If it’s true that ‘timing is everything,’ and ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it,’ then I, not to put too fine a point on it, am screwed. There’s been an almost comic series of missed opportunities that add up to a big block-lettered message from the universe that I should just forget this writing malarkey, be glad 2010 has turned into the year of growing Baby J, and really just stop looking to accomplish a single other thing for the foreseeable future.
It all started with the Olvar Wood Fellowships. We were originally supposed to be in France right now, and the residency kicks off this Saturday, so I did not apply. I probably wouldn’t have won one anyway (JB is once again flying the Darkling flag, having won one of four places, and we expect a full report from the Hemingway Room!), but the fact is, I wasn’t even in with a chance. And now I’m not in France, I’m right here. Going nowhere.
Moving right along, entries are currently being considered in the Varuna/Scribe Short Story Masterclass – a total long-shot for me in any case, you understand, given my short form track record, but I would have dearly loved to participate in this particular program precisely because of my struggles with short stories. However, that residency is taking place at Varuna the week before my due date, and I don’t really fancy risking it. I can just see myself squatting by the side of a mountain hearing my own screams echoing back to me across the range. So. Again, no entry for me.
And now Varuna’s new non-selective offering: Alumni Writing Weeks. These are being piloted for the first time over two separate weeks in September/October. When the idea was first mooted, I sent an expression of interest, and as such was included in the email that’s just come around canvassing the maiden dates. The first coincides with holiday time Llew and I have booked together before the baby comes. Just a couple of weeks together, and the first opportunity we’ll have had for anything of the sort since last October in Shanghai. Not to mention the last opportunity for a holiday on our own for who knows how long. As it is, these days I am lucky, through the week, to see Llew for more than an hour a day. Our dates are fixed for a number of reasons. The second Alumni Writing Week clashes with the birthing classes we have booked at the hospital. Of course it does.
When I have such a remarkably blank diary, a calendar that is currently a parched desert of social engagement, a dance card that has warped and faded from lack of use, it seems extraordinary to me that these things have all uncannily converged. I guess it’s the start of a long, long lesson in my own desires taking a number and joining the back of the queue, because most of these missed opportunities revolve around things I want and need to do in preparation for the arrival of our little friend. I’ve heard the refrain, ‘Get used to it, because it’s all about them’ from enough of my friends to know this is going to become a very familiar theme – already I’m no longer free to suit myself, already I must always consider Baby J every step of the way, so it’s not as though this has all arrived as a total shock. I knew perfectly well it was coming.
Yes, I knew that major changes and restrictions were barrelling toward my day-to-day ability to work on improving my craft. No kidding! Show me a brand new mother, and I’ll show you someone who looks like she hasn’t eaten or showered in three days, and who can’t open her mouth without floods of tears pouring down her face. I get it. But I guess I’d hoped to use these next few months to enter some of these things precisely because I know it’s the last chance I’ll get for a good long while to participate in any of them. I can’t very well go on a writing residency while I am breastfeeding a baby, can I? Crying babies aren’t really part of the peaceful writing environment places like Varuna and Olvar Wood promote, are they? No.
And so how much writing do I plan to get done once the baby comes? Well, blimey, who the hell knows? Some people seem to manage very well, others totally come apart at the seams, and which it’s to be seems intimately tied to the nature of the baby itself. In other words, it is entirely beyond my powers to predict the way things are going to evolve. I’m just going to have to roll with the changes and see what eventuates.
But in the meantime, I think I’ll just spare myself the angst and kiss all these programs goodbye. That way, I can just keep quietly writing, trying to make the most of my rapidly closing window (shrinking in tandem with my expanding waistline), without worrying about all these things that otherwise feel like they are passing me by. Let them pass. I have all I need right here.