Is a writer still a writer if she doesn’t write? That’s a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately in the free time I’ve created by not writing.
Is she a writer just because she has a file drawer full of clips? Because she’s contributed her words and thoughts to some interesting, respectable publications (and some less so)? Because she’s earned her living that way for the last ten years? Because she’s got a book on the shelves? And a contract for a screenplay dated just a few months back (which includes an obligation to write a second draft that’s due sometime in the near future)?
I don’t know. My parents think I’m a writer. My friends think I’m a writer, my agent and editor and publicist do, too, and yet I haven’t written anything besides email in weeks—months? Even typing out these words was like pulling friggin' teeth. I procrastinated my whole morning away, responding to email, doing dumb errands—did I really need to call a housewares website to get a broken knife replaced today?
Why the mindless tasks? Because I felt like I should write and would rather do anything else on the planet. It’s a formula I’m familiar with. Even when I’m being relatively productive, I use every excuse and avoidance technique to prevent it—trips to the fridge, personal phonecalls, hours spent lounging with the cats staring at the ceiling… And when I’m out of the habit, that’s the worst.
Okay, I have a couple good excuses.
1. I’ve been promoting my book, Room for Love, my DEBUT NOVEL. I haven’t hired a private publicist and doing it on my own (of course with the help of my wonderful publicist at St. Martin’s, Brian Smith) feels like a full-time job sometimes. Just organizing readings, getting the book mentioned in my alumni publications, interviewing publicists I’m considering hiring, buying plane tickets, brainstorming new promotional strategies, fretting about whether anyone will show up to my book events... all take time. But still not enough to warrant my new no-writing policy.
2. My other big excuse is I’m pregnant. There, I’ve outted myself to the world, or to my blog-reading audience at least. I’ve been keeping it more or less under wraps, even though I’ve been knocked up for almost five months and can’t hide it anymore from anyone who sees me in person. Physically impossible. I've got a bulging belly and breasts that none of my clothes can contain. Pregnancy is a better excuse than book promotion, as it is the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever gone through. (Why didn't anyone tell me?!) For the first three and a half, maybe even four, months, my days went something like this: Wake up in the morning (after 9-10 hours sleep), have tea and cereal with yogurt and fruit, check my email, take a shower, feel utterly pooped and go back to bed. Some days I’d fight it, go to a yoga class, make a few phonecalls… and then have to crash, exhausted, at three for three hours. Visiting New York was the worst (I came once in July for a month and again in August for a week, because my husband was shooting a movie here). A ten-minute walk to the grocery store in the 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity meant an immediate three-hour nap. It was best to just stay indoors and spend my days intermittently surfing the web, answering email, reading dumb magazines and snoozing.
But you know what? Gotta stop making excuses. I could definitely find a couple of hours a day and I’m going to have to because I’ve got things to write! I received a mass of notes from my producers at MGM about the first draft of the script I'm writing for them, Audrey Rose. They’ve decided they want to go in a whole different direction from what we originally talked about, so I’ve got a lot of work to do on the second draft. I also want to write another book. I’ve been taking notes almost since we moved to LA and I really want to get going on it. Not to mention two story ideas I have, actually three. One’s an essay I want to write to try to publish as a Modern Love piece, one is a story about my life that I'll pitch to either a design mag or a baby mag and the third is a piece that spins off from Room for Love, which would be right for the lifestyle section of a newspaper or maybe a woman’s mag. So many projects! And I’m going to have a baby in five months! Looks like I have to get to work!