How it may break me of the nasty “helpful” habit.
At our Thursday morning zoom writing group, a poem is read, a timer is set, and we write without stopping. Moving the pen in this way can loosen us up and let out the juicy stuff, surprising us at times with where the subconscious may lead.
Except minutes into the session, my son’s “G’morning” as he rouses himself from bed breaks my focus. Is it a little gravelly? Is he sick? Even as my pen moves, my mind starts ticking through “should do’s”: I should ask if he is feeling okay. I should offer him lozenges. I should find a Covid test.
No, that’s not it. I should keep writing.
I should. But one quick reply to let him know I am here can’t hurt. Checking that my zoom is muted, I shout upstairs, “I can help you in thirty minutes.” Good for me! Protect my writing practice. This is a revolution! My declaration of independence!
The next thirty minutes will be my internal civil war.
Because, I mean, I haven’t made his lunch yet, something I do most days — not because I think he can’t do it, of course, but well, we both like me to do it. And he does not know that I bought the good bread for sandwiches yesterday.
No, no, no. I am not stopping to make his lunch.
Except now I hear him say something to Christopher, who is out of commission with Covid, and my brain tunes out my inner voice and tunes into theirs. A vector pulls hard on me to get me off my chair to see what they need.
No, no, no. No getting up. But maybe just one text? There is good bread in the pantry, and sliced turkey, and yogurt, and apples.
Ahhh. A hit of helping settles me down. Now I can focus on the writing.
Except was that a sneeze? Now half my brain (more than half, let’s be honest) is occupied with, who was that? do we have tissue? and shouldn’t I go buy a Covid test this very instant?
No, no, no, no, no. Stay here with your pen, your notebook, your fellow writers, creating collective energy. Stay until the timer says you are done.
It takes more strength than it ought to, resisting the reflex to jump away from my work into what I think they need. Running around doing for others feels like home base — extra points if I have to give up my own thing to do it!! The martyr game is my jam!
Next time, I think, just tell them in advance that I will be unavailable for ninety minutes. But it is only me I need to tell: Stay put. Atta girl.
If it takes scribbling garbage until the timer beeps to keep my butt in this chair and break the impulse to jump into everyone else’s business, well then let that be one more way writing saves me.
My arm is getting tired. Good. Keep going. Keep writing like your life depends on it, every word showing you how strong you can be.
Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. http://lauranicolediamond.medium.comMedium, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.