Monday, March 3, 2014

Work Work Work Work Work…With Just a Soupçon of Fear.

Every time I say the word "work" some part of brain goes here.  Let's watch because this will get a tad heavy:

The next time we're out for beers, let's talk about Mel Brooks!  I have lots of theories about how he gets away with all the ladies in lingerie and the racial humor because he is the master of knowing where to make a joke land (he always punches up). We can talk specifically about the one time he was censored.  I have what I believe is a cogent and interesting theory about that.  You'll likely agree vis a vis the cogency and interest if, you know, you've had enough beers as I'm pretty sure my cogency and interestingness is directly proportional to the alcohol consumption by my conversatin' partner..

But I come not to discuss Mel Brooks!

Yesterday, Laney and I had A Discussion about her grades* because I am, as it turns out, a grade nazi.  This is surprising to me because I had intended to be deeply chill about grades which would be perfect due to super chill reasons.  But I want Laney in Payton or Jones Prep and so I police the grades. Laney is perfectly capable of bringing home straight A's but does not for a couple of reasons which I shall delineate shortly.

Like all parents (I hope it's not just me) we're toughest on our children where we see our own failures in them.  We desperately want our babies to be better than we are mostly because we love them and want wonderful things for them but also because there's always a tiny part hoping to expiate our own sins via this process of child rearing, n'est-ce pas?  For example, I hope Laney never says "n'est-ce pas" in her own future blogging adventures.

This led me to thinking of my other baby; my poor, neglected, abandoned baby.

My book.

Doing The Work

Laney is very good about doing the work she enjoys.  And very good about doing work which isn't too trying. But as soon as it gets tedious or unpleasant, she attempts a graceful escape.

I was pretty good about doing the work when I was writing.  When Laney was taking swim lessons, I'd sequester myself apart from other parents against a wall, breathing in the chlorinated air, tuning out the sounds of happy children, tapping away at my laptop.  When Laney took her bath at night or watched Sponge Bob, I tapped away.  I squirreled away minutes and moments and then spent them over a laptop, working out the plot, tuning the characters and (mostly) playing with words and sentences until they sounded just how I wanted them to.

And then I spent about 90 minutes researching literary agents, got a couple of nibbles and when they didn't pan out, I made a graceful escape.

I like to write.  I've written before about how the idea of making a living with words is so tantalizing I can hardly bear it.  But the idea of making that real, ugh.  That's SO much work.  And who has the time?  I have a job, I have a kid, I have books to read and TV shows to watch, and I really should be working out at least 30 minutes a day.  Of course, when I was writing the book, I had a job and a kid, I read books and watched TV and worked out at least as (ir)regularly as I do now.

But I like to write.  I don't like to do the other stuff. It's tedious and trying. It's unpleasant.

Also Fear

During The Discussion, Laney offered up as a potential defense that sometimes she doesn't get all her assignments from her teacher.  I asked her why she didn't just ask him if she had all the assignments.

And that's when I figured out that she was afraid he would be mad or disappointed that she hadn't gotten the assignment during the lesson.  She'd rather risk the disappointment of the bad grade than meet him one-on-one with either a failure to grok or a failure to pay adequate attention.

I gave copies of my book to a few people and didn't hear a lot.  Now, I am fully aware that people have lives and reading an 80,000 word comic revisioning of Middlemarch in the 1990s Chicago bar scene is asking a lot.  I expect that most of the people I gave the book to just didn't have the time or a real inclination to read it and it dropped off their radar (almost dropped off mine!)

But I didn't fail to follow up because I was loathe to nag.  I just assumed that the reason I hadn't heard from people was because my book was terrible.  The piecemeal, undisciplined approach I took to writing it resulted in a piecemeal, undisciplined story that no amount of clever phrasing and inconsistent humor could save.

I imagined conversations among the people I gave my book to (who likely don't even know each other)  saying, "Oof… really missed the mark there, huh?  I expected after all this time it would be better.  Best not to say anything."

I'd rather not chase it down than hear that it wasn't good.

Lessons I am Attempting to Learn

Sometimes I smoke a cigarette.  I'll buy a pack and have one a night until it's gone and then I'll go a few weeks until I buy another pack and then have one a night until it's gone.  When Laney was littler, I hid it from her and lied about it.  But I've decided since then that she's not an idiot and I don't want to lie to her so now she knows about my occasional habit and that I fondly hope she never picks it up.  She's OK with that.

Honesty, I think, is a good habit.  But there's something to be said for "do as I do" too, isn't there?  If I want to raise a child who doesn't privilege fear and laziness over passion and accomplishment, I ought to be that person too.

But I'm so old and it's so cold…  But I guess I ought to dust it off and try.

* Laney had five A's and 3 B's, one of which was in "listening standards."  Honestly, I'd be OK with her getting a B in listening standards.  Listening standards. Jesus.