guilt by association

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting here at the local indie coffeehouse trying to write. Even that formulation should tell you something about where my head’s at, since, as a writer friend of mine told me, “Write or write not. There is no try.” When la dra. nudged me and said that I should get out of the house for a while, by myself, to do whatever, I hesitated. I felt guilty about leaving, even for a couple hours, to do my own thing, whatever that was, even as another part of me really, really wanted and needed that alone time. And then, at the same time, there was the warring between the part of me that read “alone time” as “nap time” and the part that interpreted it as “get off your lazy ass and write something, dammit.”

It’s been over a year since I quit my job, and in that time, I haven’t written squat. I still remember when I first started blogging when The Pumpkin was little and I was home with her full-time, gushing about how I hadn’t written so much so frequently ever, how great practice it was. I was writing both for work and for myself when I was working outside the home full-time. And then The Button came, and I cut my hours to half-time and from-home. And rather than increase, my word output quickly shriveled to nothing.

It’d be too easy to blame being tired from being a full-time at-home parent to a rambunctious toddler and her older sister quickly approaching tweenagehood in all the frightening implications that term holds. It also wouldn’t be the truth, at least not quite, not the whole truth, anyway. I look around, in the parentblogosphere especially, and see the numerous work-at-home-parents of four contributing six times a week to five different sites while prepping their second novels for publication and—I know, I know, I’m exaggerating [though not by much in some cases, it feels like], and just like with our kids, we’re not supposed to compare, yadda yadda yadda—but it all just adds to my tiredness and my frozenness and my guilt.

Yeah. More guilt. It’s so much easier to sprawl out on the sofa next to my wife after getting the girls to finally go to sleep and veg out to some mindless DVR’d television for an hour or two before finally going to sleep myself than to go position myself in front of the desktop in the other room or, even worse, stay up after la dra. goes to sleep and write. So much easier to not write.

And so it’s been, for over a year. Friends ask innocently and supportively if I’m still doing that blogging thing, if I’ve written anything lately, and I shrug it off, shoving the guilt and self-doubt off my face. I joke about being “on hiatus,” implying a finite break, an imminent return. But the joke is stale in my mouth, sounding false, disingenuous. A year ago, I relaunched this blog, full of good intentions in the wake of our fourteen-and-a-half minutes of Today Show-fueled micro-fame. Scroll down—you can see how well that went.

A month ago, after the strange confluence of our 13th wedding anniversary and our first-ever kid-less night away, finding out that a several-year-old post of mine was being published in an anthology [and rereading it, being reminded that hey I can write], and discovering via a random nostalgia-driven Google search that one of my first fiction writing teachers, who let me into a UCLA workshop when I was still in high school, had killed himself 11 years ago in a deadly mix of depression and disappointment and writer’s block, I told la dra. that I wanted to write more, that I needed to write again. And yet, until last week, still nothing, still easier to just…just…not.

It sometimes scares me how much I see pieces of myself in The Pumpkin, my smart, shy, uncertain little girl who’s not so little anymore. Because she’s gotten the best and the worst of me, somehow. Mixed in with the drive, the creativity and the friendliness, the personableness [is that even a word?] is the self-doubt, the perfectionism, the indecisiveness and tendency toward regret that has made me freeze throughout my almost four decades. And whatever else she is and is becoming, my big girl loves to read and to write, just like her daddy, and just like her daddy said in his second-grade “what do you want to be when you grow up” assignment, she, at least right now, wants to be a writer.

And I want to be one, too, for her, and for me. I want to show her, by example, that it’s possible, that writing life, for individuals in our family with our personality quirks. I want her to keep dreaming, to keep striving, to keep creating. And if I’m honest about it, I want her to be proud of her father, just as I want to be proud of myself. Not that it’s not enough to be a good at-home parent. But, well—she recently told her mother that she wanted to stay home like me when she grew up, and when la dra. told her that it was a lot of work to take care of kids, she replied that she wanted to do it because she “like[s] to rest.” Oy. I want her to see that she can do and be multiple things at the same time.

So. Here I am. And yes, while writing this I’ve allowed myself to distract myself with Facebook checks and coffee refills, but, it’s done. And last week, somehow, via a combination of staying up too late and letting the girls watch a little too much t.v. [but hey, it was educational!], I wrote two posts for two different places, after having written nothing for way too long. Am I kidding myself that I’m now in some sort of groove, that I won’t slip back into easy inaction? No, I know that’s way too possible. And I’m almost loathe to hit “publish” on this post itself, for fear of seeming too whiny, too self-absorbed, too “poor me.”

But I need to.

So here goes.

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About Jason Sperber

Jason Sperber is a stay-at-home-dad of 2 daughters and a writer in Bakersfield, California. He blogs (very infrequently) at daddy in a strange land and co-founded Rice Daddies, the group blog by Asian American dads, and is the resident hapa Trekkie at The Nerds Of Color. Follow him on Twitter at @dad_strangeland.
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6 Responses to guilt by association

  1. Vicky says:

    Funny, I’ve found myself struggling with the same thing since being laid off. I thought, if nothing else, the time off while trying to secure other employment would provide tons of time for expanding on all of the themes I have jotted on scattered scraps of paper, just waiting for the time to flesh them out. Instead, it seems that when I have all day to write, I also have all day to put off writing while I clean, cook and try and figure out where I’m going from here. I guess it’s that whole, “objects in motion…” concept come to life.

    Here’s to both of us finding ways to get our keyboard groove on :)

  2. i’m so glad you’re back. :)

  3. John says:

    Not only were we born five days apart, we seem to be living parallel lives, each with beautiful supporting wives and two sweet and gorgeous kids. Now we gotta work hard to be guys who deserve this good fortune.

    I was chastised by my wife for pursuing traditional work (and for not quitting my last job sooner). But when I recently began collaborating with a certain NYC writers’ workshop, she eased up.

    Keep plugging away man!

  4. Domestiç Reclusë says:

    Call it writer’s block or whatever, if you’re motivated but can’t think of a subject, perhaps Plinky Prompts can prompt you to write..? My fave post-helper to follow is The Daily Post, which provides many topics you can blog about, even if it’s just photos to start you off with. Good luck with your blog, I’ll be rooting for you! ;-)

  5. Lisa says:

    Hope this is the beginning of you getting your writing mojo back. :)

  6. Pingback: rambling | daddy in a strange land

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