Home from work today. I came close to finishing my second draft over the weekend, which was my goal (as if it matters to anyone else) but ended up adding an extra smut scene for good measure, which put me behind schedule and leaves me with a bit more work to do this week.

It hasn’t been a good few days. The ex is insisting on an amendment to our court order for the two summer months between when we leave Vegas and when my daughter turns eighteen, even though I’ve acquiesced to all his demands and my daughter has agreed to stay with him until her birthday. He keeps reminding me that we both have “legal obligations” and that the court order “must be amended” since I’m apparently violating it by stepping foot outside the city limits without his express written permission–or something like that.

I don’t cope well with conflict. (No! Truly, Averil?) Even though I’ve told him where to stick the court order and that should be the end of it, my stomach is in knots. I worry about my daughter being stuck in a house with this lunatic, and feel guilty that I’m leaving her in a pickle in order to get our living situation squared away in Oregon before my youngest starts school next fall. Oh, to be cloned. Every mother’s wish.

So writing has been an uphill slog this weekend. I keep finding myself daydreaming about my ex-husband rotating on a spit over a blazing fire, with an apple in his mouth and a burn mark on the seat of his trousers.

How do you write when your head’s not in the game? How do you pull yourself together?

Photograph by Ellen Von Unwerth

41 responses

  1. I do what Al Watt taught me to do–I ask myself what place this has in my story. It almost always deepens the dilemma.

    On a personal note–boy that guy just can not let you go.

    • Al Watt’s questions have saved me so many times since I started reading him. He has an uncanny way of knowing where you are in the process and what you need to be thinking about.

      And I think the ex is just so overwhelmed with anxiety that it manifests as bullying and general horribleness. It really isn’t about me, it’s about him. But knowing that only helps a little–I’d still like to see him on a spit.

    • So true, CJ. Everything that happens feeds the beast, and as much as I (like Averil) get the belly-knots in conflict, that’s when I do the best thinking.

  2. I don’t have a clue—the oddest things can knock me flat.

    But I do know that good things happen when I write angry and it’s when I’m most overwhelmed that it’s easiest to escape into my MS.

    • I’ve been thinking about this. I wonder if I get locked up more because I feel stifled than angry. Anger is good fuel, but when you know someone has a thumb on your head it’s distracting more than helpful.

      Maybe I should pay closer attention to the Republican primary, and find a purer source for jet-fuel fury.

  3. I can only imagine how fed up you are. The fact that your children are caught in the netting is so infuriating. If he could only put them first, really put them first, things might be different. Instead it sounds like he’s using them to justify his own delusion. I abhor people like that. My father was like that. I don’t always agree with an eye for an eye but people like that deserve the ending they get.

    In answer to your question, I don’t force it. If my head’s not there, I try my hand at something else. Sometimes getting away brings me closer to where I need to be.

    • Yes, and part of this is that I feel I could have pushed our date back another month or two, and not left my daughter in the lurch. That’s my fault. I got impatient, and I got my heart set on the little farmhouse in Salem which wasn’t available in June or July.

      I know I shouldn’t force the writing, but honestly I could lose days and days, weeks even, to worrying about this or that. If I waited for my head to clear I’d never write a damn thing!

  4. I either clam up or blog depending on how my head isn’t in the game. Pulling myself out of it is less a conscious decision and typically happenstance. I wish I were different.

    I found myself grinding my teeth at your legal issues. Why do some people have to be so difficult? Being difficult is exhausting for all parties involved. Have they never considered the return on investment?

    • Blogging is good for head-clearing, isn’t it? I like the way Teri refers to it as a warm up exercise.

      I don’t think return on investment has occurred to him. I used to try to discuss things like that, but now I’m at the “just the facts, ma’am” stage. His texts go on and on, mine are one or two lines: when, where, what, and how much will it cost.

  5. You know? Just uggh!
    Just remember, your daughter is strong. He is making decisions that will impact her choices when her visiting him is exactly that, a choice.
    The best you can do is keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t engage, but don’t flinch either. Even when you want to.

    And sometimes when I can’t write, I do my best writing. Maybe you don’t work on the novel though straight away. Maybe you work on a scene about a man, a simple scene where the silent can speak and the loud go silent.

    Then again, maybe you dust off the camera and get a picture of the way you feel trapped so the feeling has a place to go and you can free your mind. Just don’t let it take residence in that beautiful writer’s mind of yours.

