Dani Shapiro
December 9, 2008

On Domestic Life and Writing

As my regular blog readers may have intuited by now, I have developed a sudden burst of blogging energy. I’m hoping to continue this, and to write most mornings about some aspect of the writing life. Take this morning, for instance. At 7:30, my husband and son left for the day, heading down the kitchen stairs to the garage with their usual assortment of briefcase, knapsack, reading material, and in today’s case, rock specimens for something at school called “rock shop” (don’t ask). This required a last minute flurry to locate the pyrite–found in a shoe box where all geology samples have been carefully stored away. Whew. Crisis averted. They left–the car made its way down our driveway which is always a complicated, bittersweet moment for me–and then they were gone. The house was quiet.

Time for my writing to begin, right?

I have only been at my desk for an hour this morning and here, so far, is what I have accomplished. In my overnight emails, there was a reminder about placing orders for holiday gifts so that they’ll arrive in time. Right. So I did that. While I was looking for all the addresses I needed, I heard a suspiciously loud sound from the kitchen. My husband had left his office door open, and the puppy had wreaked havoc. He had gotten into the shredder bin, and shredded the mountain of paper even further. It looked like a small blizzard had hit. While he was at it, he used the television remote as his bone. It’s a good thing the little devil is so cute.

I dealt with the blizzard, emptied the dishwasher while I was at it, then came back upstairs to my desk. Centered? Ready to work? You tell me.

But here’s the bright side, and it really is a bright side. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to remember that you can start your day over again at any time. I’ve tried to teach this to Jacob. Take a breath. Shake it off. Begin again. I’ve also learned, in a Pavlovian way, that if I don’t have at least a decent writing day, the rest of my day has a pall over it–a gray sky. The writing itself allows light in–not that it’s easy, not that it’s even pleasurable. Just that it’s necessary–and not just because it’s my livelihood, but because it’s who I am. I will leave you today with a new favorite quote from Virginia Woolf:

“The dream is too often about myself. To correct this; and forget one’s own sharp absurd little personality, reputation and the rest of it, one should read; see outsiders; think more; write more logically; above all be full of work; and practice anonymity.”