pinky finger

clock faces

The good news: I’m getting the hang of this work thing. Since I started my full-time job, my kids don’t seem to miss me as much as I imagined they would. (!!!) Of course my man is still home to take care of them and the permanency of the situation has not quite sunk in yet but still, so far, so good.

Then there’s the other kinds of news. The first thing to go was the writing. I used to write for three hours a day if the girls were in school; now, I grab five minutes here and there if I can. This just doesn’t add up.

There’s also little time for reading or responding to friends’ blogs or even responding to comments. One dear blogging friend sent me a message asking if she had said something to offend me, and even real-time friends wait for weeks for me to return a phone call.

I have not exercised for a week. I swear, I hear the hissssssssss of inflation down there.

And for the last month, I have not participated in my home life.  Remnants of meals I wasn’t here for pile up in the refrigerator and a fuzz of dust covers everything in the house. At the end of the day I can’t  hear what my family is saying: I’m stone deaf tired. I don’t even participate in my own dreams. In dreams I am other people, a bodiless observer or a character I’ve never met, so even when I’m sleeping, I’m not fully present.

I would like to report a sighting: a personality I haven’t seen for many years has just risen to the surface. This character smiles a lot and speaks in a cheery voice and walks briskly, a little wind-up-toy. She no longer stares at walls or turns up the music or forgets to bathe, no, she has resurrected her talent for looking busy. She has a bladder of steel, makes self-deprecating jokes and a lot of small talk, and eats from tupperware with a plastic fork.

She doesn’t even fucking swear. Who is this person and how long will she be staying? Friends: My body has been hijacked by a woman in a short skirt and a long jacket. Shhh! Here she comes. She’s tapping her watch and digging her heel into the carpet. She doesn’t have time for any of this shit.

(I miss you all. I miss myself. Most of all, I miss writing. I’d donate eggs or scrub toilets or let you chop off my little finger with a butcher knife if I could have those fifteen hours a week back. Meanwhile, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg’s memoir Lean In is selling like a generic over-the-counter mommy’s-little-helper and I have to go pack a lunch and iron my pants for tomorrow.)

How many personalities do you have? Which ones do you like?

Do you work full-time and continue to write/make art and, if so, how do you do it?

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

39 comments

  1. You go GIRL(S)!!!
    Is your job in writing? I remember when I worked in illustration. After a long week, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and draw. It took me a while after quitting to get back into it.
    I am a new writer and it’s a new personality for me. For a long time I didn’t tell anyone. That wasn’t me. Then I told everyone and couldn’t shut up. I didn’t like that person either. Now I am who I am. My kids are in college and I sit in my office and write. I love it. I only bring it up when asked…
    The first summer of writing, I had such a hard time switching between hats since both of my kids were home. Looking back I needed a better routine. Instead I felt on edge while waiting for one of them to burst through the door. That’s when my borderline ADD got the best of me…
    Good luck! Give yourself some time… How is your book coming?

    • Hi Susie! I work at an independent bookstore down the street, supervising and coordinating the author events. It’s a dream job, really, and I’m seeing the book business from a new angle.

      Ooo. Saying that, “I am a writer,” gives me shivers, even when you say it. I think maybe I love that writer persona too much. Boy, that was fun! I hope I still get a chance to trot her out now and then, but I can’t at work– there’s a conflict of interest.

      I’m between novels now, working on short stories and autobiographical bits. Please tell me what you’re writing, if you will.

      • That’s right! I remember your new job now.. That will give you the inside skinny on what’s happening. You will have to blog about it sometime!

        Between books, how cool is that!
        It took me a long while before I introduced myself as a writer. I love that persona now! It fits me pretty well although it felt waaaay too big at first.

        I just finished my first book, (feels funny to say that in the past tense) a paranormal thriller and am passing it along to family and friends before sending it to an editor. I really am learning the process as I go…

        It’s a twisted tale about a haunted young woman who travels to Provence to visit her sister. She has a premonition which comes true in very strange ways once she arrives. She has to unravel the mystery surrounding the Devereux Estate and her new brother-in-law before it’s too late.
        There’s some romance and humor thrown in to the mix. God only knows how I’ll categorize it!
        Thanks for asking!

  2. I don’t work outside of writing at the moment (that will change this year), but when I did, I wrote on the weekends. I just couldn’t gather the energy to write after work. Instead I’d get up really early on my off-days and put in several hours before everyone else was awake. I wrote three books that way, it worked just fine.

    You’ll get back in the groove. Give yourself some time to work with your schedule, and for god’s sake don’t worry about the dust bunnies. They’re your new best friends.

  3. I’m feeling this way, too. Full-time work, especially in a mentally or intellectually demanding career, just takes so much. Every day this week I woke up “early” to write, but that early time period kept stretching later and later until today, I barely had time to make a cup of coffee and stare at my writing to-do list (and, okay, Facebook) before shutting down the computer and heading in to work.

