Confessions from the Playground

Today’s guest post is by Jodi Herlick, whose short story “By the River” will appear in Issue #17 of The Quotable.
Confession: I take my kids to playgrounds without swings so I won’t have to push them. While other moms scramble through climbing tubes, giggling as they shoot down slides with their kids on their laps, I’m over on a bench with my laptop, squinting through the sun’s glare and trying to tune out the shrieks of exhausted toddlers. I type furiously, knowing that at any moment, my children might appear and announce that they want to leave. And then my writing time will be done, because we’ll go back home where the laundry needs to be hung and the floors need to be vacuumed and empty stomachs need to be filled.

Another confession: As part of a class for my MFA program, I read Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. I wanted to punch Dillard in the nose when she described her windowless writing shack, where she could be secluded from the world as she worked through the torture of the writing process. To be honest, Dillard’s torture sounds heavenly. Because the truth is that in order to attain the ability to regularly seclude ourselves away from the world (if we ever get to that point), most of us have to learn to write in spite of the distractions. Writing is crammed in on lunch breaks while we shovel a ham sandwich with one hand and type with the other, or after work when our eyes are droopy and our brains numb to inspiration, or on weekends when we’d rather turn on Netflix for a Dr. Who marathon. If we’ve got young children, writing takes place among the stifling humidity of swim lessons and the cacophony of indoor playgrounds on President’s Day. And maybe, if someone loves us very much, we might get the blessing of writing at a coffee shop for an hour or two.

Confession #3: When my son was born, I almost gave up writing. I was in the middle of my first novel. The document sat idle and unchanged on my laptop, while I tried to be the dutiful mother doting on her baby. I wasn’t sure why I was so miserable. When my daughter was born nearly two years later, I thought I was suffering from insurmountable writer’s block. There was no time to write. I had a full-time job and children who needed me. In those few moments when I sat down to write, the words wouldn’t come. But a few months later I realized that I couldn’t be a good mother if I was stifling my desire to write. If my joy was gone, what would I have left to give to my kids? And so I learned how to write at playgrounds and on lunch breaks and during those precious moments at coffee shops. And my kids are starting to learn that Mommy is much pleasanter if they give her time to write.