A few months ago, my husband and I started going to open houses on Sundays. You know, just for fun. Because we plan on buying a house at some point, so why not start window-shopping now? Why not check out the neighborhoods and see what houses we can afford in the crazy-expensive, super-competitive DC area. No big deal, though. Just window shopping.
But then we thought, gosh, what if we fall in love with a house and aren’t able to make an offer because we don’t have our ducks in a row? So we got pre-approved for a loan and found a real estate agent. We naively thought it would be low-stress. If we saw something we liked, great. But we weren’t going to rush into anything.
Two weeks later, we made an offer on a house. It was a really unique house, seemed like a good deal, and it was in a pretty good neighborhood. (One mile from the metro! Three blocks to Sligo Creek!) I felt nervous, and I worried it was too fast, but we both thought if we didn’t jump on this now, we’d regret it later. So, last Monday, we made the offer and it was accepted. It was official – we were going to be homeowners!
I tried to write on my novel last week, I really did. I’d manage to eek out a page, but then I’d need to scan some document to the loan officer right now, or I’d find myself looking up the address of the new house (our new house!!) on google maps and figuring out exactly how far it was from everything I cared about. (3.1 miles to Trader Joe’s! 3.2 miles to the library!)
On Thursday I didn’t get much writing done because we had to go to the three-hour-long home inspection. Everything seemed fine. The attic crawl-space was filled with this weird, rock-like insulation, but, whatever. I was more concerned with where I was going to plant azalea bushes and how I was going to set up my new office space.
On Friday, the home inspector called my husband with some alarming news. That weird insulation in the attic? Turns out it’s something called vermiculite, which has a 70% chance of containing asbestos. Just testing it for asbestos is often inconclusive. And removing the vermiculite (which can cost somewhere between ten and twenty grand) still doesn’t guarantee that you’ve removed all the asbestos from your home. I mean, it might not be a big deal. You might be fine. On the other hand, it could end up costing you a ton. And it might give you cancer.
We decided to back out of the deal and spent a few days feeling sick to our stomachs with disappointment and doubt.
But then, a day later, another house came on the market! A house in an AMAZING location. Sure it wasn’t as big or unique, but it was our dream location. Maybe this was why the other house fell through — because we were meant to have this house (at least that’s what I told myself.) We made an offer for more than we really wanted to spend. We spent a day waiting with our fingers crossed… Then our real estate agent called to say we didn’t get the house. Someone had outbid us.
“This feels terrible,” my husband said.
“I don’t even know what I’m feeling anymore,” I said.
And in the middle of all those emotions about houses, I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t gotten much writing done!
A long time ago I read Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. I thought it was pretty helpful for getting your novel written, whether you’re trying to do it in a month or not. At the beginning, Schmidt asks a series of questions:
- In the middle of a major move?
- In the middle of a break-up, having relationship problems, or getting married soon?
- Recovering from an illness or addiction?
- Possibly losing a job (or did you lose one recently)?
- Starting something new, like a job or career?
- About to have a baby?
- Overextended with family commitments?
- Unsure where your next meal is coming from?
- About to go on a major vacation?
- Facing the death of a family member or beloved pet?
- Already committed to the PTA and the Scouts and the car pool and.. and… and…?
She says “answering “yes” to one or more of these questions “doesn’t mean you should put off writing. It just means that you should cut yourself a little slack – you’re going through a lot. Set your goals accordingly, and be realistic about your goals.”
She really needs to add something to that list: BUYING A HOUSE!
Of course I’m having trouble disappearing into the world of my novel. My husband and I are in the midst of figuring out where we’re going to live for the next 7 – 10 years (or more). Of course I’m having trouble concentrating on my writing. One minute I’m making the intense decision to buy a house, and the next minute I find out I’m not buying the house after all. My brain is whirling with loan lingo, and I’m still suffering from sticker shock and the disappointment of losing not one but two houses.
It’s not an excuse for not writing. I’m not saying that. Because there’s always going to be something – some mini-crisis or life situation that has the potential to take my mind away from writing. Heck, in the past four years, I can answer “yes” to most of the questions above. But, like Schmidt says, I’m going through a lot right now, and I should cut myself some slack. Maybe eeking out a page a day right now is something to be proud of, not something to feel guilty about.
And I’m really glad I have my blog. Sometimes the best way to stop thinking about something is to write about it. I’m hoping that after writing this post, I will be able to get back to my novel instead of spending my time creeping around on the real estate listings. (We’ll see about that… Wish us luck!)