writing in between household chores and kid duties. This past summer when the little ones were away with grandparents for a week, I got less writing done than I typically do during one solid afternoon nap. I think they keep are synapses firing somehow.

    But good luck with the balance. It also sounds to me like you might be a writer, a very good one at that.

  4. This is terrific, Zoe! So many truths here. The moment that I particularly identified with was when you found your old journal and discovered that squeezing in writing time has always been challenging. I quit my job about two years ago when my second daughter was born with the idea that I’d have so much more time to write as well. I do, but I’m still squeezing it in. I swear I’m even busier now than when I was teaching (at what my nine-year-old refers to as a “real job” making “real, actual money.” She’s keyed into the realities of freelancing pretty fast, ha!).

    I had a fellowship, pre-kids, that enabled me to write with few other obligations for almost a year, and it was *heavenly.* That’s the first and last time I’ve ever been able to write for long, uninterrupted stretches, but even then much was sacrificed. A clean house, for one. A clean me, another.

    I agree w/ Robin above. Don’t write at six in the morning. Sleep! Or else you’ll make me look bad.

  5. Art Edwards says:

    For me, football had to go. I understand it’s still played, but I don’t really believe it.

    Now the Cubs? You’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.

    Art

    • Greg Olear says:

      I forgot about that, Art…for the most part, I’ve punted on watching sports since the kids came along. It just isn’t a good enough investment of time. I read about it, but hardly ever watch (although I’ve been sneaking in some football lately).

      • Art Edwards says:

        Football can try to ensnare me here and there. I followed the 4th quarter of the Bears game yesterday, mostly to know who won for when I called home, but I have to admit I wanted them to beat the Packers.

        I was in IL a few Thanksgivings ago and watched some of the Detroit game. I couldn’t believe how much the visual experience of watching a game had changed. Camera angles, something more sleek about the uniforms, and the players looked more athletic. It was very compelling.

  6. Zoe, this is so pertinent for me right now . . . I mean, I guess it “always” is pertinent, but right now, as you know, I’m supposed to be revising my new novel–I was going to write at SLS in Kenya, and when I totally did not do that at all I am supposed to be working on it intensely right now, well, every day, as we speak. I’m supposed to be doing it while my kids are at school, during the 5 hours per day I have to myself, the 25 hours per week that I am not with 3 children, a husband, often my kids’ friends, sometimes my parents. These 25 hours . . .

    In which I also run Other Voices Books, prep for and grade papers for my class at Columbia, and work on the TNB Fiction Section. And, yeah, waste a fair amount (read: shitload) of time on the internet . . .

    I do get SOME writing time. I know your life and I believe I get more than you do. But weeks and weeks easily slip by when OVB, TNB and teaching take every moment of my alone time and I don’t write at all. And if I do review a book, do a blog post, have an event for one of my authors . . . well, more time gone.

    My agent once said to me, “Why don’t you just hire a nanny and write more?”

    A fair enough question. Surely she, when making deals for her authors and at one point owning her own agency, had to have a nanny for her children, in order to make working for the rest of us writer-people possible.

    But of course, being an agent who represents 150 writers is a lot more lucrative than being one, small, indie-press-publishing writer and part-time university instructor. Nannies are expensive.

    It’s more than that, too. I want to be here. Here, in this world, with my kids, while they are still young enough to want me here.

    So instead I complain, and a revision that could take a month if I were writing daily instead will probably take four months . . .

    Four months. Four years. I’m not sure either length of time is so awful a hiatus when stacked against how many years (well, unless we meet untimely deaths) we will still have to write after our children no longer need our intense attention–after they have even moved out of our homes.

    I think when we look back on these years, our shimmery memories are going to be of them, and not of the hours we did manage to squirrel away to write somewhere, wonderful as those hours can be.

    I do think we have to show ourselves some mercy.

    That said, I also do care what you write! You’re not the only one who cares whether you write or not. There may not be Franzen-like legions of us out there, but some of us do require you not to give it up.

  7. Kim Wright says:

    Here’s the part I’ve never understood about these writers who claim to have written great books in “snatches of time.” Where is the time you spend in that lost haze of just thinking about the book? Half of my writing process involves sitting there, playing the same song over and over, standing barefoot in the kitchen staring into the refrigerator, wandering from room to room muttering my own dialogue. It takes me a while to come in and out of writer headspace.

    Which is why when I hear about people who write well in an hour or two a day I feel like a poser or an abject failure…I’ve never developed the knack for simply writing word after word, like I was laying brick, and so an hour here and there has never worked for me. Wish I could get over the feeling that I should be able to make it work like that.

    • Kim B. says:

      Kim, your first paragraph pretty much describes my writer husband’s frequent behavior around the house. The muttering in particular has always made me wonder. Thanks so much for your post!

