The Ticking Clock

About this time of year, my jaw starts to hurt. I know it's coming and I know what causes it but I can't really do anything about the aching pain that sometimes radiates into my neck.

It's caused by the imminent end of school and the arrival of garden season, which ratchets up my other job to almost full-time status. My jaw starts to ache because I'm grinding my teeth at the sense that I'm falling behind. Pages aren't getting written because I've got other commitments, other responsibilities that I must complete. And, with teenagers in the house--playing music, on the computer, watching TV, hell, just sitting in a room--it's harder to concentrate.

I can write anywhere. When the boys were younger, I'd take the laptop to the pool and soccer and baseball practice. Now, I take it with me to karate and bass lessons. But when my kids are in school all day, I have eight hours of uninterrupted silence that translates into pure writing bliss.

Then summer comes and I'm facing weekly deadlines for work along with self-imposed deadlines for my writing. Along with my aching jaw and sore neck. Why do I stress myself? Because if I don't, I won't attain my ultimate goal--writing fiction full time.

We're lucky that my husband has a full-time job but I need to work. Just as we depend on my garden writing income, we also depend on my royalty checks from EC. But writing isn't just a job for me. I love to write. If I haven't written a few pages, thought about writing, edited my own or someone else's work or read a book, my day isn't complete.

But I'm also Mom. My guys will be going to college in a few short years, leaving home and living their own lives. Contrary to what they may think, I dread that day. I love how they come home from school and head for my office to tell me about their day. I love going to concerts with them, watching karate practice, listening to bass lessons, taking them to movies and watching our favorite shows on TV.

I try not to wish the summer away but when I leave the house at 8:30 a.m. to see two or three gardens, return for a few hours to make phone calls, do interviews and write features, shuttle to karate or bass lesssons and maybe see another garden that night, those blessedly quiet eight hours during the school day seem like Nirvana.

So, I will do what I do every year. I put my head down and bulldoze my way through. I get really good at budgeting time during the summer, something I don't do well any other time of the year. I learn to shut out the noise, the chatter and the music. I learn to take a few minutes from my schedule to talk to my kids then reimmerse myself in my work. My days become a race against a ticking clock.

Some days I win. I get my pages written, see a few gardens, write a feature, do an interview and manage to make dinner, all before karate. Some days...well, some days, there's no pages or no dinner. Some days, there's none of either.

But I probably did get to stop and smell the flowers.