Take My Children. Please.

Surviving SnOMG2016 with word count intact

Take My Children. Please.

Okay, let me say up front that the second heading for this column is misleading. When you have more than two feet of snow on the ground, and young children at home, there is no way to keep the word count intact. Not happening. Nope. Not on your life. Just. No.

How’s that for writer’s truth?

But just because I wasn’t able to write as often, or at my usual times of the day, doesn’t mean I didn’t manage to get some writing done. I did. It just happened really, really late at night. And I had to loosen up my no-morning-TV stance for the kids so I could doze for an extra hour or two. And the crockpot was my best friend…well, except, for the vodka.

Don’t judge.

Snowstorms that land the kids at home for a week are great testing grounds for writers’ endurance. Or at least for mine. I have a writing schedule that I mostly stick to on good days. I sit down to write at a certain hour of the morning and finish at a certain hour in the afternoon. My schedule is dictated by my kids’ school schedule. I write on my calendar all holidays, breaks, and days off. I factor those days into my schedule so I can adjust my expectations accordingly.

Believe it or not, a blizzard wasn’t on my calendar this year. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. And, yeah, it sucked to try to meet my deadlines with the kids home for almost two weeks. Thanks for asking.

I rely on my daily schedule because most of the time, if I sit down at the same time every day, I can count on my flighty muse to make an appearance. And if not, well, I just keep plugging away. But shift that schedule, and I have no idea whether my muse is going to show up or head to warmer climes. It all becomes a slog.

That’s where your frenemy, flexibility, comes in.

Sure, flexibility is great in theory. We should all be flexible, right? Snowstorms happen. Life happens. Yoga happens. Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it…well, except for yoga. Yoga’s just awesome. Snowstorms, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually like to shovel snow. Shoveling snow leads to gabbing with neighbors. Gabbing with neighbors feeds my fragile Midwestern ego because even after a dozen years in the DC Metro region, I still get to offer storm survival advice and — best part — complain the whole time about how no one here can drive in the snow. (Seriously, no one here can drive in the snow. WTH?).

I also like sledding with the kids. I mean, what’s not to like about zipping down a hill, screaming, “I’m king of the world,” and embarrassing my kids? So what if I take a couple of days off, right?

Now imagine five days in. The picture isn’t pretty. I don’t even like myself. My muse is banging on the door demanding I do something, but who has the time?

I do.

With a little creative strategizing and a very lovely husband, anything is possible. I started gobbling down my dinners, then retreating to my office to write in the evenings. My husband would take the kids and do all their nighttime routines. I’d write until I couldn’t see straight and then fall into bed. In the morning, my husband would get the kids set up with breakfast and maybe a little TV before he’d start work for the day. I’d sleep until the kids woke me up to go sledding, and the whole day would mirror the last.

It wasn’t a sustainable way to live, that’s for sure. I was sleep deprived, a slave to coffee, and increasingly grumpy. But nowhere near as grumpy as when I wasn’t writing.

I know not all writers work this way, but for me, if I spend more than a couple days away from my keyboard, I turn into a miserable human being. I’m difficult. Sarcastic. Mean. And those are my finer qualities.

By recognizing that I needed to be flexible — even in a blizzard with the kids at home — I was able to be tolerable. Barely. As long as I could keep my fingers moving, I found a way to get up in the morning, guzzle coffee, and hit the sled with the kids all day. Win-win, right?

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