Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Elusive Finish Line

I know it's there. Sometimes, I can even make it out clearly just ahead. Then there are days like today, when it disappears from view. I feel like a marathon runner prepared to race 26.2 miles but informed somewhere around mile 20 that the race may stretch on indefinitely. The runner plods on with all hope resting on the word "may" believing this is just some terrible mistake and there's still only 6.2 miles to go. This is what writing a novel feels like on some days.

A couple of days ago, I was coasting along. The story was moving forward. The finish line beckoned like the beam from a lighthouse on a stormy night at sea. I was going to make it; the danger of failure could be averted. Then a day like today happens and I've strayed far off course. An oppressive fog has rolled in enveloping all, I can't tell the difference between up and down. I'm lost. I'm trying to remain calm in the face of defeat. I have just encountered the force that attempts to doom me. It is toddler-who-refuses-t0-nap.

I don't ask for much. I've accepted the fact that until all my children are attending school full-time, I'll never have those eight hour writing days. I've accepted interruptions, limited time and waking when it's still dark just to have a moment alone. I could bear all this as long as I had that hour or two of blissful silence while the young man slept but then he decided to change the rules. Not only is he not taking naps but he's awaking during MY time. He's going all day without sleep and then not falling asleep until after 9pm when my mind is about as useful as a loaf of soggy bread.

I'm frustrated. I'm tempted to toss the whole darn thing into a drawer. Why not join the ranks of thousands, maybe even millions, who've admitted defeat tossing unfinished manuscripts beneath the rubble of creative aspirations. When people ask me how the writing is going or wonder if I'm still working on that same book (God, I hate this question. Is there some kind of statute of limitations on writing a novel?) instead of feeling guilty that I haven't been devoting every waking hour to writing, I can announce grandly that I've given it all up and now I'm devoting myself to Latvian folk dance or memorizing the middle names of every Speaker of the House while people nod their approval (and confirm their suspicions that I didn't really have a novel in me anyway). Just as I reach that point, I gaze up and that darn finish line glitters in the distance.

Like an addict, instead of walking away from the frustration, the obsessive desire to be writing (in the bathroom, in the car, on lines in stores, etc), I'm looking forward to my next hit. I know the little guy won't be able to hold out much longer, eventually nature will take over and he'll sleep. The moment he does, I'll grab pen and paper and seek out that writer's high. That moment when the words and the characters come together and I can practically reach out and touch my creations. It is in this moment, I know that although the crowds have gone home and no one is left cheering me on, I'll cross that finish line (despite the best efforts of Mr. No-Nap).


Angie Ledbetter said...

Hear ya! I had 3 babies in 36 months...and a husband who traveled for up to 4 or more months at a time. Writing was out of the question. But I needed some Mommy Time desperately, so I'd switch off with other moms for babysitting, and once had a college student get free room and board just to have an extra set of adult hands in the house. Could you swap a few hours with another mom friend weekly? Best of luck! Angie (MW)

Sandra Hamlett said...

Hi Angie, Thanks for the comment. 3 babies in 36 months, WOW! I wish I had other moms to switch off with but most mothers I know work outside the home. I've started back to getting up early and squeezing in some time to write and having some time to myself on Saturdays.

babs m said...

But those of us who MUST write slog on despite family, rejections and gray days. Because if you don't.... man, you just don't want to know what you might become. :) Keep working at it!!