When I was a brand new mother I read somewhere that new moms talk about sleep like starving people talk about food. I might be able to remember where I’d read that little gem if I wasn’t so sleep deprived the first four years of my son’s life. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was four years old. My friends with equally sleepless children tried to reassure me with the obvious – that he would eventually sleep, or he would leave the house, and the far-reaching – that kids who didn’t sleep well were smarter than other kids because they were so curious and restless, there were days when I would have done almost anything…anything at all…to get eight hours of sleep.
I’ve discovered that writers talk about process like new moms talk about sleep. I spent an hour on Skype with my best friend, who is a professor and a poet and children’s book author, and we talked about process for at least 50 minutes of that time. When we write best. What helps us write, and what hinders creativity. Husbands wandering around looking for glasses or phone or keys or files are not helpful. Neither are small children who wander in. This snippet of dialogue documents the appearance of a five-year-old in my doorway:
Me: “Yes, baby?”
Me (more impatient): “What is it?”
Him: “I forgot.”
Yes. As did I, and now that perfect piece of prose is gone, gone, gonebabygone, forever. I’ll have to start locking the door when his reading gets fluent. I have a big monitor I use rather than my laptop monitor, and I keep my font settings at 150%, so many of the words I write (but do not speak aloud) are in gigantic text on the screen. I do not want my son sounding out slang for the male anatomy, or for the female anatomy, for that matter. He’s familiar with fuck already. We’ve decided it’s a bad word and Mommy must stop using it and he may never use it, not even in the song that goes truck-truck-bo-buck-banana-fana-fo…you get the idea.
Where was I? Process, and how ubiquitous it is when writers, likely any kind of artists, gather. The struggle to get what you see inside out of you, into your chosen medium, is a complex, changeable thing. I’ve written from 2-5 a.m. but that was a bad period, one I don’t hope to relive. I think I naturally write more easily in the afternoons, but I have mornings free now, so that’s the time. I write and edit differently. One’s a typing process, the other is a handwriting process. And I love to hear how other people work. Artists are superstitious people. If writing after praying to the muse works for one person, golly, it might work for me! Just like that lavender bath might entice your infant to sleep through the night!
Or maybe not. Maybe each book and writer are as unique as each new mother and child. Maybe we just have to find our way through, recreating ourselves with each successive book or painting or comic strip or dance. Maybe it’s the process that matters, not the end result, and if we miss the process, we’ve missed the joy in it all.
Something to consider. In the meantime, I’m off to take a nap.