Personal Musings

My Daily Writing Routine Is Out of Sync

School’s out and distractions are in

Ever since my kids finished school for the year, my daily writing routine has been out of sync. I’m not placing blame on my children. I’m a parent first and a writer second. It falls on me for not adjusting my schedule ahead of time.

It’s not like I didn’t see this coming. This happens every June. I was Paul Revere in May shouting, “Summer is coming! Summer is coming!” And yet, despite seeing it a mile away, I failed to prepare accordingly. I thought I’d prepared well enough, but “preparing accordingly” is more a guessing game than an exact science when you’re a parent.

Sometimes preparing doesn’t matter. That’s not how parenting works. Plans get adjusted, scrapped, rewritten. You write new plans and then adjust and rewrite those plans. Sometimes you scrap the new plan altogether and write yet another new plan. Then you light the newest new plan on fire and throw it in the trash and go full improv.

Before the summer gets away from me, I’ll right the ship. I always do. It just takes a few false starts, a few cranks of the engine. Before the bard can bang away at keys on the doc first, there must be banging of the barge on the dock first. Scrape the hull then patch it back up. Good as new.

Writing every day is a crucial activity for me. It balances me mentally and emotionally. Without it, and other activities like walking, running, and meditation, I’m like a character from the “Hungry? Why wait?” Snickers bar commercials. I’m not myself.

Little things tend to throw my mood off kilter. That isn’t to say I’m some miserable person no one wants to be around. I’m not a walking, talking, ticking time bomb. But writing daily reduces what I’ll refer to as a flare-up. As with meditation, writing creates a sort or rubber barrier around me. Instead of a moment of anger adhering to me, it bounces off.

I need the invisible rubber barrier. I like that version of myself better.

I still write every day, but not as much. It’s not as focused. My brain and my thinking are fragmented enough as is. But now it’s like someone took the fragments and hit them with a sledgehammer and said, “Here. Piece this back together again. Make it beautiful like you’re a kintsugi master.”

My attention gets sidetracked mid-sentence: there’s a dispute swiftly manifesting into a tiny war between my two children. Do I let it ride out or intervene? It’s not my job to be the mediator of every dispute between my kids. Them learning how to resolve interpersonal conflict is a lesson I’ve taught them and continue to teach them. I’ve laid the foundation.

But sometimes the foundation is cracking and I do have to step in and mediate. Otherwise, the house will crumble down to rubble. That’s how it feels at least when you begin to sense hormones, not your own, revving up a newly minted teenager and little brother. When you feel negative energy permeating within the four walls of your own household.

For a set time between August and June, from the hours of 8 AM-3:15 PM, I’ve had the luxury of letting sit idle basic parental responsibilities and honing my focus to write. I don’t have that now and that’s okay. I signed up for this. My family is my priority and always will be. But self-care, and for me that includes writing, allows me to be the best version of myself I can be. The best parent I can be.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and mother, Barbara Kingsolver, once said in an interview with The Daily Beast, “Those two important lives [writing and parenting] have always been one for me. I’ve always had to do both at the same time.”

And she’s right. Writing and parenting need not be mutually exclusive from one another. You have to make them one. So I wake earlier now to get the words in; and now that I’ve written those words, I have the rest of the day to go on bike rides and throw baseballs and hit volleyballs.

We can go for hikes and find swimming holes, shoot basketball and ride skateboards, even though my primary care provider has warned me to retire from the latter hobby.

“It’s freeing,” I tell her of hopping on a board. “It’s like riding a concrete wave out there.”

“But Mr. Pillow, you’ve torn your shoulder labrum and rotator cuff twice in the past three years.”

“I know,” I say. “But my kids love it and so do I.”

The same is true of parenting and of being a writer: I love it. The juggling act isn’t always easy, but what fun would that be if it were? I can no longer imagine being a writer without the life experience I’ve gotten as a parent. My life is full of stories because of my children — and some even involve a purple spotted cheetah my son once saw roaming our neighborhood.