I have a book coming out in a few days.
The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken isn't the first novel I've penned, but it's the first one to become an actual book. That is, barring any further calamities like the one that struck Thursday afternoon, ten minutes before my beloved regular sitter shipped out to enjoy a much deserved long weekend with her family.
Two thirds of the way through what I'd hoped would be a final proofread of the gorgeously type set pages, I realized a good six or seven pages had vaporized. Disappeared. Without a trace. And not from any one spot in the book.
Due to what technologically limited people like myself would call a "hiccup," the last round of my changes had been only partially accepted. Some new passages were there. Others weren't. And upon closer examination I realized that a good three or four pages that should have been struck forever persisted to exist on the unalterable PDFs under my nose.
I did what any professional would do. I panicked. I hyperventilated. I took the Grape back from the sitter and wondered if it would constitute very, very bad parenting to give him a little something to help him sleep over the next day or two, so that I could fix the conspicuous holes in my novel. (Answer: probably yes).
I spent the next day, Friday, silently freaking out while playing with the Grape - who must have detected a disturbance in the force because he flatly refused to nap. All afternoon. Then I cursed myself for not hooking the kid on television. Though honestly, since he's never watched a show nor even expressed interest in having the television turned on, I can't bring myself to use the automatic sitter. At least not yet.
As I watched the Grape play in the library, I struggled to figure out when I could get four or five (awake and alert) hours to do my meticulous manuscript repair project. And the whole time, I felt guilty for not feeling more fully present and engaged with my kid. He's only little once, and the weeks go by fast. I have this persistent nagging feeling that whenever I'm not focused on him, I'm missing out, creating regrets. Nobody dies wishing they spent less time playing with their kid, right?
For the first time, I unequivocally understood why so many professional women, even those with the luxury to work less than full time, opt out. It's really very simple: I hate the feeling that I'm giving neither endeavor (the baby or the book, in my case) a hundred per cent.
And I presume I'm not alone in feeling this way.
Promoting The Hazards could easily be a full time job. I could also spend twenty to forty hours a week re-writing another novel I have in the hopper (not that I have that kind of time), and/or starting a third book that's been percolating in my mind for quite some time. I feel pressure to get the words down before the story loses its moment in my head.
And I waste an inordinate amount of time losing sleep over how little I accomplish each week. As if that makes anything better.
I envy people who can switch mental gears in a heartbeat, who can work in small, ten to twenty minute spurts throughout the day. I've never been good at that. When I try to write a few minutes here, a few more there, the result is usually a redundant, disjointed mess that I end up reconciling to the trash.
Thankfully, R. took the Grape on an all-day field trip to visit his grandparents on Saturday. I spent almost nine hours fixing the novel. All is back on track.
But Saturday got me thinking. How do professionals with small kids and without family/friend support networks make it work? How do you tell a client you need to jump off an important call to go collect your kid? How do you keep a part time schedule from morphing into full time, or more? How do you deal with unpredictable travel? If you opt out totally, are you bored beyond words, happy and amazed you didn't step off the treadmill sooner, or somewhere in between? Can those moms who go to work at an office come home and disconnect from work? Or do clients and supervisors employ technology to invade your dinners and play dates and story times? Finally, is "work from home" a Godsend or a curse from the devil? I.e. Are you always doing both, but doing neither especially well?
Because that's how I feel, much of the time. Yet I know my kid is happy, and my novel is good. Maybe life is just messier now. That's tough for my Type A self to accept, but what's the alternative? Less time with my kid? Less zealous pursuit of my dream? Neither feels tempting. So I forge an imperfect balance, and make peace with the fact that all my writing endeavors will take longer than they would have pre-baby.