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Shut Up About Your Rocket, or, Why You Need Writer Friends

Shut Up About Your Rocket, or, Why You Need Writer Friends

My husband won’t shut up about rockets. For the past few months he’s been designing and printing model rockets on his 3-D printer (because yes, he has one of those), and he is OBSESSED.

“Can I show you my launch pad?” he says, coming at me with a plastic box spewing red and blue wires out the back.

I sigh because this is the fourth time in past few hours that he’s wanted to show me something rocket-related. I know he’s proud of his handiwork and wants to show it to someone, so I say sure. He then goes into a detailed description about all the buttons and wires while my eyes glaze over.

In fact, a normal conversation these days (if you can call this a conversation) might go something like this:

ME: “So I read an article about how to transition your baby out of swaddling.”

HIM: “I finished fiber-glassing my rocket last night.”

ME: “I think she might be going through a growth spurt. She was cranky and eating a lot today.”

HIM: “Now I just need to sand it and get the wireless in my raspberry pi zero working.”

It’s both funny and sad how I can talk of seemingly nothing but our baby these days, and Paul can talk of nothing but his baby, the rocket. Of course, there is one difference: Paul actually cares about our baby, whereas I care not a whit about his rockets.

 

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Paul with a model rocket he built two summers ago.  He’s working on MUCH larger ones now.

 

That’s why I was excited when he found out about a local model rocket club that meets once a month. “Dear god, please go,” I told him. “Please make friends with people who are interested in rockets.”

We were taking the baby on a walk around the block when I said this, and then I added, “I mean, I don’t talk to you about my writing.  I talk to other writers about my writing. In fact, I’m going to dinner with a friend in a few days, and we plan to discuss the novel I’m working on because she just finished reading it.”

Paul said he felt bad that he hadn’t read my latest novel.

“It’s really okay,” I told him. “I have writer friends for that exact purpose.” I told him about the time I saw Joyce Carol Oates speak. “She said that her husband never read any of her books, and she liked it that way. They had plenty of things they shared, but her writing wasn’t one of them.”

Paul then apologized for talking excessively about rockets. “But I wish I had friends I could talk to about my interests,” he said, looking forlorn.

I feel bad for him. His interests (theoretical physics, model rockets, extremely sophisticated mathematics, 3-D printing) are ones that not many people share. He sometimes feels isolated and alone in his endeavors. And when he makes an exciting breakthrough, no one is able to appreciate it with him.

Again, this is why I’m really excited for him to go to the rocket club.

I’m also super grateful for the friends I have who share my interests.

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Paul does share my interest in the baby, but he has had to tell me to shut up about baby sleep schedules and other such things that I’ve researched to ad nauseam.

 

For example, I’ve recently started hanging out with other new moms. We’ll meet at each other’s houses and let our babies roll around on the floor while we discuss sleep schedules and cloth diapers. They understand when I show up late, with spit up stains on my shirt, and it’s nice to have some low-key adult interaction during the day. I read somewhere once that there can be nothing lonelier than staying at home with your baby.

But you know what else can be lonely? Writing. It’s inherently a solo venture. Which is why I think it’s so important to have people you can talk talk to about your writing (or talk to about writing in general). People with whom you can work through your ideas. People who will read your first draft. People who can sympathize with you about that rejection letter or that scene that just won’t come together.

I’ve found my writer friends in all sorts of places. Some are from my MFA program. Others are from writing groups I’ve been a part of or writing conferences I’ve attended. One is a high school friend. Another is a college friend who happened upon my blog and contacted me.

Because of these wonderful people, I feel supported in my writing life. I write alone, but I don’t feel isolated, and I know that when I have breakthroughs both big and small, these people will celebrate with me.

I’m really hoping the rocket club can provide at least a little bit of this for Paul. Because there are plenty of things that he and I share, but an interest in rockets is definitely not one of them.

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Meagan and I try to get together regularly to discuss our writing.  We also write a monthly blog:  Meagan & Eva’s Middle Grade Bookshelf!

Day 8: Enough is Enough!

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Day 8:  Enough is Enough!

