Every time I think I have this writing thing down, I read about a nomadic writer who's living her life in Budapest, the Pacific Northwest, a stretch of beach in Portugal, and save for her thoughts and her coffee, she's alone.
And I want to give up.
The beating inside my chest, that fluttering of an idea, the winged creature encapsulated in my ribcage flaps mercilessly as I take the toddler's temperature or sit, jailed and impatient, behind the wheel in the carline to pick up my shiny-haired boys from school.
I write in stolen moments.
The fifteen minutes it takes my kids to put on their shoes.
The thirty minutes the boys are bathing.
The blessed hour, if it occurs, of naptime.
I wonder what I could write if I owned my time. If I were able to open up the bars of the cage and let the bird fly freely into the blue without the clock ticking or dishes clinking. What could I write if my thoughts were uncluttered? I think about that sometimes, when I read the brilliance that escapes from the fingers of a writer writing from a room of her very own.
My mother's heart, indignant, the prim and respectable slave to her responsibilities, chirps up with the most disparaging of criticisms when I walk down this path. She slaps down her wooden spoon and puts her hands on her child-rearing hips and demands an explanation.
"It's just that I want to write! I have this need to say something. To really and truly say something."
"Go to your room," she hisses.
It's true, that I have a husband who recognizes that I have this primal, almost obsessive need, to type, type, type, type, type. I type letters into his hand when he's holding mine and he asks, "Whatcha writing?" and smiles with crinkly eyes. I shrug. "Not much," but in fact, it's an essay, or my unfinished fifth revision of a novel, or an article for work, or a poem about him. And he understands. And he gives me space.
But enough space to call my own? It doesn't exist. As a mother to three little boys, I'm not sure it ever will. Yes, they will all be in school one day and because I work from home, I'll be able to take an hour or so in the day and pour it into writing that doesn't pertain to work.
The problem isn't necessarily the time. It's the distraction. For even when they're gone, I'm planning or preparing or worrying or thinking. Those three little boys fill up my mind and my heart and sometimes, there's just a meager scrap of a crumb left for the bird who beats against my breast.
But because I'm a mom, I know that I'm lucky. That my life is richer and fuller because of those three shiny-haired boys. That although my hands are full, they're full of good things. That most of what I want to write about stems from my dogged determination to love those boys with every shred of emotion I can feel. To shoot that damn bird, if necessary, if it ever tried to come between me and those boys.
But sometimes – sometimes – when I'm tapping away at my computer, trying and failing and trying again while listening to shrieks and arguments and whines in the background, I desperately long to be curled up in Budapest with a coffee and a blank slate, so I can open up the cage and see how far and how fast that bird can really fly.