  8. zoe zolbrod says:

    Kim, I’m with you on that. Unlike Greg and Nathaniel, I can’t seem to write fiction in snatches of time–blog posts or essays, yes, and that’s fun, but not when I’m making up something from whole cloth. I need the mental space that’s probably actually harder for me to come upon now than free hours. I need to not hear the whisper of sand through the hour glass. Even if I could sit myself in front of a desk at 6:00 (I just threw that in there for the sake of argument, really, because it’s a joke), I’d be hard pressed not to be going over the day’s complicated playbook of who needs to go where when and what their mood’s going to be and what phone calls need to be made on whose behalf, etc.

    I think the idea of what a “real” writer would do sort of haunts me, as it seems to some of you. The fear that, as you say, Kim, I’m a poser if I don’t devote every spare moment to the task. At the same time, I know that’s just not for me, and it does help my own sense of legitimacy that Currency got published and that I’ve connected or reconnected with so many writers. It helps a lot.

    Even though I like to complain about not having time, as Greg and Gina and Robin are saying, the kids and being with them and just having a life is the ultimate goal, right now. Still, I don’t want to completely abdicate important parts of myself. It’s always going to be a fight to have time, so I have to want it enough to fight for it without the fight turning into a punch to my own face.

    Gina, when you made the plan to revise in Kenya, I remember admiring you and doubting that I’d be able to do the same. I’d be so excited to explore a totally new place and also to relax into the weird dreaminess of being somewhere different and not responsible for anything but myself. Revising is not so dreamy. Part of me thought I was less of a writer for the fact–the scolding voice: how do you expect you’ll ever finish anything?–but part of me knew that the weird dreaminess is a crux of me wanting to write int the first place.

    I love the existence of the internet, though, for the quick fix of posting and getting responses. Very excellent for the parent writer, even if it takes time away from the grand project. Thanks!

    • Victoria Patterson says:

      How I relate! I’m with you–I need a sustained amount of time if I’m working on a novel or a story. Two hours? I’m finally getting warmed up by the time the first hour is done, and then when the second is done, sheesh, that’s it? Although I’ll take what I can get. My kids are older now (13 and 10), so that helps considerably. But when they were younger, and we had no $ for daycare, it was all about determination and innovation, and Gawd was I tired all the time. I’m still tired, but now they can get their own glass of milk, etc., it makes a big difference.

  9. Gloria says:

    I think my new favorite word is splendiferously. Do you mind if I shamelessly steal it?

    Zoe, thank you for writing this. Not only is it a blessing to be able to commiserate about an affliction that feels so uniquely mine, but also it’s nice to get the reminder that doing the best I can is good enough.

    I sat with my fingers hovering over the keys this weekend. I haven ‘t written much in a couple of weeks and I need to get a piece out for a project. And nothing came! Ack! So, I played online Scrabble for “a few minutes” to “get the juices” flowing but nothing flowed. However, I did kick a stranger’s ass while scoring a fifty point bingo. **sigh**

    I LOVE the stories of the single moms (as I am) who write their magnum opus while on welfare and caring for disabled children while in the Witness Protection Program. Good for them! I, being mortal, can only do one thing well – and my kiddos have to be my first priority. I let go of the self-torture around September and it’s been really great. Nonetheless, when I do have those opportunities to write and I actually sit myself down to do it and nothing comes, I get more than a little peeved.

    Great post, Zoe. Thank you.

  10. zoe zolbrod says:

    Gloria, thank you. Splendiferous is in my computer’s dictionary. It’s fair use, and it would probably yield a nice score in Scrabble.

  11. I can relate to this so completely that I have zero ideas, suggestions, or anecdotes to relate. You either get something down in a notebook or you don’t. Everything else is everything else.

  12. Discipline. We explored this at the last Random Writers Workshop. I asked the class: “What’s keeping you from achieving your immediate writing goals?”

    One woman said she could only write while sad or in a bad mood. One opened up a book of concept maps for her writing that looked like Swiss cheese and connecting lines. Could she even understand her own thoughts? Another admitted she was lazy. She lost focus, or couldn’t stop self editing. Another kept losing interest in himself as a writer.

    I hearken back to discipline. I guess I have written around eight books now. I could write when my kids were toddlers, and when they were teens blasting pop punk from their band practicing right next to me.

    Discipline.

    Just get it done. Love on your kids. They love you back. Make sacrifices and say, “My books don’t write themselves,” and they grow up making fun and it becomes a great family joke.

    You, Zoe, don’t lack discipline. But so many writers do. Especially me at times. And your piece reminds me: “Nick, discipline. Get shit done. Your books don’t write themselves…”

    So, thank you for the kick in the ass I needed today.

  13. angela says:

    this is something i think about as my boyfriend and i are trying to start a family. we love our lives now – we work but still have time for our projects (my BF’s a programmer), taking long walks, going to the movies, etc. we want children badly, but once in a while we feel a pang about changing things.

    • Zoe Zolbrod says:

      I remember when I first got pregnant, and older friends would often intone gravely “your life will never be the same,” and my husband and I got sick of hearing it. What could we say to that? But they were right.

