Monday, January 31, 2011

Progress Report on Digging Holes

It's about zero degrees outside, and I am gritting my teeth as I have abandoned the digging of writerly holes in the last three weeks, just as I began in earnest. It seems that no matter how smart I am about getting myself to work, life steps in with other ideas. Distraction. Do farmers also deal with this kind of distraction or is the thing of bearing down necessity what keeps them going? What makes me think I don't have necessity bearing down on me? If I don't plant my proverbial peach trees, I certainly will never enjoy the pleasure of picking a peach.

The context is this: My daughter caught the monster winter cold. She was quite pathetic in her illness -- couldn't breathe, went through five boxes of tissue in a few days, achy, sore throat. The only thing she could taste was Theraflu; which is the nastiest taste in any comparison. She couldn't sleep, couldn't think, couldn't read, couldn't study, and we live in a small apartment, and my desk (a.k.a. my orchard farm) is right in the living room. When children are sick and home and in the living room watching endless Disney shows, there's no writing going on. When my child, and this is testament to how sick she was, develops an addiction to "Bonanza", maintaining any line of thinking from what to cook for dinner to how to start a screenplay is near to impossible.

Then at the same time my son was bullied at school. Actually, this has been building for months and finally exploded. There were meetings with the teachers, calls to the parents, and dealing with co-parenting differences in how to turn this situation into a learning experience. There were long talks with my son about what he felt needed to happen. There were discussions with my husband about whether fighting back is an option for my boy, with me having been a victim of domestic violence and truly believing that violence is not the answer, and him being a black man in America believing that a man has to be ready to fight back. There were discussions about the damage done. There were discussions about the importance of boundaries. There were discussions with other mothers about how we want our boys to walk in the world. There was a lot of drama.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to put this into the context of my beloved extended metaphor - planting peaches.

The closest I can come to the frustration of it is that my fields have been in a deep freeze for the past few weeks...something that approaches permafrost. There have been a few days here and there where the sun shone and got my hopes up, but alas, all I managed to do was surface work, something like raking. The thing is the ground is frozen, as a friend pointed out jokingly.

I could start swearing. I made my plan to work. I filled a calendar with milestones I wanted to reach. I had a good first week at the task, and then boom. The other thing this feels like is falling off a diet. I have been known to try hundreds of different diets in an effort to feel better primarily and then also to lose weight. When I start the diet, it's kind of hard for a few days, but then I get into the swing of it and I feel so great. It doesn't seem to matter which diet I'm on, they all have had a few days of greatness. Then when I'm enjoying the glow of it, I am tempted by something and I cave sooner or later. If I'm going wheat-free, then it is a piece of challah with butter. If I'm on high protein then it is a ridiculously high carb treat. You get the picture.

I swear. The only things that could possibly tempt me away from writing on schedule are my kids.  I swear. I put off everyone else. I begged out of every other obligation. But, when it comes to my kids...I swear. Once the door was opened by my sick child, however, every other obligation came pouring in. Suddenly not one but three social invitations came in. People needed their Tarot cards read (my other occupation). There were students to be seen. I was invited to start teaching again. I accepted them all, retracted, accepted, and gave into not writing in the end. And here I am a month into "my productive year" with one short story and two poems and the very, very beginning of a screenplay developed (which for me is not saying much because I can do this much in a day if I give myself a day).

A sane writer would simply call this a setback. Those are also the people who lose weight, keep it off and stick to a diet because it is their lifestyle choice. I'm not one of those people. I'm struggling just to dig development holes and suffering from the distraction of other things, anything really. If I were dieting I would have put on the two pounds I lost the first week, and gained an extra 10. But, I'm a farmer looking through the steam hole I breathed into the frost-covered window thinking about how I'm going to talk myself into going out there to start digging those holes again, and ready them for peach saplings. I'm a writer looking for a way to get back to developing a screenplay that I've lost track of completely. By the grace of the Divorce Gods, the kids are with their dad tonight, because tomorrow is a snow day, and I have to get to work already...

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