I recently took on some additional business for my media consulting firm, which has resulted in more money (edging closer to wage parity at my house, if not, you know, the world or anything), and a significant drop in spare time. Of course, between the three kids, the traveling husband, the house, the writing projects and my body’s annoying need for sleep, there wasn’t a ton of spare time to begin with. And though my professional workload has increased, it didn’t seem possible to decrease, say, the number of children I have. (“Kids, we’re going to have to reduce headcount,” seems so cold. Plus, born in Chicago, the boys unionized early.) So, it’s my writing and workout routines that have mostly taken the hit. Those pursuits feel intensely selfish when put up against supporting the family or spending time with them or cooking them a healthy dinner. Often, I just can’t make myself do it, even though, rationally, everything would probably be fine if we ate a tiny bit more processed food or played one less board game.
I have days when I feel like everything I thought I knew turns out to be wrong. Like when I talk to my five year old about dinosaurs. Or my six year old about math.
But, mostly, I have to say, my fancy book learning, for all its shortcomings, has held up pretty well. I’m usually reasonably confident in my understanding of life, the universe and How Things Work. In fact, I’d say that my fundamental beliefs have remained virtually unchanged through adulthood. I guess I’ve been lucky that way. Or sheltered.
It is possible that I took that whole “write what you know” thing a little too seriously in my creative writing courses. My fiction always seems to begin in real life. And the lines between what actually happens to me, here in the world, and what happens to my characters ... well, they get a little blurry. Today, I wrote a new scene for the manuscript I’m working on and it came directly from my real-life morning. Except not. Because my morning involved my husband and my three boys and my protagonist’s involved her husband and their one daughter. And I adore my family, probably to a fault (or at least at the expense of other things in my life), while she’s, um, a bit less enamored of her domestic life. Still, the house she lives in is almost exactly like mine. As is the car she drives and the school her child attends.
So, if you’ve ever been at all curious about the difference between my real life and my fiction, here’s a look.