Here I am, having yet another cup of coffee, back at my word-herding, in between little breaks in which I have been cooking, cleaning, pushing laundry through cycles. I have eight whole hours before my job-shift, enough time that I can sink into my fictional world. My imaginary people talk, laugh, and kiss, and my fake dogs bite. Much more interesting than jumping through my real-life household hoops.
But I jump, to get the coffee made before my mother gets a chance to make the weak one-scoop brew she prefers. I take advantage of having finally caught up on all of her essential laundry yesterday to do some of my own today. I clean up after breakfast, bake supper, and indulge in lunch, all the while with my head off on the brink of Idaho.
I have my special housework buddy, the dear young Anais Nin, who often wrote in her teenage diaries about the balancing of her writing and her housekeeping. Even though Ms. Nin has left my home and returned to her place on the public library shelf, she left trails in my mind as well as a few notes on my desk pertaining to the way we writers live in our homes, with our families. I’m always been interested in the details of how writers live: the just-so slanted table and certain pens John Steinbeck preferred. As a feminist, of course, I am required to ask who fixed his lunches. I sympathize with Virginia Woolf’s endless migraine struggles, and am fascinated by her relationships with her maids and cooks, whom she often regarded as headaches. Emily Dickinson’s maid is surely an historic anchor; I’ve blogged about this before.
A.N. was a Cuban French child, raised in America. She and her brothers were supported solely by their single working mother. Sometimes they had servants, but more often, Anais was the family maid and cook. When there were servants, during more lucrative periods, she barely mentioned them in her constant scribbles. She left high school, and then did not stay on at Columbia, preferring her own studies and her family duties to the academic life. Her moods fluctuate wildly on the topics of sociality and her inherent craving for solitude. With her mother at work and her brothers in school, she had hours of privacy in which she sang and danced and wrote, gloriously happy.
In one entry, after developing a long philosophical thought, she explains how she’d been writing that idea all day, portioning out her time, ten minutes of housework, ten minutes of writing, repeatedly. This balancing act made her as happy as I am with my up-and-down home-writing life almost a hundred years later. Every morning, while I heat my first cup of yesterday’s coffee, I use those slow two minutes of my old micro-wave to do as many kitchen tasks as I can find. This gives me two more minutes, later on, for writing, building one more sentence. I believe Miss Nin would be proud.