At 7:00am my alarm jerks me out of not-quite-sleep. I’m usually grateful for my creative brain, but it’s also a busy little monster who keeps me awake at night. The prospect of dragging my tired body through another day full of things that need my attention doesn’t excite me much at first. When the half-sleep-fog clears, though, there’s a gorgeous little thought that shoves me out of bed: I get to spend at least part of this day making art.
For me, being a writer often feels like fitting two very different lives into the same day. I wake up my teenagers, take care of the dog, make a pot of tea (which I’ll re-heat cup after cup through the morning), wake the teenagers again and then somehow get them out the door to school while double-checking homework, due dates, chores and after school plans. I spend a precious bit of time with my wife while she gets ready for work, into which I also fit breakfast, tending to email and social media.
I kiss my wife goodbye. And this is where my other life picks up. With the closing of our front door, the noise of the world is safely outside and I drag my “office” (a laundry basket containing: laptop, phone, chargers, notebook, pens, whatever reference books I need, and sundries) into the living room. It’s what you do when you’re still trying to save up to build yourself a proper workspace.
I’m alone in an introvert’s paradise: curled up with my dog, Delilah, and my laptop on an antique, red velvet sofa, surrounded by rich, dark colours and shelves full of books. A playlist of piano-heavy songs, baroque-pop by Rufus Wainwright and Sarah Slean, fills the room with minor chords.
Of course, that same unhelpful part of my brain starts a countdown for me: You now have exactly six hours before the boys come bursting in the front door, when the quiet explodes into dog barking, musical theatre numbers, and videogame sound effects. But… no pressure.
I worry relentlessly at a series of poems involving weird historical trivia, building them and then chipping words away. Put the deleted words back in before deleting them again. Consult the thesaurus for that perfect word buried in my brain that I can’t quite get to around all the clutter. The poems are being stubborn; I’ve looked at them so many times that I can’t tell any more if they’re genius or gibberish. I’m hoping for somewhere in between.
Delilah noses at my arm and the expression in her sweet, doggy eyes says: Don’t forget that dogs and humans need snacks and bathroom breaks. Must stretch, feed and hydrate this body so that it cooperates with me and lasts out the day. I reward Delilah with a dog biscuit and some play-time in the yard, for taking such good care of me.
Two hours left. I change the music (Hawksley Workman now, a little louder and livelier to keep me going) make another pot of tea and shift to a short story that feels almost finished. I manage to jot down some feedback on a friend’s poem. And in the last little sliver of afternoon that’s left, I squeeze in a bit of research on literary magazines and publishers, check up on submissions that are in consideration and tackle some more email.
Delilah lets out a chorus of excited barks to tell me the boys are home. They come through the front door singing a song about the solar system, in harmony. This is my cue to pop back into Mom-mode, put my writer-self aside and embrace the chaos of housework, dinner, homework and family time. A notebook and pen are kept close by, though, just in case any good ideas show up unexpectedly.
Síle Englert is a poet, fiction writer and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her work has placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and has been featured in journals such as: Room Magazine, The Canadian Author’s Association Saving Bannister Anthology, Ascent Aspirations’ Anthology and Crannog Magazine (Ireland).