Desk cats, writing, and a sick kid: A guest post by Kim Rich

I have been told I should start a blog. See above title to know why I haven’t so far: Domestic bliss. Or not.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog, I have three seven year-old daughters. That means I don’t have much of a life, outside of being mom to three seven year-old daughters.

Did I mention I have three daughters? I used to have three babies and that made me something of a circus attraction any time I went any where. I thought that phase was hard. Then they were labor intensive – diapers, feedings, washing, dressing. Now, they’re emotionally intensive. Now, they talk back. Say no. Balk. Pout. Refuse to get in the car; refuse to get in their car seat; say one thing, then do another, make big messes . . . wait, I think I just described my husband. Oh, never mind.

The good news is they are in school. God bless the parents who homeschool. Yes, in truth, I hated putting my kids in school. I couldn’t imagine a day apart from them. I longed to volunteer ALL day in their classes. I missed them like crazy. Then an amazing thing happened – I rediscovered my work.

I had written all along when they were small, mostly during naps or when I had hired help. Now, I had what seemed an endless stream of hours to write. Now, don’t get me wrong, the house does not pick up itself, I have always taught college (but mostly night classes) and have done hired editing. But it seemed like it had been forever since I had real time to write.

What does one do when they are suddenly given what seems all the time in the world to do the one thing they love to do more than anything else? You got it. Nap.

Or do laundry. Brush the cat. The dog. Sort mail. Call somebody.

When I was in graduate school, the author and screenwriter Richard Price (“Clockers” “Sea of Love” “The Wire” ) came to teach a workshop. He began by talking about getting a writing fellowship at Stanford. It was a dream come true. He only had to attend one workshop a week and then had the rest of the time write. Imagine the possibilities!

So what did he do? He promptly developed a drug habit. Cocaine. I think he chose this drug because when you have all the time in the world to write, all you really want to do is take a nap.

It was a few years ago. Nowadays, he probably would have become addicted to Starbucks. Coffee is pretty good for keeping one awake, especially if you’ve paid a lot of money for it.

The fact is I prefer having less time to write. Just like I like tighter deadlines – both tend to keep me upright in my chair. I am not alone. The author Philip Roth (Goodbye, Columbus, American Pastoral) also came to teach at my graduate school.  We all gathered in a large room to hear him speak. He asked if anyone had questions. One student asked: “What’s your work routine?”

I about fell over from embarrassment. One of America’s – the world’s – greatest living writers and you want to know how he works? No sarcasm intended. What idiot asks such a question?!

Roth peered over the rim of his glasses. “You want to know what I do?” he asked. The room fell silent. Oh, God, we’ve made him mad.  He leaned back, sighed, then said, “Well . . .”  He proceeded to answer the question. And this, in so many words, is what he said:  I get to my office at 9 in the morning and I do whatever ‘it takes’ to get to 2 p.m. and get out of there.

He explained that he wrote maybe a couple of hours, if he had to, then talked on the phone, faxed stuff around, etc . . . In other words, sitting at his desk was about the last thing he wanted to do, though he, like the rest of us writers, needs to.  Or as my good friend and writer Mike Doogan once told me: Writing is about sitting in a chair and staying there.

So, here I am in my chair, writing this blog that I hope will warm me up to continue work on the book about Christa Brelsford. But I have two problems: one is the cat, Simba, a large orange tabby keeps jumping on my desk and walking across my keyboard. My other problem is my oasis of time and peace and serenity has been disrupted by the presence of a sick, but not deathly-ill, kid home from school. She has a cold and a lot of congestion. This means she’s not bedridden, but not well enough to go to school. This means that she wants to roller blade around the house. This also means she has me saying ‘no’ a lot and she is not listening to me. At the moment she’s bugging the cat, which is about to jump down from the window ledge back onto my keyboard.

All of which means, it might be time to take a nap.

4 thoughts on “Desk cats, writing, and a sick kid: A guest post by Kim Rich”

  1. Amy O'Neill Houck

    Hurray for deadlines. I agree that less is more when it comes to time. A wonderful description of your working environment and your three lovely girls.

  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    I loved this! And I especially loved the anecdote about Phillip Roth, one of my all-time favorite writers — as well as one of the most prolific (a new novel every year!). To learn he organizes his day much like the rest of us is priceless info, even though I would have winced at the question, too.

  3. Kim, read this just as I sat down to put in a couple of hours writing — of course checking email for new blog posts first. Now I'll check out my favorite writing forum, then create a playlist for the scene I'm working on, then play a couple games of solitaire. Who knows, I may have a few minutes to write something.

    Completely identified with the kids finally go to school, now I have so much time, better nap thing too.

    Great blog and I'm all tingly knowing Roth slides his glasses down in such a provocative way. Did you mean to write this line with such sexual tension? Or am I reading too much into it?

    Thanks for the blog.

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