On Unproductivity

You know what’s super productive? Reading blog posts other writers (far more successful than I) wrote about productive work habits. And cleaning pee off the kitchen floor. To be fair, I have not hit my “golden time” yet, which appears to be right before I read in bed, which is right before sleeping. There are always moments throughout the day when there’s this little lull in the crazy, and I think, “Ah! Maybe I could write, now!” Bug’s in the bath, or he’s quietly reading himself books in the front room, or he’s actually finished eating something and is happily playing with trucks while I finally sit down to eat my own food. I think, “Ah, it’s a quiet moment. Bug’s happily occupied. Now is precisely when I can start upping that word count for the day!”

But I stop myself. Because I’ve learned over the last number of years that those moments are insanely fleeting, or at least, they’re fleeting once I open a word processor of any kind. It’s like the same reflex that occurs at night when the instant I shut off my lamp in my bedroom (with doors closed between, mind), Bug wakes up. I don’t know how he does it, but it must be some sleep-cycle thing–anyway. The instant I open a word processor, it becomes “work” time. I get into the flow. I figure out what I’m doing, where the story’s going, and I’m ready to plunge head-first into it, when it abruptly ends (usually in a frustrated scream or someone wanting “belly” which means sticking his thumb into my bellybutton, or just the usual “what are you doing if you’re not playing with trucks” commentary–which if you have a wee one, you know they will literally never get an answer they consider the end of the conversation.) This is life at home with kids. It’s fantastic in many, many ways, and I wouldn’t trade it (most days), but there are few feelings more frustrating, more castrating, than feeling that energized creativity seeping into you, lighting your mind from within, only to have that moment cut off without warning. For me, at least, it gets very frustrating. So I don’t usually let myself get sucked into that daydream of daytime productivity, to avoid the feelings of–

Well, that. The loss of the brain train. I’m already incredibly distractible, and perpetual questions inevitably derail me when they’ve been repeated and answered several times already. I find it frustrating even when I’m not doing creative work, so now I simply mark that as an invisible line not to cross. Same goes for any kind of drawing or painting, too, for the time being.

(And though I’ve considered the idea of getting up before Bug gets up (an oft suggested solution to writer-parents), but there are two conflicts with this: the first being that I hate mornings, and it takes me forever to wake up and be civil, let alone productive. Unless staring at the wall like a zombie is productive, in which case, MAN, I’d be crazy productive then; the second is that the only reason I’m not already up at 5:30/6am is because Bug crawls in with me, and sleeps lightly enough for an hour or (when I’m lucky) two that I cannot get up without waking him (thus, I’d have to get up around 5 or earlier to scrape out an hour’s worth of grumpy, wall-stare-y work, and it wouldn’t be precisely quiet work because that’s about when the hubby gets up for work anyway tromping back and forth, and then I’d get to deal with cranky Bug at 5:30/6 every morning, which would make us both miserable, and that would inevitably ruin the evening time I might otherwise have, because to get up at or before 5, I’d need to go to bed crazy early, and honestly, I’d rather just stay up late.<–night owl logic, though this article on sleep habits and work productivity I came across a few months ago does have some interesting routine thoughts. If I had to guess, I’m a cross between a wolf and a bear.)

But! Our probation month of “no TV at all” (due to semi-accidental TV smashings a month ago) is about to end, which means at least I’ll be able to get back to letting him stream a show or two in the AMs or PMs while I get a little work done. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the night times for now and wait to absorb the school hours when the fall comes. The trick becomes setting goals that keep me pushing forward and excited, despite odd and unpredictable hours, rather than just throwing my hands up in the air and not working at all. That’s still a balancing act I’m trying to master.

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