Under Pressure

Weeks when my writing time is limited due to other commitments or a surprise kid with a fever or a last minute call to help with the class field trip can be extremely frustrating. As much as I know I should simply time shift and perhaps write at night after the kids go to bed, I know that I am most productive when I’m in my space alone, in the quiet, forcing myself to sit in the chair and avoid as many distractions as possible. Nighttime is full of kids who need glasses of water, shoulders that are aching, dishwashers filling and rattling 60 year old pipes, husbands watching basketball games in nearby rooms. It just doesn’t work. So interruptions of the routine kind can often create quite an impact on how productive I am in any given week.

After a sick kid stayed home from school last Friday and this week has included unforeseen challenges to available quiet time, I was gifted with a play date today. A last minute, hey, does B want to come home with G today and we’ll drop him off around 2:30? Wahoo! Yes! Sign me up! That means after library duty that would have eaten up today’s writing time, I will still be left with a few hours to sit down and tackle whatever is next in the work in progress.

Except I had to pop by the grocery store. Then it was lunch time. And I was starving. And Moulin Rouge was on when I (mistake #245) turned on the TV. So I watched the last half of Moulin Rouge. And cried (because seriously, singing while dying from consumption will get me every time). Now it’s 2pm and my ball of energy will be home in a half an hour followed by his big brother at 3 and it’s gorgeous out so of course we’ll go outside, but all of that means the work in progress is neither progressing nor working.

I know this is pressure I put on myself. And sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. I created some deadlines at the start of the year to help me work towards my goal. Realistic deadlines. But deadlines nonetheless. I work better under pressure. Typically. So these deadlines were meant to inspire. And for the most part, they do. Unfortunately, the emotional pressure I put on myself is sometimes not as productive as the simple pressure of a long to do list where you don’t have any choice but to sit down and start crossing things off one by one.

But sometimes writing is more than writing. Of course, it’s not. The book doesn’t get written unless i put one word after another. But the writer’s soul, the font from which the words spring, needs filling every so often, too. And the physicality of a film’s visuals and score tell a story much differently than the descriptions I must think up as I sit my bum in a chair at a desk and bang away at keys to fill a keyboard behind the blinking line of that taunting cursor reminding me that I’m idle, that the letters are still, that the blank space in front is still blank. But sometimes you need to fill the well. With a movie. Or a book. Or a walk. Or a cup of coffee. Or permission to simply not work on the work in progress. And that’s when writing is more than writing.

Perhaps this is merely my attempt to justify my inability to focus on the work in progress today. Perhaps it’s truth. Perhaps it’s somewhere in the middle. All I do know is that I don’t feel guilty. Okay, maybe a little guilty. But I also feel released. Released from a bit of the pressure of the should be’s and can I’s, just for a moment. And in reality, I’m typing here. I’m writing. It might not be what I set out to do, but it’s not for nothing.

Tomorrow, my dear Scarletts, is another day and it will be a day when I can sit down again and grab the reigns of that cursor and see what I leave behind when I finish tap, tap, tapping away. The word count will continue to tick up. The chair will feel no less inviting. The pressure will no doubt begin to fill up. But it will be progress. And it will be work. And it will be one more day closer to meeting my goal.

There are two kinds of pressure – the kind that makes diamonds and the kind that explodes. I’m learning to love the first and release a bit of the second so that one day, I’m left with a work completed and not shards of failed dream.

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer, mom and unabashed Tar Heel.

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