My daughter and I were talking recently about learning to drive. She’s very excited about it, at the same time concerned over getting it right, and we were talking about shifting gears. I don’t know, she told me, when I need to shift gears. And how many gears are there? Four, five?
We got the First Reader involved in that conversation, since I knew that some vehicles have more gears than others, but I’ve had one lesson in our manual vehicle and couldn’t remember at 6 am before coffee. Yes, these are the joys of parenthood, early morning conversations rolling over topics you can’t always predict. You have to be ready to mentally shift gears smoothly enough the kids don’t see your clutch as you have that nanosecond of allowed panic.
Being a writer is like that, too. I mean, granted, you’re unlikely to have an unexpected conversation about Nightwing (DC Comics), the usage of slang any why their mother is never allowed to say ‘I slay me’ even as a joke, cleaning the living room, face reveals on iFunny, and the colors in the bisexual and asexual flags, all while sipping on your first cup of morning coffee with your characters. Teenagers, on the other hand, are sometimes chatty and you don’t waste a moment of those conversations, even if they do require a lot of dexterity on the mental gears.
Writing requires that you spin entire worlds in your head, fragile as glass, and keep them there, on tap, when you are shifting gears from family to writing to writing for the blog or writing for work (in my case, cover letters for the job hunt…) all without dropping and shattering that world. Because if you do jar the world, it takes a lot of effort to get back into it. I just broke a three-day dry spell, and now I have to take a day out of the house which will stop my writing dead in it’s tracks again. I fight this battle often. Shifting from one role to another is easy enough – returning to the original state, on the other hand, can be a royal pain.
I’m not complaining. The job search sucks. Sending resumes and cover letters out into the empty aether of the internet makes me feel rather small and useless. Dealing with that erosion of my soul takes away from my ability to write. Knowing that it is eroding me only makes me more determined to write. Pushing through this and getting books out until I start work (and hopefully after, but at a slower pace) will help me keep momentum and make the gear shifts easier.
Without some sort of forward progress, shifting gears is pointless. And while I’m by no means an expert, I’m pretty sure the point of shifting gears is to deal with different levels of momentum. When you’re slowly climbing a hill, you shift into a lower gear. Rapid progress on a smooth highway requires high gear. And so on. The same is true with mental gearing. You have your mommy mode, and your fiction writing mode, and your technical writing, and your I-can’t-adult-today-today-I-am-a-cat mode. The trick is knowing when to shift, and how.
So if you’re hearing loud grinding noises, and the occasional blog lurch and jerk, please be patient. The state of the writer is ‘learning’ and will hopefully continue to smooth out in the coming months.