After falling a bit behind schedule last night I eventually got Fred into bed, and by 9:30 he was breathing steadily and sleeping peacefully. I adjusted his blanket, softly ran my palm over the top of his head, and stepped quietly out of the room. Just a quick check on my blog and e-mail, I told myself, and tonight I’m going to watch the first half of Gran Torino which Netflix delivered well over a week ago. Max had already seen this on the plane at some point so I was on my own with this one.
At 9:32 I log onto my computer. Quickly scrolling down through Facebook I see that my friend Meg has posted something about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution petition to improve school food. “Put the badge on your blog!” the thumbnail shouted to me, just as I had plans to soon hit the power off on my computer to go hang with Clint Eastwood. “Oh, alright,” I respond silently. It’s for a good cause, after all, and it’ll only take 15, maybe 20 minutes at most.
I click, toggle, blog, and publish. Next to me I hear a click-click-press. Max, who sits about four feet away from me and was doing client work, is logging off his computer. In my peripheral vision I see him head out the room. A few seconds later, I hear a sudden onslaught of voices, music and special effects. The sounds of the t.v. while I am at my computer are unfamiliar ones to me, because normally Max and I watch together.
I toggle back and forth among my three (non-work) e-mail accounts, blog stats page and Facebook, as if an important e-mail, surge in page views or clever status update could pop up while I was momentarily checking one of the other. I also begin this – my next blog post – even though my mind really isn’t capable of anything creative or coherent right at this time. I glance at the little digital clock at the bottom right of my screen. It’s now 10:57. How is it that an hour-and-a-half has already passed? So much for Gran Torino. Each day that I keep this DVD, Netflix is making money off of me.
Sigh. So I continue to read, comment on other blogs, and write.
Eighteen hours earlier I had woken up so tired from one too many nights of trying to cram writing, reading and hubby time into my few free hours each night, and I told myself that today, I will go to bed before midnight. But by now the clock is reading 12:08. So I log off and drag my sorry feet upstairs, feeling down once again. I have accomplished nothing. I didn’t lay a finger on the laundry. I didn’t organize the bills. I didn’t pack Fred’s school bag. I didn’t read my book. I didn’t watch my movie. Now the house is quiet, and when I reach the top step I will see the bedroom dark, and I will have missed another chance to say good night to Max. In the far reaches of my imagination I wonder, will I wake up one day to realize Max has taken up with another woman (or, perhaps, his own blog), so used to my spaciness will he be?
Not all nights are like this, but enough days and nights have passed like this to make me think that I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like living inside my head. I don’t like being practically sewn into my computer chair. I don’t like feeling like I am sometimes inhabiting a different world from that of my son and husband.
But is it just blogging? Is this not also the ailment of many a writer? The distraction, the tendency to be constantly drafting inside one’s head, the inescapable discomfort of wanting to be at your computer or with your notebook over anything else, the irritation that swells when interrupted by a client’s request or a child’s cry.
A year ago I took a fiction writing class with the writer Masha Hamilton. In the class Masha, an acclaimed novelist and mother of three, talked about the universal guilt that mother writers feel on a regular basis – how they are driven to distraction by their urge to create, how they struggle to balance this with their need to be present with their children and spouses.
And yet when it is writers who feel this struggle there is something almost worthy about it. If we change the word “writer” to “blogger” there is something almost sick about it. We think of the preoccupation that comes with conscientious blogging as an addiction, something that destroys us and those close to us, something that happens because we have lost grip on our priorities and sense of reality.
But what compels me to blog is the same thing that compels me to write. In fact, I took Masha’s course because I wanted to write, not because I wanted to blog. I began blogging as an exercise in discipline. I needed to commit to writing on a regular basis, and I switched from my Word document to a blogging interface in large part because WordPress is such a prettier notepad on which to write. And perhaps there was a part of me that wanted the affirmation of an audience or a community, and I didn’t want to be at the mercy of a faceless editor to get that affirmation.
As a novice blogger I really had no idea how to get this audience, and I was content with having my friend Kathryn as my sole reader. And then the more I blogged and the more blogs I read, unexpected things happened: readers came over, and they left comments or e-mailed me. They liked what I wrote and responded with encouragement. Some even returned for more and passed my link on to their friends. I realized, then, that I was no longer writing to a faceless audience. I felt an incredible surge in energy when I received this kind of feedback. My motivation to write increased, and I felt lifted by this new community of like-minded mother writers. In a short span of time, I had built a very small but warm community of readers and – dare I say – friends. I began to gain more confidence and even pride in my words and my ideas, and this spurred me to keep writing.
At around the same time I began my blogging, I was also taking a creative non-fiction writing class with Kate Hopper. In the class we explored the question of “Why now?” What causes us to write what we do, now? And I began thinking. Why have I felt such a need to write, or to blog? The answer would come to me over the course of my writing. Throughout my life I had not spoken up. There could have been a number of reasons – class, gender, race, genes, environment. I was a first generation American in a blue collar immigrant family and I didn’t dare utter a word of English until I was seven. I was brought up to be a good girl who didn’t rock the boat, who didn’t take up space and who didn’t impose on others with her thoughts. But that was then. Today, after a lifetime of feeling stifled, I have finally given myself permission to take a turn, my turn: my turn to have a voice, my turn to take up some space. And I thank writing – and blogging – for allowing me to do that.