Having a rough day. …

Having a rough day. Here are some contributing factors:

  • The trip was nice, but it put me four days behind on e-mail, which is just not a good idea at this moment in my life. I'm feeling frantic about catching up, especially since several of these e-mails are urgent and should have been answered yesterday. But I was so tired yesterday that when I came home from teaching, even though I could have worked for several hours, I just hung out with Kavi instead.

  • I'm sick of my daughter. Oh, not really. But she was moderately clingy while we were in CT, I think because her daddy wasn't around and we were in a strange place with a lot of strange people grabbing her. In a most loving and affectionate way, and she got at least somewhat fond of them (my dad was totally charmed by Kavi's enthusiastic, "Hi, Thatha!" when he walked into a room). But still. And that weekend she figured out what "I scared!" meant, and started saying it a lot. Kavi went from happily running around the driveway and yard on Saturday to being completely freaked out and crawling in to my lap demanding to be carried on Sunday. I can understand being scared of ants. And maybe of being scared of prickers in the grass. But yesterday, Kavi spilled some water on the floor and played in it happily for a while, and then decided she was scared of it. "I scared! I scared! I scared!" Over and over until mama came and cleaned up the water. That plus the general clinginess since we got home has been frankly driving me up the wall. Others might find it cute, but I just want to push her away. Which, of course, I can't do. Which, argh.

  • I got a critique over the weekend from someone who really hated my new book. It made me cry. Of course, everything makes me cry these days because pregnancy is just like that. But still. I don't even think the critiquer was trying to be mean, and I think they are totally not the right audience for my book (as it turns out, they don't even like memoir), but still, the crit was really hard to take. I think because it was so utterly dismissive, and also because so far, very few people have actually read the entire book in its finished form. So I am anxious about it.

  • Also, severely anxious about the quality of my writing in general. People used to be so damn enthusiastic about my erotica, and I know in large part, that was the subject matter. The further I get from that, the less enthused people seem to be. So far I've gotten one comment on my recently published SF story, which I had been pretty fond of myself when I wrote it, and honestly thought at least some folks might love. I'm worried that my work these days is just boring and bad. There's so much literature I love -- why can't I seem to write characters that people fall in love with? What the hell am I doing wrong? After fifteen years of this, you'd think I'd have figured some of this out. [bangs head against wall]

  • I haven't heard from Bob about his response to the memoir yet. He was supposed to get back to me in two weeks, which would have been Monday, but there's no actual urgency to this, and I had planned to give him another week, since I know he's busy. But I don't know if my agent likes the book I just spent four years writing and it's just argh. Argh! Especially, I think, because I don't actually expect Bob to like it, or not to love it anyway -- I don't really think it's his sort of thing, and I'm not at all sure it's commercial enough for his interest (I'm not sure it's not commercial either; I'm just not sure about anything), and so I'm mostly expecting that he's going to pass on it. And I'll get some good feedback from him, and I'll revise, and then I'll start contacting new agents. And while maybe it's time for Bob and I to part ways, and that might even be a good thing, it's also sad if it happens, because he was there for me with Bodies in Motion and I'll always be grateful for everything he did for me with that book. So. Also, hunting for agents is miserable and depressing and I'm dreading it.

  • I had a meeting with my Dean yesterday, which was in some ways very nice -- it was my first chance to really talk with him, and we came to an agreement, I think. Kevin and I have been feeling like our budget is tight, especially with new baby coming and hopes of buying a house in Oak Park. So I'm moving from part-time (66%) to full-time in the fall. My teaching stays at 2-2, but I'll be adding 12-15 hrs a week of administrative work. It should be interesting work, I think, probably helping to develop program support and events planning for our new interdisciplinary Ph.D., along with supporting the new Asian American Studies program. The new chunk of money will cover our childcare costs, which is going to be a big financial relief when it happens, and I'm actually, on one level, really excited about the work itself; it's exactly the kind of thing I enjoy doing on the administrative side. And, while I'm not close to ready to give up teaching anytime soon (I love it muchly), I could imagine a future in which I moved more strongly into academic administration. Can you see me as a Dean someday? So all that sounds good, right? And it is. I think the fall at least will be fine, since I'm only teaching one fiction workshop then, I'm more than a little stressed about the spring, when I'll be teaching three classes, doing the new 12-15 hrs/week of admin work, and will have a two-month-old and no sleep to contend with. We'll have childcare, of course, forty hours a week of it, and Kevin has a lot of paternity leave next year. But still. I'm still sort of bitter than I don't get real maternity leave. Three months just off would be such a help, and if I had a tenure-track job, that's what I would get. Makes me feel a bit like a second-class citizen at the university, despite the fact that faculty and administration have been nothing but nice and welcoming to me.

  • Also, pretty seriously worried that between teaching and admin and baby, I will never write again. Yes, I know lots of academics just get all their writing done in the summers. But I'm not sure I'm that disciplined, plus, anytime I go a week without writing, I start to get tense and twitchy and eventually, if the no-writing continues, miserable. I think this admin move is the right thing, for our finances and our family and my career. I think I'll like the work. But get a little panicked when I try to figure out when I'll be able to write. I worry that I keep making choices (teaching, babies, admin) that move me further and further away from writing, which, frankly, terrifies me.

