Neliza DrewApr 6·4 min read (originally published on Medium)
Me: Dear Brain, we are allowed to write whenever we want.
Brain: No. Must do work first.
Me: But we don’t have work for two hours.
Brain: Stare at clocks so we aren’t late.
Me: I set an alarm.
Brain: You grade those tests for E and give a grade?
Me: Not yet. I can do that later.
Brain. Late, you will forget. Do that now.
Me: There’s a noise in the backyard.
Brain: We should check that.
Me: It’s nothing.
Brain: What were we doing?
Brain: It’s time to teach.
Me: In fifteen minutes.
Brain: Stare at clock.
Me: I set an alarm. I swear.
Brain: <PowerPoint presentation on all the times an alarm hasn’t helped.>
Me: It’s different now.
<alarm goes off>
Brain: See. No time for that now.
Me: Fine. We write later.
Me: We can write now.
Brain: It’s almost dinner.
Me: In two hours.
Brain: Finish homework videos.
Me: We could do that later.
Brain: You have to change to tend the ducks. Do it now.
Me: We write now!
Brain: Put the ducks away first.
Me: It’s not time yet.
Brain: It takes time. You need to clean the coop and put in the food and refresh the water.
Me: I know. We do this every day.
Brain: Don’t forget you need to get Joy out so she’ll bathe before bed. And you have to put Lil Bill away first.
Me: I know. Can we focus?
Brain: Just go put the ducks away. Then we won’t be interrupted.
Me: <Puts ducks away for the night and locks up all the coops.>
Brain: Did you hug them?
Me: What does that even mean?
Brain: What if something terrible happens in the night? Will they know you love them? Hug the ducks.
<An hour later.>
Me: Can we write now?
Brain: You should shower first. You smell like ducks.
Me: We can do that before bed.
Brain: You’ll be tired later. Do it now.
Me: Write now?
Brain: Dinner now. And did you swap out and fold the laundry?
Me: It’s in the dryer.
Me: You know better.
Brain: The clothes will be dry soon.
Me: In a half hour. We could write.
Brain: <PowerPoint presentation of all the times we forgot to finish the Laundry Project.> See, it’s dry now.
Me: Fuck you.
<Later. Again. Still.>
Me: We need to write.
Brain: Laundry needs folding.
Me: No. It can wait until tomorrow. I promise.
Brain: It’ll wrinkle.
Me: You need more wrinkles. We haven’t left the house in months and we have wrinkle-release spray.
Brain: I’m tired.
Me: We need to write.
Me: NO! Wake up!
Brain: Don’t wanna. Maybe you should write first thing so we don’t get so tired.
Me: <screams into the void>
I’ve been trying to pay close attention lately to what happens during the day that keeps me from writing when I want to, when I should, when I aim to but my executive dysfunction gets in the way, and all the other little “failures” during the day and week. I’ve been paying attention because as much as I mean to do it, it keeps taking a backseat to other things that my brain has deemed MORE IMPORTANT.
Part of this is that adult problem of Responsibility. The dishes refuse to wash themselves. The laundry has yet to figure out how to fold itself. Emails from parents need responses. Tests need grading. And anything I’m getting paid to do — or keeps the animals and humans safe and healthy — needs to come before frivolous things like writing.
Writers who talk about prioritizing writing either have trust funds, live alone, have spouses willing to do all the housework, or make an actual living at writing so it is a true job. (Or some combination of those things.)
Beyond that, writers talk about writing in the “small moments” and I get it. I do. I used to do that. I could hold whole scenes in my head as I drove or wandered the grocery store and would scribble in notebooks kept in purses, plot during meetings, and write during all those spare moments. Back then, I had a story in my head, though.
Lately, the stories are feeling shy. Writing fiction takes long periods of time staring at blank pages, waiting quietly for the stories and characters to peer out from behind trees or slowly open their doors and step cautiously on the porch. They won’t come in those moments between other things. I pause and wait but the alarms go off, sending me to other tasks, before the stories feel comfortable making an appearance.
So, I’m monitoring the executive dysfunction nonsense. I’m keeping track of coffee and Ritalin and when stories shyly emerge. And I’m trying to help them along with these short… let’s call them essays. Maybe if I can prove to the stories I can be trusted, they’ll start coming around again. Maybe if I can prove I’m worthy, they’ll settle down in the garden instead of staying locked away behind stone and impact glass.