    • My daughter will be okay, you’re right. She’s a tough cookie. She’s got the eye-roll down pat.

      I keep thinking about that stack of writing you produced, Lyra. It’s the sheer weight of it all, maybe, or the visual reminder of the investment of time. I just love it.

    • “He is making decisions that will impact her choices when her visiting him is exactly that, a choice.”

      Yeah. He’s sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest. Someday maybe he’ll be an old man longing for the comfort of family, and what will he have? A daughter and possibly grandchildren irreversibly estranged from him? Then it will be, “Oh, Lord what have I done? What have I done?”

      We pitiful people. We do so many things in the quick now that we can only regret in the long cold nights to some.

      • I don’t believe he’ll ever say that, knowing him. I think it will be, How could they desert me this way? What have I ever done to deserve such treatment?

  6. It’s tough. My writing is such a refuge and it’s a place I go to every day, so at least I have that, but it’s tough. The writing may not be good at times that are bad, it may just be raw spew, but at least it’s something that I have and that no one can take away from me.

    I’m not an attorney and I can’t give legal advice and you haven’t asked for it and nothing I write should be taken as legal advice (believe it or not, since I’m a paralegal I’m required by the rules of the state Supreme Court to give that little spiel in situations such as this). But the order, which I have not seen, says what it says–the document speaks for itself. Being an order of the court, it probably ought to be abided by. Make sure you understand what it says and what your ex’s supposed grounds are for wanting it amended. If he wants it amended, I’m sure there are procedures by which he can move the court for a hearing regarding same. If he is just dicking you around about it, no court will be pleased with that. Separate your hot anger from your cold ability to define the problem and reach the solution, and the matter will turn out well.

    And that was a beautiful love letter you wrote to Drew.

    • I’ve read that document all the way through and there’s nothing in it regarding where we need to live, except to say that if we do move, I need to inform my ex in writing and leave an address and phone number for where we can be reached. Anything to the contrary exists only in his mind. I’ve told him that since my daughter will be staying with him, I’d be willing to reverse the child support for the summer, and we could certainly write that up and have it notarized. I don’t know what else I can do to smooth the transition.

      I’ve left a trail of documents expressing my willingness to acquiesce, and I’ve told him I’ll produce that in court if dragged there, so he can explain it to a judge. Because he’s clearly just dicking me around. Court is for people who don’t agree (at least, that’s my understanding as a layperson) and believe it or not, I can absolutely understand his desire to spend a last summer with his daughter before she moves away. I’d want the same thing in his place–it’s not unreasonable.

  7. Either I don’t write or I make myself go to the quiet room in the library, where I feel I have no option but to get to work because I’m not allowed to so much as cough in there. Or, more likely, I eat in bed while watching TV on my laptop and bitching about everything to my cats. But that portrait is too bleak to consider, so let’s go back to the library.

    I hope this garbage with your ex passes ASAP. At the least, in 6-8 months or so, it should all be a distant memory when you’re living in Oregon!

    • There’s a quiet room at the library? How did I not know this? I always go to my same cubby against the wall, and the surroundings are far from quiet.

      I’m so excited! I’m going to look for the quiet room this afternoon.

  8. I loved your Valentine to Drew. Love!
    And, sheesh, I don’t have any good advice about the rest– only sympathy and handfuls of good vibes to lob your way, if that is possible.
    Would chocolate help?

    • Chocolate, meh. Would you believe I’m more of a lemon girl? Lemon bars, lemon cookies, lemon drops, lemon sorbet, lemon curd cake with raspberries on top. . .

      Distracted again. It takes so little.

      • Lemon curd. YUM. There are certain things I try to avoid making at home, and that is one of them.

        When I can’t start because of the noise of the day, I sometimes tinker around with chapters, spacing, paragraph breaks, all the little things that don’t really matter that much, until the words catch fire. That or look at pictures of scenery, and read fascinating articles about underground exploration and the like. Bit more of a time suck though – I love the redesign by the way.

        • Lemon curd is dead easy, Helen, and it’s so much better than the kind in a jar. The trick is to keep stirring. (Easier for me, because I’ve got a set or two of extra hands to hold the spoon.)

          The bombsite blog is fucking amazing. I love love love places like this, that were once so busily populated and are now in decay. I’ve always wished to shoot in Pripyat.