  • Plus, baby coming. Which is a good thing. But also terrifying, in all sorts of ways, from the rest of the pregnancy to the birth itself to breastfeeding to the lack of sleep, etc. and so on. I truly hate the infant stage. I know some people love it, but for me, the sweet softness of a new person doesn't come close to making up for the crying and the hallucinatory no-sleep phase and the no-personality demanding sack-of-potatoes nature of infants. I keep wanting to just jump ahead to when baby is eighteen months, because at least with Kavi, that was when I really started actively enjoying having a child. Most of the time. But apparently you can't jump ahead like that. Sucks. I can't even start sorting clothes, which would be fun and productive, because we don't know the gender yet, and won't for another month. I'm going to go try crocheting a cute baby thing for my cousin's due-in-June baby, and maybe that will help get me more into positive baby frame of mind.

  • I'm also way behind on Kriti stuff. But at least I think I can take care of that by the end of this week. That's something.

Thank you. This has been your whining for the day.

14 thoughts on “Having a rough day. …”

  1. Catherine Noujaim

    You will always find time to write. I have confidence in that.

    And I love what I’ve read of Arbitrary Passions.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Thanks, Catherine.

    And folks, sorry about the emotional dumping there — that was definitely not meant to guilt y’all into reading/liking my current writing! That would be sort of pointless, y’know? The part that stresses me out isn’t my friends not liking my work, but complete strangers not liking my work, if that makes any sense.

    I think it doesn’t. Maybe we should just chalk this whole entry up to pregnancy hormones and call it a day.

  3. Catherine Shaffer

    I think you have to be realistic that when you are working full time with two small children will not be the most creatively productive time of your life, but it’s not the end, either. You’ll come out of this a writer, like you were before.

    The feelings you have about feedback and reviews sound like normal writer stuff to me. We all have doubts about our work. I think it is human nature that people tend to give negative feedback or complain whenever they don’t like something, but often they keep the positive feedback to themselves.

  4. I’ll second the “time for everything” comment. Some phases of life are more creative and some are more plodding. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the second baby will sleep better, sooner? I don’t remember if Kavi was particularly fussy but babies differ; maybe you’ll enjoy the differentness. At the least the learning curve will be smaller.

    Is the full-time thing reversible if it fails dramatically? It’s good to think of major choices as having outs if misery sets in.

  5. A Dean?? Better you than I. It seems a recipe for constant misery, with no real reward except more money.

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Ah, but David, there’s at least the illusion that over time, you can improve the system. Speaking as someone who has consistently been driven crazy as a cog in the machine, some of us just cope better when we get to drive a bit. 🙂

    And yes, I think the full-time thing is reversible, with a year’s warning or so. Which is good, I agree, and it does help to keep that in mind.

    Kavi didn’t sleep through the night until 9 months, which I gather is unusually late, but not terribly so. It’s possible that we’ll get a much easier baby, but seems equally likely that we’ll get a much harder one…

    I did know that having babies might take a few years off the writing clock. In theory, I’m okay with that. In practice, it’s intensely fretful. More on that in another post soon, I think.

  7. It’s my understanding that second babies are usually better because they’re responding to you. And you’re calmer the second time around.

    It’s a sucky place to be, that “no one can reassure me” place, and while you know the external forces (the traveling, the pregnancy, maybe the hordes of sweets and lack of real exercise?) that go into it, it still feels real.

    One thing that helps me, once you realize what the focus of the anxiety is, is to hone in on it. You’re worried about losing writing time. How long are you likely to lose? How can you minimize the impact of that (write an hour every day, no editing until you have more time)? Sometimes this leads to realizing that it’s not a big deal, and sometimes it leads to realizing that you’re making the wrong choice and e.g. writing is more important than having extra space for the kids.

    Obviously you’re not going to discuss your finances on the web, but it also occurs to me that the “3 months off would fix everything” makes me wonder if you should do it. Take the money out of home equity when you move, borrow against a 401K, forgo your usual retirement fund deposit, get a loan from family…

  8. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oh, there are several ways we could cope if we cut back instead of earning more. But I’ve got something of a panic reaction to being short of money — I react by actually spending more, being much more likely to go over budget. One of the things that’s been hard about this past year is that the tighter budget has made me tense, and unfairly snappish with Kevin. So even if it’s more work, I *think* having a bit more give in our financial system will make life easier overall.

    And yes, I think making a plan for writing will help. Right now, this is my tentative plan: write like mad once I’m done with teaching in mid-June, until mid-August when classes start. Then dedicate one day a week to writing (plus breast-feeding as necessary, if baby allows) for the rest of the school year. That leaves four days a week for teaching/admin, and two days a week for family time and relaxing. See how it goes.

  9. Marianne Reddin Aldrich

    Hi Mary Anne,
    I just wanted to mention that I really loved Bodies in Motion, which I finally got around to reading last week. Your gift definitely carries through to regular fiction!

  10. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Marianne, thank you. Sometimes I forget that some people really did love that book. 🙂

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