by Maria Monroe
In his amazing book On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King talks about writing at his desk “the one under the eave… on a snowy morning.” I love that image. It’s so dreamy, conjuring up feelings of coziness and safety, steaming cups of coffee and homemade quilts, quietly typing away while outside fat, fluffy flakes float down from the sky.
Here, as a contrast, is how my writing usually goes.
First, a visual:
Nothing dreamy here. I write at my kitchen table on my laptop. This is the way my “desk” looks right now and, if I’m being honest, most of the time. There is no “eave.” There is no calm. Even the coffee in the mug you see is cold by now.
And instead of peace and the sound of my fingers deftly moving over my keyboard, maybe some music in the background, this is an example of what my house sounds like when I’m trying to write:
Kid #1: Maria! I need help!
Me: Mama. My name is Mama.
Kid #1: (in snotty tone) Really? Let’s see your driver’s license.
Me: Seriously? You’re going to talk me like that? Let’s see if I take you to GameStop later to preorder [insert some game-related item I know nothing about except that it’s apparently exceptionally rare and we will need to wait in line for 45 minutes before the store opens to get one].
Kid #1: Sorry. Mama.
(Everything is quiet for a few minutes.)
Me (typing): In that moment, our eyes meet across the crowded dance floor. How is it that after so much time he can still make me feel things with his gaze alone? How is it…
Kid #2: (Yelling loudly) Mama! Help!
Me: (alarmed but also, in the interest of full disclosure and because I know it’s nothing life-threatening, a little annoyed) What’s wrong?
Kid #2: (sobbing) I put band-aids on my Beanie Boos, and now they won’t come off! They’re ruined forever!
Me: I’m sure they’re not ruined. Let’s take a look.
Me (thinking): Fuck. They ARE ruined! The tape is stuck on hard, and I’ll probably have to cut off the fur to remove the stickiness. That will result in crying forever and literally – not really but it feels like it – ever. Shit.
Me: Here, let me just spend the next half hour carefully removing this band-aid so we don’t ruin the Beanie Boo, OK?
(I spend the next half hour – literally (really this time) – picking sticky bits off of the leg of the puppy Beanie Boo. The other puppy Beanie Boo is next.)
Me (an hour later): OK. I’m going to write for a little bit. Does anyone need anything before I start again?
Me (writing): How is it that I feel exactly the same way about him that I did two and a half years ago? I remember everything about him. The low timbre of his voice against my neck, his fingers grazing my…
Kid #3 (making first appearance for the day at 11:30 am): Can you make me something to eat?
Me: Yes. Can you give me twenty minutes?
Kid #3 (magically suffusing voice with weirdly guilt-inducing nonchalance): I guess. I’m hungry now, though.
Me: If you’d been down earlier, you could have had breakfast.
Kid #3: So, will you make me something?
Me: (feeling guilty for saying no) Sure. Grilled cheese?
Dogs: (loudly barking to get out)
Me (to Kid #2): Can you please let the dogs out?
Kid #2: (sighing loudly and agreeing only because I threatened the GameStop thing before) Fine.
Kid #2: (a second later) Maria? The cat got out!
Me: (running outside in pajamas to get the cat) It’s MAMA!
Kid #1: Mama! I put another band-aid on my Beanie Boo and I can’t get it off!
Kid #3: (Looking at the stove, where nothing is cooking yet) So is the grilled cheese almost done?
Kid #2: Maria! When are we going to Gamestop?
~ ~ ~
When I get frustrated, I try to remember the words of C. S. Lewis: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
When the school year starts up in a few weeks I’m hoping to get more work done. But there still won’t be a desk under an eave.