Sunday, May 30, 2010

Interrupted Interruptions

That is the Celtic symbol for chaos. It will all make sense to you in the end. Hopefully, that second sentence is true for most things.

In college, one of my professors told us how J R R Tolkien had several children, and he locked himself in a room and wrote for up to twenty hours at a time.

I was about nineteen at the time, and I remember imagining some kind of Mary Poppins in the background sailing paper boats with them on the banks of the Thames and feeding them porridge. I always imagined British kids sitting at the table eating grayish oatmealy things. It was probably from watching Oliver Twist one too many times. They were constantly eating gray, gloppy stuff out of bowls. I remember being absolutely fixated for a time on the word offal which I could not really believe anyone had or would ever consume.

I figured if I was going to have kids (and I was leaning toward the absolutely never side of that question back then), I would put them outside and go about my novel business. You can tell I didn't babysit much.

I am kind of interrupting myself here on purpose. Blogs are like little snapshots of what is going on with folks and I have been leading a life of non finishing. Here are some things I have learned in the past week or so:

1. When you sit down to work on your new middle grade, you can't believe you have an hour to work. It's a weekend morning. You actually lock the indignant cats out of the room so they can't walk across the keyboard. Five minutes into your manuscript, you hear an insistent "Moooommmmm" and you know, instantly, what is wrong.

2. Strep throat can transform itself into acute pharyngitis. This is when a kid's throat begins to close and fun activities like swallowing and breathing become difficult. You don't know this until you drive up to the ER and your kid is seen.

3. It's a very bad sign when the triage nurse in the ER says, "Aren't you Anne? I remember you..." You shouldn't know the employees of the local ER unless you work there.

4. A steroid shot in the butt can open the throat until the antibiotics take effect.

5. The next time you sit down, it is late on Thursday afternoon, after working most of the day on the non-writing job. The kids are, miraculously, quiet. You get almost a full paragraph written when the door opens, "Mom, I need a white dress shirt for the concert."

"Hmmm, when's the concert?"

"At six."

It is currently 5:10.

A white dress shirt is found in the back of a closet. Emma and I wash the cuffs and neck and use a blow dryer to dry it. You arrive one minute of six. You look up on stage and realize your dashing young man never put on the black dress shoes, but is up there in his dress clothes - and a very well worn pair of Nike sneakers. You decide this is fine because it's an arty, Andy Warhol kind of look.

6. Emma keeps introducing your Malaysian house guest to American music. Because she's 11, this spring's musical selection is Lady Gaga:

I wan you ugly/I wan you dizeese/I wan you ever ting/long as it free...

Eventually, I am going back to that middle grade. It's still waiting for me and it won't change unless I decide it will.

I wish the same were true for the kids.


Marcia said...

Any thoughts on why the symbol for chaos is so symmetrical? So organized in its tiny details?

Anne Spollen said...

I noticed that too, Marcia. You would think maybe a spatter of stars or something way less mathematical looking would represent chaos. I only know the eight pointed star represents directions of chaos (kind of anywhere). Maybe other writers out there know more about symbology than I do. I just liked it...

Jemi Fraser said...

I love what Marcia noticed! So true - and kind of weird. :)

I hope the strep throated one is feeling better - that's not fun at all.

Our local ER folks knew me too when the kids were young. I had the 'hospital bag' always packed & sitting in the closet - with the special toys, books & snacks we never used anywhere other than the hosptial. Don't miss those days at all!

Good luck keeping up with it all!

Anne Spollen said...

Yes, thanks, Jemi - he's doing a whole lot better. Kids having trouble getting air completely freaks me out - but I was calm in front of him.

See, I didn't take them to the ER much when they were younger. I kept them more in my pocket back then. It's much easier now: just their phones and Ipods.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your kid is feeling better.

Your post brings to mind the interruptions I experience when I'm writing, but they're not as numerous since I'm childless.

Mary Witzl said...

What Marcia said. A symbol for chaos shouldn't look so symmetrical and tidy.

Our pediatrician became a good friend and we got to know each other pretty well over the years. And good for you for keeping calm in the ER. Whoever knew that carving out a little writing time could be such a monumental feat?

adrienne said...

Glad your son is feeling better.

The symbol for chaos does look orderly, but it also appears to be pointing in all directions...that seems about right.

Anne Spollen said...

Thanks guys - he's back to school and fine.

I think I wrote this to show myself that I have to stop working, or working so much, on non-writing jobs. I don't have the kind of kids who go off into their rooms and work on building model planes or mastering the nuances of French. They include me in everything and I am working all the time while they are at school (and Emma is home schooled...)

It's a decision I've been trying to make for the last couple of months - can I trade in the weekly check for freelancing? I look at this and the fact that I've gotten ten pages of a new WIP written since March.

I get that symbol - all directions a little more when I try to make decisions.

K.C. Shaw said...

Eek! Chaos indeed. While I'm sure having kids is marvelous and fulfilling, I must say that when I sit down at the keyboard, I'm really really really glad I don't have any. For one thing, I don't think I could handle the stress. How on earth did my mom manage?

Anne Spollen said...

I think your mom may have been stressed out,K.C. but moms become expert at hiding that. There's no point in stressing the kids out by running around obviously frazzled. They frazzle silently.