It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing.
–Dani Shapiro, Still Writing
I don’t like subscribing to magazines because they end up piling up on the back of my toilet (and sometimes falling into it), unread. And I can’t bring myself to throw them out because they look an awful lot like books and throwing away books is evil and I’m typically too disorganized to donate them to the library and also, there’s the chance that I might one day read an article in one of these magazines. Usually I never do, but there’s the chance.
Last night, I took advantage of such a chance. In the bath. Sometimes, for 30-min increments, my life is really heavenly.
Anyway, I read the recent Writer’s Chronicle interview of Joan Wickersham. She had so much wisdom to offer. And now I want to read her new novel The News from Spain, which I had heard good things about and already wanted to read, but now I really want to read it.
I’ll leave you with some of her sage writer-parent wisdom, for those of you who, like me, rarely get around to reading magazines:
“I’m glad I had two [children], but you know that cliché about doing it all? I think you can do it all, but you just have to do it sequentially. I wish I had understood that when I was younger. I spent a lot of time beating myself up about not writing. I wish I had just accepted that that’s how it is right now. It won’t always be that way.”
Whenever I hear writers talk about their kids, I go into immediate complex mode. They reminisce about the summer their 14-year old read nothing but Faulkner. Or laugh about the time their 5-year old embarrassed them with an audible yawn during their dissertation presentation. Or complain about how quickly their toddler goes through kale.
And I’m like: What if my kids fall into the Twilight-crowd equivalent once they learn how to read?! And: your 5-year old sat through your dissertation?!?! And: Kale? Really?! I hate you.
Then I take a deep breath. Because, as I’m always telling my own 5-year old, this is not a competition. My kids are awesome. As long as I keep feeding them and taking them to the library and hanging their artwork on the fridge, they’ll stumble into their own brand of Faulkner summers.
And when they do, I’ll obviously be on hand to brag about it.
The Root: How do you organize your writing time nowadays, given the changes in your life since then (i.e., motherhood)?
Zadie Smith: The standard answer to this is, “I organize my time much more effectively,” but I’m afraid that was only an early reaction to changed circumstances, and as time has gone on, I’ve reverted back into my old, bad habits. The difference is, these days when I waste four hours looking at women’s dresses on the Internet, I am painfully aware that I’m a) doing this instead of looking after my child, b) doing this when I should be writing or marking essays (which was always true) and c) paying good money to buy the wasted time (which was not always true).
So it’s like standard-issue writer’s guilt, but multiplied by a million! The bottom line is I have much less time to write, yet sadly this does not always compel me to work efficiently. Sometimes it does, but not always.
–Read the full interview here.
P.S. Reading Smith’s NW and loving it.