Once Upon a Time, I Had a Writing Groove…then the music changed. Finding your writing groove after life transitions
A post made possible by the fact that my husband doesn’t read anything I write…except checks.
Four years ago, I retired after teaching high school English for twenty-five years and grooved myself right into being a full-time writer.
I basked in my writerly world for six months until my husband announced he was starting his own business, and he needed—guess who—to work for him. The groove became the rut my writing fell into and out of my reach. But he assured me I’d be able to take my laptop to work and write…between answering the phone, filing, and clients that barked, growled, pooped and peed. Did writing happen? Well, I took notes because how can you not when a man arrives with his snake in a cardboard box and tells you it has a cold, and he’s sure of it because the snake’s been sneezing. My journal/morning pages became my refuge, and I comforted myself with the knowledge that I was at least still capable of forming coherent sentences.
Then, six months later, after increasing my meds (let’s all agree to no judgment here) and his hiring more employees, I re-retired to being a writerly person again. Rescued the stories I’d abandoned, salvaged what I could, and filled the rut with enough hope to get my groove back. Until…we (he) decided that converting part of our home into a vacation rental would be a brilliant idea. My new job description included bedmaking, washing, cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and scheduling. And once again, did writing happen? Well, I took notes because how can you not when a neighbor calls to tell you that the bachelorettes left a penis-shaped piñata in your front yard?
I managed to cobble together enough chapters to publish my first indie…a Christmas novella. Maybe because of the constant craziness of my life at the time, maybe because I was simply grateful to have an idea, regardless of how wacky it was, I allowed myself to have fun with a cast of characters who grew out of these first lines that baked in my brain: “It took Beulah Grace three tries, but she finally killed my mother. The first time was in June when she accused her, her being my mother Nancy Jane Pressfield, of diverting $29.54 from the Magnolia Springs Garden Club into her personal account. For fertilizer.”
In the meantime, my husband had neck and back surgery following an accident (more on this later).
And because the husband and I can take crazy to a whole new level…we did. We converted the entire home to a vacation rental. Which meant we had to move. Which meant I had to pack. Which meant my writing groove transformed into a rut. Again.
Months later, my groove returned when the writing gods smiled upon me, and I was offered a contract. This provided me legitimate grounds for escaping post-moving responsibilities because my mantra became, “I have a deadline. I have to keep writing.”
A year later, we sold the vacation-rental house, sold the house we moved into and, after a lifetime in NOLA, we moved to Houston. I wanted to be closer to my kids, my husband retired because he could no longer work due to his injuries, and my book was finished. Of course, this meant more packing followed by more unpacking.
Writing? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.
Now, for months, I’ve been coping with RHS (Retired Husband Syndrome), which is only slightly related to RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome). Instead of having irresistible urges to move your legs, RHS is characterized by irresistible urges to move your husband. To another planet. At least temporarily. Because how the hell else am I going to write when…
- the television in the room next to my office is belching high speed car chases and crashes, and universes exploding, and weapons firing at volumes that make the floors tremble
- when, if my fingers aren’t glued to the keyboard, I mustn’t be writing, so questions like: “Do you know where ___is? Can you print this for me? I’m going to Home Depot. Don’t you want to come with me? How about we leave in two days to drive to Omaha for the College World Series? We’ll only be gone ten days.”
- a text summons me upstairs, and I bolt to the second floor thinking something is wrong, only to find said texter on the ladder, pointing to the floor, and asking if I mind handing the (insert name of tool here) to him so he doesn’t have to get down off the ladder
One of my writer friends, who also deals with RHS, says she shuts her office door, but her husband still walks in. She said she never knew he could talk so much.
My PSA: In all fairness, my husband didn’t want to retire, and the man who could play two rounds of golf a day is barely able to play six holes. I mean, if I could find a play group for retired men, I’d be delighted. He probably would be as well.
So, now what? How do I find my groove before it becomes a rut again or, worse, a trench? To segue from Orly Konig-Lopez’s post on Juy 21, how do we move from “Working World” to “Retired World”?
My first thought was maybe I should consider a part-time job.
But, seriously, it was recognizing that we’re in a season of our lives where the bucket that holds the list of all the things we want to accomplish is much closer to our feet than we’d like it to be. So, how much time away from the man who made my own retirement do-able, who made my dream of living closer to my kids possible, who’s blessed my life beyond measure, am I willing to sacrifice in the name of writing?
And I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself about my own bucket list as a writer. What book(s) would I regret never having written? How do I, gut-level honesty, spend the time I do have writing, not trying to write? Cory Padgett wrote an article, “6 Ways to Waste Your Time as a Writer,” and I’m guilty of all of them, plus about ten more she didn’t mention.
I could sit myself somewhere else to write, like Starbucks or the library, for a few hours a day. We could schedule days as yours, mine and ours. I could pimp myself and my writer friends (let’s all agree that’s marketing) on social media during one of those butt-thrashing noisy movies he watches. We’d at least be in the same room and that counts for something, right?
So, maybe the music of my writing groove changed. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop dancing.