P is for…Pajamas

(P could also be for…I almost forgot to post today.)

My blog is called Cemeteries and Pajamas because I like to visit cemeteries and I write in my pajamas. Since we covered cemeteries on day three, we are focused on pajamas today.

I have already taken to heart the advice that says don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the one you want. Done. I’m sure there are some writers who dress somewhat formally to write. (And by “somewhat formally,” I mean jeans without holes in the knees.) I am not one of those writers.

I have always been more interested in comfort than fashion. (And In my experience, the two do not go hand in hand.) I don’t wear high heels because my toes get pinched (plus I HATE feeling wobbly). I don’t wear makeup because I don’t like the way it feels on my face.  And I don’t wear skirts unless it is at least 60 degrees, because I live on the tundra and I’m not going to freeze the lower portion of my body for the sake of  being fashionable.

There’s a bigger reason why I don’t dress up much – I don’t feel like myself unless I’m completely comfortable. When I don’t feel like myself, it’s harder to write. I’m too busy thinking about how these boots are giving me blisters or how that waistband is cutting into my skin to think and write well.

Thus, jammies. Flannel pants and sweatshirt in the winter. T-shirt and shorts (complete with elastic waistband, of course) in the summer. Sometimes it’s the little things that offer the most support for writing.


Stealing Time, Stolen Time

So this pipe used to be in my wall.  Last week the plumber had to cut a hole in my kitchen to remove said pipe after it froze and then burst.  It was kind of a funny day, actually.  I’d been to the gym and had time for a leisurely breakfast before heading to work.  Then I discovered that the pipes had frozen.  As I was running around, cursing and setting up space heaters, the school nurse called.  My son had the flu.

So there went the day and the week.  All of my intentions for writing and work went out the window.  But it was all good.  My son was better after spending two days collapsed on the couch.  We snuggled.  I caught up on all 600 seasons of SpongeBob.  I wore jammies for three days straight.  Also, Ed the AMAZING PLUMBER fixed the pipe, delaying his own vacation to help us. (Thank you, Ed!!)

I also thought about time, as well as the degree to which I wrote about time in my New Year’s Unresolutions post.  I’m greedy about time.  I always want more (to sit in front of the fireplace, drink tea and write) and there’s never enough of it.  Even today, when I’ve been able to write for a few hours, I’m still up against the clock and realizing I didn’t finish everything I wanted to finish before family obligations demand my attention.

To combat the feeling of not having enough time, I go into hyperdrive, trying to be as efficient as possible on every last item in my to do list.  I still never finish the list, but I at least have that heady feeling of control – do what you want, world, I will tackle it!!

At least until I wake up with a sinus headache and absolutely zero motivation.  This happens from time to time.  Like this morning.  I won’t finish everything on my list.  I’ll be behind.  Enter the sinking feelings of disappointment and irritation. And once again, I ask myself the same question I did when I wrote about my unresolutions: does it help anyone if I feel bad about myself?  (The congregation replies with a resounding NO.)

And I remind myself of my intentions, especially the ones of reflection and risk, and the little wisdom I have gained about writing.  Creative work comes from a place beyond scheduled time. I can’t sit down and say, “I have 15 minutes, let’s write this story.”  If anything, that unnecessary pressure chokes my creativity.  But, creative work still needs time in order to unfold.

What to do?

A writer friend of mine, a person I deeply admire, said that you have to steal time from everywhere in order to write – steal from your work, from your family, from yourself.  It’s not easy. I watch my kids grow and I feel guilt over not spending every moment with them.  (Although let’s be honest, I’d feel that way no matter what – hmm, let’s explore this more in another post, shall we?)  I weigh all possible “extra” work commitments in terms of the degree they will impinge on my writing time.  And I have no idea when I’m going to catch up with Sleepy Hollow.  But I’m also taking a risk, one that I have’t done well in the past:  recognize that my writing is important enough to be a major player in how I spend my time.

At this point in my life, I feel like I’m entering a strange little dance with time.  We do a spin around the ballroom.  I take some time here, I give some there.  Circumstances arise that change my plans, sometimes stealing all of my time and other times giving me some unexpected wiggle room in my schedule.  I channel my mania over finishing the to do list into making sure the to do list doesn’t get to be so long in the first place.  There will always be time thieves, often ones I’ve created myself.  But I’m also developing a lovely little network of my own thieves to steal some of it back.

Do any of you have crazy issues with time, too?  How do you cope?

The Art of Wearing Your Jammies in Front of Your Colleagues

photo (10)I write in what my friend at Cite Something! calls day jammies.  There are subtle but important differences between day jammies and night jammies, namely the fact that you wear day jammies during the day.  Duh.

During this cold Midwestern winter, this has meant a pair of thick socks, flannel pants, an old t-shirt and a sweatshirt.  Or as I like to call it, standard issue uniform.  Day jammies have ruined me for everyday life.  I’m at the point where I reach for yoga pants if I need to go to anything remotely formal.  The other day I had to have my picture taken for a publication at work – I wore ripped jeans.  (Although that was more because I was channeling my inner librarian rocker chick.)

Why day jammies?  Because I write better if I’m comfortable and I’m most comfortable in day jammies.  So I faced quite a conundrum at my recent writing retreat, which was attended by a dozen of my academic colleagues.  I wore jeans the first day, which was ok but not great.  Yoga pants were the go-to compromise on day two.  Things got interesting the evening of day one.

Imagine: the lounge of a retreat center, complete with a tiny TV (but with cable!) and a wall of board games and puzzles with missing pieces.

Do I bow to convention and wear jeans OR do I walk bravely into the fray, wearing my day jammies?

Day jammies for the win.  I even got a few compliments!

Here are my secrets for wearing day jammies in front of your colleagues:

1. Get tenure.

2. Trap your colleagues in a sequestered location, such as a snowy retreat center.

3. Day jammies fashion show.

At this point, I’d like to think I’d transition into a lovely reflection on bravery and how wearing day jammies in front of colleagues taught me about risk and self-identity, but really I just wanted to write about jammies.  Now if I can somehow wear my jammies to a cemetery, the blog will have come full circle.