Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Word Play

Since I began The QC Report, I’ve had several friends with children say to me wistfully “Oh, I could never find the time to do something like that”

“Something like what?”

“Oh, you know…creative.”

After a few probing questions, I discover that these friends imagine I either get up at 5 a.m., put on a Mozart CD and politely summon Insignifica, the muse of short-form writing, or I write while Daughter does her homework at our 19th-century partner’s desk, me correcting her French conjugations while I write about my day in quill. In the interest of not making another mother out there feel even more inadequate – like any of us needs that -- I am now going to show you how I create a blog entry. As with sausage making and Texas politics, the process isn’t pretty.

The clock starts ticking when I post a blog entry. I hit the “Publish Post” button and get two minutes of “Ah, that’s done...” before I get “...and I have to do it again in 48 hours”. I spend the next twenty-four hours hoping for a mildly compelling, funny, easily-recounted-with-a-natural-punch-line event to happen. Frequently, it does. If we’re not rescuing birds or avoiding organized sports, I’m jamming things in my ear. It’s not what you might call a relaxing life, but it often works well on the page.

Today, however, I noticed we’ve been leading a fairly dull life these days and I couldn’t count on breaking a toe before dinner, so I went to the Idea Book. The Idea Book is a notebook which lives on a bedside table where I collect…well, ideas. Ideas which might have 750-1000 words stuck to them or, at the very least, opening sentences which will trigger a memory of the brilliant rant that formed in my head while reading Vogue that afternoon. I went to the Idea Book, and found two that hadn’t been used yet:

Babies with hats.”

I have no idea what that meant to me at the moment I wrote it. Was I against hats? Did I think not enough babies wore hats? Maybe the letter H was in fact a letter B? Was I troubled by bats? Was I concerned about babies swinging sports equipment, or being stalked by flying mammals? This was, clearly, a dead end for right now, and it does humble me to realize even I don’t understand my own train of thought on occasion. But it was good for a paragraph.

That thing which makes me absolutely, completely crazy”.

It’s so sweet how I thought I would remember what specific thing makes me craziest of all, but that list gets updated every few hours. Before I get Daughter to school in the morning, I have already wished a painful rash on whomever is responsible for those military-spec foil bags of designer coffee [demanding Herculean strength and a surgeon's fine-motor skills before that first cup of coffee is just mean]. Another rash on the person who sews small, slippery buttons on a little girl’s shirt. And let’s not forget the woman who sat in front of me in the left-turn lane waiting for three blocks of empty street before she could proceed. And so on. Apparently, the specific, crazy-making thing I needed to write about last week must have caused me to have a small stroke, because I don’t remember it at all.

So, after dinner, I handed Daughter off to Consort and commenced to doing what any would-be writer does in the face of a deadline: laundry. Sometime later, I sat at the computer and typed, “I’ve been thinking lately about…".

I stared off into space. My gaze fell on the other desk in the office. Clearly, this was the problem. No worth-while creative work could be done with the Kilimanjaro of crud looming up next to me. I spent several minutes creating piles, which changed nothing but gave me a sense of accomplishment, certainly something the writing wasn’t doing. I gazed at my sentence a while then fixed it to:

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about…“

(Small thumping noise from the laundry room)

What have I been thinking about? Do I, in fact, think any more? There are some days when I suspect I have the interior life of a flatworm. Maybe I should just post snapshots of our pets.

(Thumping noise has turned into WHOMPETAWHOMPETAWHOMPETA)

Oh, yeah, the washer needs balancing.

I gratefully leap from the computer, go to the laundry room and move towels around in the machine. I then spend several minutes just waiting to see if it happens again. It doesn’t, but I take a few minutes to fold all the cleaning rags and check to see if we need more Shout. We don’t. I consider writing about the weird smell in the laundry room. This leads me to consider actually finding out what the weird smell is. I decide there are chores even less appealing than writing. I slink back to the computer.

(The phone rings. I answer it before it finishes the first ring)

QUINN: Hello!

FRIEND: Hey, it’s me. Am I interrupting anything?

QUINN: Just writing.

FRIEND: Call me back when you get...

QUINN: No, I’m at a natural break. What’s up?

We spend several minutes trading valuable information about education in America, which is to say we gossip about who’s going to summer school.

FRIEND: I should let you get back to writing.

QUINN: What…? Oh, sure.

(I hang up and stare longingly at the phone. Disobligingly, it doesn’t ring)

I could write something about shopping online. That could be fun. Need some research on that…

(Time passes. Unbeknownst to me, Daughter has emerged from her room and has been staring with interest at the computer screen.)

DAUGHTER: I like that dress.

(I jump about four inches, and close EBay quickly)

QUINN: Sweetie, Mommy is working. Are you coming to kiss me goodnight?

DAUGHTER: May I sleep in your bed?

QUINN: Honey, why would…Daddy fell asleep on your bed again.

(Daughter nods)

Consort is terrifically game to read to Daughter, but slips into a narcoleptic stupor when forced to read a children’s book. It has gotten so bad, I can silently open Madeleine behind him and he starts to yawn.

QUINN: Let’s go wake up Daddy and get you to bed.

(I spring from my home office/home prison to attend to my child and pinch my Consort into wakefulness.)

CONSORT: Mhmph…oh. How’s the writing going?

QUINN: (Sullen) It’s a stupid hobby. I’m going back to needlepoint.

It only takes another hour, a thorough cleaning of the bathroom, and packing away our winter clothes, but I get my writing done. I simply must start writing earlier in the day. I’d finally get the kitchen repainted.


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