          (I’m tickled about the redesign too. I swiped the idea from Teri, who redid hers recently with the same layout.)

  9. thank you for being so honest here.

    i’m sorry for what you’re going through. i cant imagine the anger and frustration that must come with being manipulated by someone so fucked up.

    actually, that’s not true…the strings of my manipulation come at the price of my writing…you being able to write under such circumstances leaves me in awe. i’m fortunate, the manipulation i feel isn’t about my kids–but, specifically, my writing. (as in, “don’t write this because you’re hurting the people you are supposed to love.”) which is nothing when compared to my children.

    • “don’t write this because you’re hurting the people you are supposed to love.”

      I’ve heard this once or twice (or three times or four). But we all have our own codes of conduct with regard to writing, our own thresholds as agreed upon within our families and within ourselves. That can be misunderstood by someone on the outside looking in. It’s easy to let your internal censor be reset to someone else’s standard (particularly when that person is someone you respect) but that would be a pity in your case.

      Your family will be proud of you, Amyg. The truth is worth something, in and of itself, and I think they’ll know that in time if they don’t already.

  10. I almost never write when my head’s not in the game. I’ve opted out of many a writing session because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, and I’ve also purposefully avoided situations because I knew they were likely to throw me off my game. So I applaud you for having the fortitude to push through this.

    • I avoid things too if I possibly can. If I know I’ve got a big writing session planned, I try to lay low for a couple of days and attempt to disconnect. Sometimes it works.

  11. I don’t know how to do either of those things. That’s why I’ve had a couple of decent and maybe entertaining ideas for Sparks In Shadow but let them fall by the wayside while I throw up as much content as I can for WOH. That stuff feels closer to the possibility of bread and butter, each one like a finite work assignment that I can get through, while SIS feels like my life, and I’m tired of that.

    I can’t even look at the ‘novel’.

    • Two blogs is a LOT to manage, Ré. It’s all I can do to handle one! I love both of yours, but it’s clear that WOH is where your passion lies–at least for now.

      I’ve been thinking of you and that wretched furnace. And the groceries and the bills. . . Sending love your way, my friend.

  12. That sucks about the family situation. Congratulations for nearing the end of your manuscript, though. In life, there are so many things out of our control, but at least you’re showing that WIP who’s boss!

  13. Ms iSkirt’s lovely stepdad is in the hospital with a heart problem tonight, also her beautiful friend with M.S had a bad reaction to a drug they were attempting to halt the M.S with today. It’s a drug that sometimes just kills those who take it, no cure, gone. For her, today, it just gave her a terrible rash.
    Somewhere in this city today a woman’s car broke down, a good someone stopped to help her, they were killed by a truck.
    Life just seems so random at times, and the random pains of the world add themselves to the constant grinding grating ones we live with each day, the mistakes we made that don’t go away, and some of our times are attempting to breathe under ground.
    Me, I can’t write then. Not at its worst.
    A bit less than worst, I write on one page, about nothing, nothing I know. It doesn’t pull me up, but maybe, with luck, it stops me sinking that last bit.
    For you, you’re a wonderful writer, and I’m guessing also that good a person, and you don’t need to hurry. Whatever bad feeling festers in you can make it to a page when it need to. Your manuscript can wait. Look after you first.

  14. Damn these stupid pain meds. All this shit I spout. I only came on here to make a stupid joke about all us wanky writers pulling ourselves together.
    That photo is my favourite, of all the ones I’ve seen you use.
    Be good to you, you’re a good mum, things will be fine.

    • I like you on pain meds.

      When we first split up all those years ago, my ex, a highway patrolman, struck and killed a man who had stopped to retrieve a bike that had fallen off his car as his family was headed back home after Christmas. Struck and killed him at a high rate of speed, in front of the man’s entire family.

      My ex’s anxiety began to escalate from that point forward. I should be more understanding.

      Thank you for this, Harry. I’m sorry for Ms iSkirt’s father and her friend–if I were the praying sort, I’d say a prayer, but in lieu of that I’ll send a virtual hug to all of you.


  15. The blog helps me get into the right frame of mind. And sometimes a cup of coffee in a coffeeshop with nothing but my notebook (and possibly headphones) will focus me. It’s my version of the quiet room in the library. The key is to have nothing nothing to distract you. Other times it’s about writing the pain.


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