Cavalier Dilettante by Kim Schultz
I can lie to myself; I can lie to most people, but I can’t lie to my writing group.
“How’s your writing going?” seems to be the polite small talk opener at a lot of SDWI events.
“Oh, you know,” I say, and I give a non-informative shrug, tilt my little head, and then I finish with the completely uninformative word, “going. How’s your writing going? What are you working on right now?”
Just like that, I can get absorbed in someone else’s writing quandaries, tangents, and problems while completely avoiding any conversation of my own.
But with my writing group, there’s no avoiding. We’ve been meeting for almost four years now, and when they ask, “How’s it going?” they know exactly what I’m working on, exactly what my goals and struggles have been, and exactly how many pages I brought last time: zero.
This leads me to an uncomfortable truth: the writing is not going at all. It’s not writer’s block. I was a technical writer for years and that taught me that even if the first sentence on the page is, The sun was setting and for the love of God never ever start with the sun setting it’s the biggest cliché in the universe argh, keep writing and the next sentence will be at least only as bad as your first and the next sentence will probably get better. The key is tucked away in the middle of that godforsaken run-on sentence: keep writing.
No, my problem is time management, which strikes me as incredible since I don’t have a job, for Pete’s sake, and all I’m supposed to be doing is writing. Oh, and raising two small children. Before I had kids, even after Baby 1.0, I pictured myself with Baby 2.0 nested in a sling against my chest napping while I tapped out a novel on my computer, Baby 1.0 occupying himself with crayons or his tricycle or blocks, cat on my lap purring away to help the baby sleep.
Those moments have happened—once or twice maybe—but they have been eclipsed by the daily tedium, the amazing amounts of laundry and dirty dishes and general messes people big and small can generate, along with the exciting crises like the waves of pinkeye and flu or the evening Baby 2.0 ate a candy thermometer (he’s fine—humans can eat glass, who knew?). I could drown in a bucket of domestic ennui, and I often do.
But when I make myself go, my group brings me back out of it. They don’t nag or scold me. They don’t send a nanny and a domestic crew over to watch the kids and fold the laundry before it becomes compost. They don’t magically make more time. They ask about me as a writer, which reminds me that I need to ask about me as a writer, too.
Kim Schultz used to write about cell phone test equipment, particle counters, and nuclear waste disposal facilities for money, but now writes aridly acidic prose for her own amusement when her children are asleep. She’s the secretary and volunteer coordinator for SDWI and is working on her novel, really.