    • I know they say its heyday is over but yeah, Facebook is so tantalizing. Lately, I’ve been going there just to feel like I’m connected to the writing world. Who cares how solid that connection is? It’s completely real to me. (And yet you manage to write novels, Laura. I am astounded.)

  4. janna

    Real life spoken by a real mom. Hang in there! Go with the fact that you haven’t gotten to ‘humming along’ yet…but you will.

    • I can’t wait to feel that hum. I can’t wait for the job to take up a little less space in my consciousness so I can do it automatically and make room in my head for wandering.

  5. I hear you, Anna. It was just a year or so ago when I was sorting through career options that I broke sobbing and said, “B-b-b-but when do I g-g-get to sit and watch a l-l-lady bug crawl across a d-d-dew tipped LEAF?” *Sob.* There are few things as pleasurable to me as sitting in the back yard and watching the squirrels and the birds climb over the trees. In fact, doing so is a deep need, not an extra. And I can’t see that happening in a traditional job. Who would have the time?

    I run my own business(es), so I at least in theory have more control over my time. Except that, since it’s all down to me, I probably work harder than I would in a normal job. I think what you’re articulating is the classic writer’s dilemma. I don’t really know what the answer is, though I’m certainly always recalibrating and trying to make it work myself.

    Re: Sheryl Sandberg: YES. Of course she touches on many important issues, but I think it’s hard to be a woman AND a writer and listen to all of that talk of leaning in without thinking, “Leaning into WHAT exactly?” What if I want to lean into a non-paid, non-CEO track pursuit that just so happens to give my life meaning? Is that acceptable?

    I feel for you, Anna!

    • Ha! EXACTLY! Boooo hoooo, I miss the pretty flowers. (Oddly, just writing the *sob* made me feel a little better.)

      I want to lean over my computer and write some more. I want to lean in to my family and my home and my own brain, thank you very much. On the other hand, I’d also like to lean into a paycheck, so here I go.

      Maybe we’re introverts?

      • Yes! No one in my life would call me an introvert, but I certainly feel like one. I think that’s the problem. We live in an extroverted world that mostly recognizes extroverted traits. I feel like I’m only 25% extroverted (and can only be so when I’ve had my introverted time), so I’ll go out, make all of these connections, and then go, “Why won’t the world leave me alone? Why do people not know I’m in 75% introverted mode?!” And unless you’re a super successful artist, most jobs *require* you to be extroverted as well. I think the only solution is booking “Introverted Hour” onto your calendar.

        Yes, go on, lean into that computer, lean into your family. We’ll tell Cheryl you called in sick!

  6. MSB

    I want to hear more about this sighting. She sounds like quite a character.

  7. Karin

    I missed you. Quick thoughts: thank God we do thave the ability to adopt different persona to move in and out of situations in life. Most jobs require some degree of artifice. well there are a few extroverted blissful workers on the planet, but I suspect most of us have to gear up, put on a smile and perform to some extent to be successful in our jobs.And not swear. The transition to work takes awhile but you’ll get there. When it becomes more rote I suspect your writing will pick up aagin. PS maybe the kids could help with the dust bunnies? Are you feeling guilty? It will strenghten their immune system.

    • Karin!

      Are you an introvert, too? Hello, my comrade. Pull up a seat and whisper more.

      I think this will definitely be a strengthening experience for us all. We’re going to find muscles we didn’t know we had. Excellent idea: Maybe if I offer a dime for every dust bunny they catch, a dime for every snail they teach how to fly? We’ll have this place spruced up in a jiffy. (I am feeling guilty, but I’m open to the idea that guilt might be replaced by the realization that they don’t need me as much as I thought they did.)

  8. One of the things I love most about this blog is the comments. So much intelligent, articulate, and empathetic feedback. You’ve built quite a community here. xo

    To your question: I’ve lost track of my personalities, but I know the one I like most is the one who is busy with both work and play. The more I have to do, the better I do all of it, and I’m happier. I wrote my first novel when my daughter was two and I was a stay at home mom, doing steady freelance work and writing at night, on the weekends, and on the occasional solo trip to the coast. Now that she’s older and in school and my freelance work is erratic, I consider it a good day if I write at all. It doesn’t make sense even to me, but I function best under pressure (hence the name of my blog, which I rarely update).

    Maybe it will take time to find your new flow. Some things will have to slide, like dust bunnies. But I hope you keep writing, because you do it so beautifully and I know how good it is for your soul. Hang in there.

    • Laurel!

      I know, right? Where did you wonderful people come from and can I come over to your house sometime for tea?! The people I meet here and on other social media consistently renew my faith in humanity. And it is so, so good to hear that writers like you manage to do it. If you do it, Laurel, then maybe I can, too. Thank you for chiming in!

