Hack Dad’s Revenge: Boredom
Originally, this month’s column was supposed to be about earning money as a stay-at-home parent/writer. But, the thing is I’m pretty much doing everything on spec these days and I’ve pitched two articles, submitted a novelette, and a short satirical article to a humor website over the last six weeks, but I haven’t heard anything back from any of them. This is what happens when you’re not under contract, though. You spend a lot of time writing and hoping someone will buy some of it. So instead of talking about earning the old greenbacks, I thought I’d tackle the writer’s second greatest nemesis: Boredom (And I promise I'll be back with the money thing a couple of months down the road).
Here’s my average day:
Alarm goes off at five, I pull on my pants, stumble downstairs, flip on the coffee, go and smoke, wash up at the kitchen sink afterwards, choke down a half dozen pills that keep my heart from exploding, drink a glass of water straight down, do the same thing with my coffee, and then sit on the couch and fuck around on social media for ten minutes and check the news. If I’m lucky, I’ll just get to sit in the quiet of the pre-dawn house for at least an hour. I might even get to read a hundred or so pages of whatever book I’m reviewing. But most of the time, the baby wakes up fifteen or twenty minutes after I do. She has a sixth sense that knows when I’m up and moving around, so she wants to be moving around, too.
Once I hear the baby start babbling, I make her bottle, pull her playpen to the center of the great room, then trudge upstairs, grab her out of the crib, change her out of her two-pound urine-logged diaper (we’ve been lucky with the wee one, she can pretty much sleep through anything and she’s slept through the night since she was four-months-old), then head downstairs, plop her in the playpen with a bottle in her mouth, and click on Sesame Street. This pretty much keeps her occupied while I shotgun another cup of coffee, run back upstairs, wake up my oldest and Mrs. Rawson and grab the dogs. (You would think this would be one of the first things I do, but the dogs are lazy old fucks and they make a hell of a racket when they run down the stairs, so they get woken up along with Mrs. Rawson.) Everyone gets out the door within an hour, and by that time, the baby’s ready to be out and about, too.
If I’m lucky, the kiddo will be really into her blocks or her little people or Elmo and I’ll get more time with the review book. But most of the time, she’s wanting me to play blocks with her, or watch Elmo, or have a dance party. (She’s super into TV On The Radio and Wilco, and can boogie to both for hours.) Then comes breakfast, then comes the park to chase around the soccer ball, then back home for lunch and nap. Depending on how wiped out I am, I either write or nap, too. I choose writing most of the time.
Kid wakes up after two hours.
Kid watches Daniel Tiger while I spend more time with the review book.
Then the big kid gets home from school.
Then Mrs. Rawson comes home from the office.
Then I make dinner and we eat.
Then the baby gets a bath, gets put in bed.
Then the family retreats to their various corners of the house.
I go to my office, turn on some music, smoke a little weed, and then write until I’m set to pass out.
I lock up, make coffee for the morning, turn off the lights, go to bed, and then repeat.
Day after day after day after day after day after day.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Because the thing is, like I’ve said before, this shit just isn’t a life, it’s a job, and all jobs get a little tedious and you can become bored out of your fucking mind.
Let’s face it, kid shit is boring. The programing, the games, the books, the toys, all of it—it’s lame. The thing is, none of it is meant for you and your thirty or forty-year-old brain. You’re just forced to experience it all with them with a dumb smile on your face. There have been days when I’ve watched five straight hours of Super Why and then another two of Sesame Street because the TV was the only thing keeping her calm and focused during a particularly bad round of teething. By the time we got the baby to bed, it felt like my brain was about to melt out of my head.
Believe it or not, all this boredom is fertile ground for a writer. It’s hours where I can live entirely inside my head, waiting for my chance to get my thoughts down on paper. The thing is, living so much in my imagination also causes me to stagnate. My biggest discovery when I first started freelancing was that I don’t have interests outside of writing. I lived for so long with writing and books being what I did in my hours after the job that I hadn’t developed any other interests. Trust me, I can talk your ear off about George V. Higgins and Marylyn Robinson, or the virtues of studying genre fiction, but not much of anything else.
And don’t get me wrong, I love the monostatic life. I’m naturally solitary and studious. The fact is, I probably would have made a good priest except the whole no sex thing and believing in god. But being focused on only one or two tasks starts to wear you down, so I started to search out other interests to beat back the everyday boredom of both my jobs.
I tried binge watching television shows, and there’s a lot of good shit, but it’s called the boob tube for a reason, you know. I’m not into gaming for the same reason I’m not into guns: it’s way too expensive and a solid chunk of the people who are into it are psychos. I’m not into sports because I’m a huge pussy who thinks of team sports as conformity conditioners, plus I’m not much into beer. I could find somewhere to start role-playing again. But, you know, D&D always leads me back down the path of worshipping Satan. Satan, of course, would want to take my sweaty hand and lead me down the road of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, which in turn would completely fuck up my whole family dynamic, it’s bad news all around.
Except the rock n’ roll thing.
Well, not exactly the rock n’ roll thing. More like the hip-hop, Memphis blues, R&B, and classical kind of thing. You know, all the stuff I missed out on while blitzing my eardrums with metal and punk in my teens and twenties (which I also still listen to frequently). Over the past two years, I’ve become a slave to music. I study compositions and lyrics, just as much as I do novels and writing.
Yes, I have a whole new subject to bore the fuck out of you with.
But music breaks the tedium for me. I’m like Pavlov’s dog whenever I’m listening. It kick starts me and breaks up the monotony. And that’s the point of the obsession, it’s something other than my two main tasks, it revitalizes me.
What I want to know is, what do you use to get out of your head? Are you a TV watcher, a wine drinker, a sports nut—what jumps starts your process as a writer and a parent? Let me know down in the comments.
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