I recently read Heather O’Neill’s clever article revealing why writers make such challenging partners (Canada Writes: 10 Things to Know — How to Date a Writer). Within a single day, it was one of the most retweeted articles among writing friends on twitter. Because we know it’s true, don’t we?
I can dismiss most dating complaints. I’m not a good enough housekeeper to be a nag. I find most of his quirks too interesting to not have supported him. But I have to confess: if he had anything to complain about, it would be the time and attention it takes when I’m writing. For that, I have to tell him, “You have my undying gratitude and awe.”
And then there’s my boys. Today we have off from school. I have spent my day in twenty of the country’s most fascinating museums. I’ve learned about the Qtips and cosmetic sponges used to clean wax figures and taxidermied animals. Learned the provenance of animals and T-rex skeletons on display. I’ve buffed T-rex teeth to a burnished glow. I’ve experienced the shock and awe on arrival of one of the world’s most startling traveling exhibits.
The boys? Sat on the couch, back and forth between cartoons and the wii, trying to outwait me as I got sucked into research for this story that has taken over my whole focus. My oldest is learning to cook — don’t call DCF; it’s not the best parenting sign when he decides it’s easier to cook, himself, than wait for me to stop what I’m doing and feed him.
They catch glimmers, now and then, glancing over my shoulder. They see the research. They went with me to the Natural History Museum, Florida boys enrapt with having to wear fleece hats to keep them warm on a cold New York day, doubled over from a high window to watch cabs circling Central Park. They get it — sometimes — that there’s something fascinating mom sees in the world. They like the parts I can share with them, or translate for them. They try, in their own way, to see what’s in my head.
I wish they could.
If I do my job well (and there’s such pressure to do that, isn’t there, if I’m going to lose this time with them in order to do it), readers will at some point see exactly that: the story that has gripped me over the past several months — the mother, the daughter, the hidden world inside the museum where the mother works, the secrets the museum allows the mother to hide from until the one day it pushes her over the edge. If you could see inside my head, you could see the mother in those dioramas, see her conflict. See the tufted pelts of the mountain gorilla and the gnu, see the first kernel of idea that got it started, then the research, and then the words spinning out across the screen — not done yet, but an exciting draft.
I only hope I get there soon. I love the time I spend, lost in my own stories, but how much better it will be when others can see all I’m seeing, too.