  9. These many versions of ourselves are fascinating, how we shift and shape and mold the outward AND the inward to suit the company we keep. Me? Right now I’m the quiet dog walker with headphones, happy to trot along the streets with my pack of 3, listening to books on tape, stopping and talking to no one. I am a walking island.

    • “A walking island.” Oooooo. Love that. Want that.

      And what three books would you bring to your island, Teri?

      At work right now, we’re in the fleshing-out phase. I have to come across as capable but not threatening, intelligent but accessible, a mother-figure but not the mother who will scrub the toilet–the mother you listen to. It’s exhausting and I hope it’s over soon so I can relax.

  10. The Girl in the Hats.
    Ugh. This saddens me deeply. Maybe you could work your way down to part time…?
    I do a lot of freelance type work from home and it suits my creative side very well. There is enough downtime that when things get busy I sort of look forward to it. It’s hard finding that balance , isn’t it?

    • Karen!

      Ooo. Part time would be ideal. I think it’s against their policy, but I’m not giving up on that idea yet.

      You’re the one who consistently hears the sad little girl under the swagger and bluster.

      xoox!

  11. Todd

    Welcome back to the working-stiff world! I have 1.6 minutes to write this until I have to jet for a sales appt. I don’t know my name or where I come from. All I know is I gotta go.. and faster… with more efficiency, less waste. I speak in abbreviated clips… to my wife.. my kid doesn’t rate even that. I’m a machine… I have no time to think, much less feel.. sneeze.. take a crap.. absurd luxury. If I do, it’s wasted time. Time, that’s all I got.. but not enough. Working is great!.. no, really! Whooohoo! We have elaborate plans for how we’ll spend the lotto money. Any day now. All friends and relatives get a million bucks. You get two. Bye… already gone………

    • Todd– If you talked like that to me every day, I’d have to take your face in both my hands and give you the look. Give that woman a foot rub and I bet she’ll reciprocate. For god’s sake, break the cycle! (Just give me a little more time and I’ll be right there beside you on that treadmill, smiling like a plastic pumpkin.)

  12. I sometimes think I swear way too much. I need to be more like the wind up toy. But don’t worry, you’ll find the tiredness wears off and you will find that slot that fits you perfectly for your writing. Forget about the chores. total waste of time.

  13. I do know what you’re going through and believe me, there are many adjustments to make when one goes back to work. I didn’t have to for a few years (while the people who bought my business made payments) and I was able to get the MFA and spend 4-8 hours a day writing and learning craft. But I’ve been back at work for three years now, and even though it’s part time (5 hrs a day plus a long commute), it limits me tremendously. Chores and repairs still have to be done. Somehow I’ve got to find time for family. If I get an hour here I pray that I’m in a writing frame of mind. I worry about what it’s doing to my skills. I try not to think about where I could be as a writer if I didn’t have to work.

  14. It is tremendously difficult to squeeze writing ,,,serious writing….into stolen moments when your brain is inside out with fatigue. I don’t know how you carve out the time to write for your blog and get it posted, much less answering comments and reading other blogs. I do hope you are at least able to journal a bit each day, storing up those cues that will feed the writer in you at some later date when life settles down.

  15. I love the way you say “my man”. But I envy you for that. I wish I could say it. I’ve never even felt it.

  16. The good thing – you’re working in an independent bookstore. If I had to venture outside my house to work, I would want to work there. Or a library. In a past life I worked in a Trust Company handling other people’s money. I wore high heels. I have several personalities. Most of them swear a lot. A few, not at all. I love people. I hate people. I’m an introvert. It’s exhausting.

    I’m new here. You don’t need to reply. You’re busy. It’s just enough that I found my way here.

    p.s. I’m home, I write, my kid is recently out in the world on his own. I have all the time in the world, but my dust bunnies multiply like, well, bunnies. Life is too fucking short.

  17. Dear Anna… (I’m a little abashed as I write this… 😉 ). There’s just one thing I want to say and that is this… Blog writing may seem like nothing. But it is still writing. It’s keeping your words oiled. And it’s reaching out to a readership who value what you give. You’re doing a great job keeping that up. Truly. I’m working on a video project that is part-time at best, and I’m honestly not coping. I don’t know how you do it.

    • Alarna! There you are. I guess there is this anxiety about the blog– if I don’t post at least twice a week, will everyone forget me? Will I disappear? I do this to myself, of course, this self-appointed anxiety, and it can be quite helpful because it keeps me writing. It is the writing I care most about. I’ve also trained myself to clean my house before people come over. I don’t really care if friends see my mess but I know if I don’t pretend to care, my house will never get clean, and so I fool myself. I like to write and have a tidy place to do it and I’ll set internal traps and alarms to make it happen. xoox

      • Hehe… I confess, my house mostly gets cleaned before people come over. It’s the best incentive there is to clean! 🙂 Totally with you on the blogging angst. But don’t fear – you are quite unforgettable!

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