March 12, 2009

Canning the Muse

When my daughters were little, I used to sneak into the bathroom with my writing pad and lock the door. I'd put down the toilet seat (somebody had to do it), and get comfortable. In short order, a switch would flip in my brain and I'd pour my inky prose onto page after page of a budding novel.

It started when I was a kid, really. I knew my father spent a lot of time in the can reading (or hiding from his six children), and I began reading in there too. Writing was a natural extension of this meditative refuge and became vitally important after I became a mom. Why? Maybe I felt safe or sheltered enough to relax and let my thoughts flow. Maybe I knew my time in there was limited; I do work best under deadlines. Maybe I thought, if I'm going to write crap, I'm in the perfect place. But it wouldn't be long before the clamoring of my rugrats would swell outside the door.

Child #1: Mom, what are you doing in there?
Me: What do you think I'm doing?
Child #2: Are you crapping?
Child #3: Shhhh! That's a bad word.
Child #2: Are you still going to the bathroom?
Me: Yes.
Child #1: Gawd!
Inevitably, I'd see small fingers wiggle under the door and hear a gaggle of giggles as prying eyes strained to peek at my feet. Sammy, our fat and feisty family feline, would meow plaintively. Georgie, our Shih Tzu, would sniff the space under the door so loudly, it echoed off the bathroom walls. It's like when they see a closed door, their little kidlet adrenaline starts pumping. Since the beginning of time, this instinctual behavior has served to warn copulating cave couples that the dinosaurs were fast approaching and the continuance of the human race depended on getting the future copulators the hell out of the way.

(Clears throat) Back to the can . . . With monsters at the door, my concentration broken, and my pen poised rigidly over an unsatisfied pad, I'd grit my teeth. My writing flow would dam up, and just when I was getting to the good part! What invariably followed was the rustling and grunting one hears at a varsity wrestling match. This was the usual banter:

Me: Girls! Did you clean your rooms?
All in unison: Yes!
Me (so much for diversionary tactics): Then go play. I'll be out in a minute.
Child #1: That's what you said ten minutes ago.
Child #2: Yeah, and ten minutes before that.
Child #3: And an hour before that!
Me: Go . . . play! I . . . will . . . be . . . out . . . when . . . I'm . . . done!
The rough-housing and giggling would eventually fade away, and when I was satisfied that I once again had the can to myself, I'd delve back into my thickening plot. Oh, this is going to be so good! I'd think. Readers are going to eat this up! I'm going to be on the bestseller lists soon!

Bang, bang, bang.

Child #4: Mom, there's a giant hairy spider out here!
Me (exhaling soundly): Has it eaten anyone?
Child #4: He's looking at Sam.
Sam was known to torture exoskeleton types, usually to his peril.

Child #4: Mo-o-om! Sam's going to get bit and have to go to the hospital and get dead!
Me (lips bunched together): Christ. I'm coming.
I would toss my pen and pad on the tile and bid farewell to my muse, while realizing that I'd sat there so long, my thighs had gone numb. I'd flush for good measure (and to reinforce the charade) and unlock the door to an audience of six -- four grinning kids plus pets, not including any giant spiders. Little devils had tricked me once again into abandoning my post!

These days, I don't normally have to hide out to get writing done, but when I'm stressed and the creative juices just won't flow, I wonder if my muse could benefit from a good canning. Once upon a time, I wrote probably half a book in there. Then again, since that manuscript still sits unpublished, maybe it really was crap after all.


Anonymous said...

You gotta do what you gotta do!!! Funny stuff!

Amy said...

I've written some real crap in the can as well. It's a nice cool quiet place until someone finds you. Children seem to have a built in radar that lets them know the second their mother's ass hits the toilet.

I grew up in a house with two parents, five female siblings and one bathroom. If one of us was in the bathroom for longer than my older sister thought was necessary, she would kick the door in. The door oftentimes had to be propped shut until Dad could repair it again. By the time I got my own bathroom, it became a luxurious haven where I could hide out...until I had kids.

Maybe in retirement I'll get my room back.

Kristina P. said...

There are several reasons I don't have kids.

Cheri said...

You in the bathroom and your kids remarks...sounds like home (mine).

Vic said...

I'm picturing mothers all over America retreating into the bathroom - I did this so much when my kids were little. Even now my ten year old will only need me when I'm in the bathroom, and then it's an EMERGENCY.

Finish that manuscript! :)

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Love this story! I've only got two boys, and they're getting close to being "grown up" (although when does anyone grow up, really?), but I could totally relate to your hilarious story. I grew up as one of four girls in our tiny Cape Cod on Long Island. We had one bathroom for five females (four girls and my mom) and my poor dad. When we moved to Colorado the house had four bathrooms. We all thought we'd died and gone to heaven. Especially my dad.

Lori said...

Too funny! This reminds me of my life when my 5 were young too and my present life once again with my little people. There is just no peace and quiet is there?!

LegalMist said...

Hilarious! I retreat to the bathroom to get a few minutes to myself to read -- why not read in there what someone else wrote in there? =]

... assuming the little ones will leave me alone long enough...

Unknown said...

potty training is a lifetime endeavor. my husband won't leave me in peace there...

poop happens.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I've been known to do some canning too. Great post.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get away with that now, and all of the chicks but one have flown the nest.

Neither Beloved and The Young One are what you would call "private bathroom people" and they assume I am not either (after all these years, you'd think they'd figure it out). Neither of them has a problem following me IN TO the john.

With The Young One, I'll just let out an exasperated "Do you MIND???" or "I'm not paying for your therapy when you're traumatized from watching me drop my drawers to poop" but he'll stand right out of the line of sight in my bedroom (or the laundry room, depending on how badly I had to go) keeping up his line of chatter. But nothing keeps Beloved out - if he has something to say (and when doesn't he), he's going to bigod say it.

I couldn't compose a naughty limerick in the bathroom. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Wherever you write, it works! I'm like you . . . the deadline somehow makes it happen. Well done.

Twice as Nice said...

I just found your blog and you are sooo good. I read thru a few posts and your March 9 post could have been written by me. Infact I almost did a post similar on the same day.

Twin and I were always underweight and embarrassed too. I weighed about 125 when I gave birth to my daughter and that is with gaining 25# during the pregnancy. I now weigh 125 and am about 5'6". Most would be happy with that weight but it's the menopause thing. The weight isn't in the right places. I don't want it in the middle!! I need to exercise but so far it's just a plan!HA But I too am dreading the swimsuit and I'm going to start putting the plan to work real soon. I also want to get my hormone levels checked out and see if I can do something about that. While I love my 40's for a lot of reasons, this weight gain thing isnt one of them!

As much as I hated being a twig until just a few short years ago, I wish I could go back. I didn't appreciate it like I should have!

Roshni said...

I tried those tactics when I was in my teens and needed to read my novels during exam time... same distubed reading episodes as your coz my parents needed to know what the heel I was doing inside! Crap!

Frank said...

It’s incredible how enlightening our interaction with little ones can be. I bet you were a fun mom.