  14. I completely understand this entire essay, Zoe. I have two kids also, and when I was pregnant with my first, I actually had a friend say to me, “You’re pregnant? Well, there goes your writing career. You just flushed it away.”

    Not true, however! I finished my MFA at Iowa, moving there with hubby from NY, with a baby and another bun in the oven. Sure, it took me four years to write my second novel (which my agent never tried to sell, even after telling me it was sure to win those lovely awards that writers of kid/teen books get to stick on their books like jewelry–I won’t say bling. Oops. I just did). But that’s not because of my family. It’s because of my teaching job. Ironic that writers take teaching jobs because of the lure of “time to write” when the truth is that teaching takes nearly all one’s mental energy, and includes so much grading and reading there is no time to write.

    But we make time. We do the best we can.

    Now that I can write f/t, I do waste loads of time. It’s terrible, really. I am so protective of my time–when the kids are at school–and still, it slips through my fingers.

    I think the point is that is always will. Ignore time. Just be in the moment and enjoy whatever that moment brings.

    Even half an hour of writing a day adds up.

    Be well!

    Liz

  15. Matt says:

    I can say, as a childless bachelor, that it’s difficult finding the time to write even under those conditions. Time sucks – legitimate or otherwise – continue to pop up. There’s the day job, the bills, the housework (cooking/cleaning/gorceries etc., all of which I do), the gym, the attempts at having a social life…all of it just chips away at my free hours. And even when it doesn’t sometimes it’s hard to impose a writing schedule on myself, as the desire to just sit and chill is pretty damn high.

    Still, it’s better than living with my last girlfriend, who eventually admitted to deliberately sabotaging my writing time (constantly interrupting, etc.).

    • zoe zolbrod says:

      I had a boyfriend with whom I was always arguing, wheedling, and bargaining about how many nights a week I could stay home and write. Needless to say, there was an expiration date on that relationship.

  16. […] The Nervous Breakdown thenervousbreakdown.com/zzolbrod/2011/01/had-we-but-sleep-enough-and-time/ – view page – cached In which the author complains that writing is hard, and having kids doesn’t help any., In which the author complains that writing is hard, and having kids doesn’t help any. […]

  17. I love this post Zoe. My kids are much older now, my daughter’s at BU and my son finishing his senior year, and I’ve spent the last year severely under-employed, but amazingly, I still struggle to find the time to produce. I am sure that now that I’m in my 40s the time is going to flood my life and I’ll be able to write and paint for hours and hours.

  18. Jessica Blau says:

    This is great–you’re very funny. I love your obsession with V.V.’s two hours!

    Yes, I’ve found in order to write I have to NOT do something. Either NOT clean the house, or NOT workout, or NOT go grocery shopping, or NOT make those stupid-ass phone calls that everyone has to make to the credit card company or the insurance company or . . . you know those calls where you’re fingering through options for longer than the actual phone chat.

    Use those nap times best you can! (I have two kids, too.)

  19. Zoe Zolbrod says:

    You’re right, Jessica. And, relatedly, so is Nick. And so is Elizabeth. Very few of us can have writing time without NOT doing something else. Something that’s, usually, easier. And so we need some discipline. But we also need to just be in the now. Half an hour a day (or some days). That seems more realistic to me right now than two hours.

  20. […] Had We But Sleep Enough, and Time, Zoe Zolbrod, at The Nervous Breakdown. […]

  21. Erika Rae says:

    Zoe, you made me cry with this one. I’m a mother of three juggling not one but FIVE jobs…and yes, I, too, have from 11-2:30 to work/write, and then again from 8p-12a. It is hard. My daily writing goal is simply this: 1 page. Sometimes I can hit more – much more, even – but other days I just can’t. The point is that I give it a good try and hit an attainable goal. And still…this last month has been one of the hardest ever and I have missed my goal repeatedly. I’ve been beating myself up over it. Your words talked me down a bit. Thank you!!!

    • Zoe Zolbrod says:

      One page can be a lot! And five jobs is always a lot. Wow.

      The comments to this post have really helped me in a tangible way to find a middle ground, at least for the past few days. To make a small, steady effort and not get all dramatic and despairing. Today I was like: hey, if all I did is tinker with a dozen sentences, that’s OK. That’s good. Plus, the other night, half drunk, I made some progress on planning an unruly project, and I think seeing the bigger picture, even if it’s just a scrawl, makes me feel more optimistic.

      I see you have a memoir coming out from Emergency. Congratulations! Is that what you’re working on?

      • Erika Rae says:

        Thanks, Zoe – I suppose that’s what these forums are all about, really. The comfort of knowing we share common struggles. I like the idea of being OK with tinkering with a dozen sentences. That feels good somehow. (Got to stop being so hard on self! Ha!) Yes, diving into the edits of the manuscript (the memoir) is 1 of the 5 work-related roles I’ve found myself in. I’m thinking your idea of working on clarity while half drunk is not a bad suggestion. ( :

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