In Writing toward Home, Georgia Heard addresses the many challenges a writer faces when drafting/composing a large work. A chapter entitled “Doing What I Have To” takes up the (sometimes commingled) subjects of discipline and “letting it go” entailed in the writing process. She explains:
“While writing this book I didn’t vacuum my house for four months. The spiders were ecstatic. They wove their sticky webs over everything, connecting chair to couch to table. Each time I passed I would look the other way, pretending not to notice that they had moved in, this time for good. Dust balls roamed freely. I temporarily lost some of my friends. They began to leave messages on my answering machine: ‘I hope you’re okay. I haven’t heard from you in months. Call me back.’ I was obsessed.”
I don’t have spiders, but I’m with her on the dust balls problem. And truth be told, it’s almost killing me. I’ve never been the kind of writer who gets lost in her writing. I mean, yeah, I get into the zone for hours here and there, emerging for a dose of sunshine or a glass or wine or a some human contact. But I have never been one to ignore my domestic duties (self-imposed) or my friends.
Not doing my “chores” is difficult—I find it nearly impossible to simply “look the other way.” Dishes in the sink, laundry in the hamper, visible dust on a surface—it’s enough to make me crazy. However, I’ve been working really hard to follow Heard’s dictate on that score. She writes that it’s an “important decision—momentarily to give [one’s] heart and time over to [one’s] writing.” And I agree. I’ve got the messy home to prove it.
What I can’t let go of is the “temporarily losing the friends” part. I feel so awful! Even as I type this post, I feel that I should be replying to an email or returning a phone call. I realized today that I missed a friend’s birthday!
I’ve always prided myself on leading a balanced life when it comes to my work. Until now, I’ve operated under the assumption that if the writing didn’t come out between, say, 9:00 and 5:00, then it wasn’t meant to be. I try to treat writing/scholarship like any other job. Lately, though, I’ve been writing to the detriment of almost everything else in my life.
I know I have to get the work done, and I know that means sacrifices, but I continually come back to this feeling that I’m missing out on life as I log hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours at the library. Is it worth it? I wonder.
In other news: what gives people the idea that it’s “okay” to speak above the faintest whisper at the library? If you have to talk to someone at a library, make it quick and quiet—or take it outside! Sheesh.
(I know I’m getting old, but seriously. Shut up!)
Also, I couldn’t resist writing the first two paragraphs in “academic-speak” as it’s all I’ve been writing lately…