# of literary mags submitted to: 3
# of agents queried: 1
other: I wrote a very short story
I’m leaving the Cape for a while. Tomorrow I’m driving down to the DC area to spend time with friends (and with a certain okcupid penpal.) Then I’ll head to my grandmother’s house in southwestern Virginia. For Christmas I’ll go to my mother’s house in Richmond, where I’ll stay until the end of January.
Which means that I’m taking a hiatus from trivia hosting, the wine job, and my in-person tutoring. On Wednesday night I went to host trivia, knowing it would be my last show for a while. The usual suspects were there: the guy who looks like a plump Keanu Reeves, the old man in a Santa hat who calls himself George Bush, the autistic man who wears a Dr. Seuss hat and goes by Uncle Sam. Also, one of the wine managers from my wine job showed up, which was exciting because for months I’ve been begging the liquor store people to come to trivia.
The show went well. People seemed genuinely excited about trivia. Uncle Sam was wearing his bedazzled Spider Man t-shirt, which is my favorite of his outfits, and someone actually offered to help me carry my equipment to my car, which usually never happens.
At the end of the show, the wine manager, whose face was now flushed pink from beer, tried to pressure me into going out bowling with him and his friends. “I don’t think I can,” I said.
“Fine,” he pouted. “I’ll see you next week, then.”
“Well…actually, I’m going to be out of town for a while – for the holidays,” I told him. I didn’t want to say for how long I was actually going to be gone.
“See you next year, then!” he said, stumbling off to the bowling alley.
George Bush had won trivia, as usual, so I went to give him his gift certificate. He gave me a hug, and I knew I had to break the news. “I just wanted to let you know,” I said, “I’m not going to be here next week.”
“You’re not?” He looked alarmed.
“Someone will be here,” I assured, “but it won’t be me. I’m going on vacation.”
“You can’t leave us. When will you be back?”
“Oh, soon enough,” I lied.
“Bye, Eva! See you next week!” Uncle Sam called, waving to me and strutting towards the door.
“Bye!” I shouted back. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he wouldn’t.
* * *
One person who will not be affected by my long vacation is Sergey, since I tutor him on Skype and can do that from anywhere except my grandma’s house. She doesn’t have Internet, and I’ve already prepared Sergey for the fact that I won’t be able to Skype with him when I’m there. He took it surprisingly well, considering he gets upset when we have to miss one day of tutoring.
In case you weren’t aware, I currently tutor Sergey for an hour a half every day, seven days a week. This is his idea, not mine, and in fact, I had to talk him down from three hours daily to one and a half.
Yesterday I was talking to him, and I said, “Well, I know you have a flight to Moscow tomorrow, and I’m driving to DC on Sunday, so we might not be able to talk until Monday.”
He frowned. “I can do tomorrow. It will not be problem.”
“Really?” I asked, although I don’t know why I was surprised. He once tutored with me after a 10-hour flight, when he hadn’t slept for over thirty-two hours. Sergey is hardcore about his English lessons.
“Yes,” he said. “I will do it.”
“Ok,” I said, even though I’d sort of been looking forward to a two-day break.
The other day, in between tutoring and working on writing math curriculum, I put on my coat with the fur-lined hood and took a walk on the quiet residential street that leads to the bike trail. I watched squirrels skitter in the brown leaves and crows balance on naked tree branches, flapping their shiny black wings. I thought about how, only a few months earlier, I’d ridden my bike down this road every day in shorts and flip flops. The trees had been green, the sky blue, the bike path overflowing with tourists.
Back then, when I first moved to the Cape, my days had been long and empty. I would sometimes take multiple walks, or multiple bike rides, a day. I’d lay out reading at the beach for an hour, then come home and sit in the back yard, eating frozen yogurt and watching the bees fly in lazy figure eights over the grass. It was sort of nice, and sort of terrifying. I worried that I wasting time.
So I started collecting little part-time jobs to keep myself from feeling totally useless. First trivia, then tutoring, then math curriculum, then the wine job. I started a blog with a self-imposed deadline – a new entry every forty-eight hours. I felt like I needed some structure. I needed to feel like I was being productive.
Now my days are short and dark, and they fly by so quickly. Every morning I tutor Sergey, and sometimes Natalia. Then I work on math curriculum or query agents. Then go to one of my various part-time jobs. I barely have time to write this blog anymore.
The thing is, I filled up on jobs so that I would feel productive, but they are keeping me from being productive with my real job, which is writing.
Sometimes I talk to Nikki about feelings of “false productivity.” We want to be able to come home at the end of the day and feel like we accomplished something. But we don’t always stop to think if what we’re accomplishing is what we really want to spend our time doing. Handing out wine samples and hosting trivia is fine and all, but it’s not my passion in life.
My passion is writing, and in order to do that, I think my brain needs those long hours of nothingness. It needs a loose structure to give it some creative wiggle room.
In the summer, after a long, empty day of taking bike rides and eating frozen yogurt and watching the grass grow, I would suddenly be struck by an idea. It turned out that my brain had been working all along.
So I think this vacation of mine is going to be good. I need to gain back some of that free time so I can let my brain stretch and play. I’m thinking about only doing blog entries three or four times a week now so that I have time to work on stories, and perhaps a new novel. I’m also going to put my foot down with Sergey. I plan to tell him that starting January first I can only tutor three or four days a week. He’s not going to like it, but after all, I didn’t take this year off to talk to Ukrainians – that was just an added bonus.
And I’m not going to burn myself out on writing math curriculum either. That will always be there for me to do. What won’t always be there is this glorious free time. I can’t let it scare me anymore.
Spend and hour sitting in a chair and watching the squirrels in your back yard. See what your brain does.