 

  TODAY’S STATS

# of pages written: 9.5

# of times I’ve checked email/facebook: 6

# of days left to write 1st draft: 153

The past few days have been rainy here in Cape Cod, so today, since it was actually going to be sunny, I decided to go to the beach for some good, old-fashioned sunbathing. (Right now my mother is screaming in horror and making me a care package of SPF 50 and a giant, floppy hat.) I know, I know, it’s very bad for me, but I like to lay out in the sun. It feels nice to have a blanket of solar heat against my bare skin as I drowsily read and listen to the waves. But, I must admit, I do it in large part for the vain reason that I think I look better tan.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more concerned about wrinkles and skin cancer and unsightly moles, so I don’t sunbathe as often as I did, and when I do, I take more precautions than I used to. For instance, now, when I go to the beach, I wear a hat, and SPF 50 on my face. My chest and back and stomach get SPF 15 or SPF 30, and they may or may not get a reapplication, depending on how responsible I’m feeling that day. My legs, more often than not, get nothing. That’s right. Nothing. I think my legs look better tan.
This habit is probably why the following conversation occurred when I visited my friend Dawn and her husband, Scott, in Philly a few weeks ago:

Scott: Eva, are you wearing pantyhose?
Me: What? No.
Scott: Are your legs just that tan?
Me: (Secretly delighted) What? Yeah, I guess so.
Scott: They’re like a completely different color from the rest of you.

Which I guess is true. My legs are a few shades darker than my arms, which are a few shades darker than my face, which makes me look sort of like one of those 1-2-3 Jello Parfait desserts:

It all begs the question: how tan is tan enough? When will I be pleased with my level of tan and stop feeling the need to go to the beach every time it’s sunny?  The answer, it seems, is never.

I am by no means tanorexic like the disturbingly-tan mom who was accused of bringing her 5-year-old in the tanning bed with her, but I’ll admit that I sometimes my day around finding the optimal time to lay outside and tan. I’m always pleased to see my tan lines in the shower, but no matter how tan I was, I always think that maybe I should get just a little bit more tan.

 

This morning I told myself that I would write until lunchtime then go to the beach in the afternoon. After all, I hadn’t sunbathed in a while, and heaven forbid my legs lose their tan. I spent the morning alternately writing and slacking off. And when I mean slacking off, I mean doing things that aren’t writing. My slacking off included:

-booking a plane ticket to Ohio for a wedding
-vacuuming and mopping the entire house
-finishing The Psychopath Test (awesome book – I highly recommend)
-eating various snacks

However, despite all this slacking off, I managed to write over nine and a half pages on my novel. Still, I wasn’t sure this was enough to warrant the treat of going to the beach in the afternoon. “I don’t know, Eva,” I told myself. “You could write more. Joyce Carol Oates would scoff at this measly bit of writing.”

The question is: how much writing is enough for one day? Because no matter how much I write, I always think that I should do just a little more.

I guess that’s true with a lot of things. When do you know when to stop? When you’ve done what’s expected of you? When you’re tired of it? When you’ve gone on a three-week-bender and written an entire novel on scrolls of paper ala Jack Kerouc?

When I first got to Cape Cod, I set myself the goal of writing five pages per day. But now that I’m routinely exceeding that goal, I’m not sure when to call it a day. Last night on the phone, a friend told me that I haven’t set my goals high enough. But what if I set them too high and can’t reach them?

The thing is, we can always do more. I could always get more tan. I could always find more things in the house to clean. I could always write a more (and maybe I should). For other people, they can never make enough money, run enough marathons, spend enough time with their kids. But “enough” is a relative term.  What’s enough for one person might not be enough for someone else.  At some point, you just have to decide what “enough” will be for you, for today, and make it be true. On the other hand, if you have something you’re working towards, maybe it doesn’t hurt to keep pushing up the bar a little bit, making what counts as “enough” just a little more as time goes on.

After my nine and a half pages, I ate lunch, then rode my bike to Crosby beach. The bike path smelled like jasmine, and I realized that it was good to get out of the house, away from the computer. I walked along the beach. The tide was really low. I spread out on my towel and told myself: one hour of laying in the sun. That’s enough. And it was. Then I came home and wrote this blog post. Because I’m not Joyce Carol Oates, and I think I’ve worked enough on my novel for today.