You Can Probably Smell it from There

What screams “desperate housewife” more: a) baking chocolate chip cookies for the UPS delivery man, b) downing a bottle of wine on the couch during the afternoon soaps, or c) writing a novel feverishly while the children sleep, subsisting on chocolate and tepid water?

Please say a or b.  Please.

I’ve been wanting to tell you this for awhile, only because it’s like my dirty little secret I keep hidden in a dark corner of the closet (which means–if you’re familiar at all with a couple of our closets–it will survive a nuclear holocaust, because it’s that buried). I am. I admit it. I’m working on a book. Actually, I’ve written it. The rough draft was completed last fall, during a fit of focused determination that resulted in hours of me in front of the laptop, and a house that quickly bulged with its dirty laundry (literal, not figurative), a family that ate Cheerios and some applesauce for dinner night after night, and an indulging husband who sent me text messages to let me know he still existed and made sure the morning coffee was brewed strong.

I was so proud of myself, after I completed that draft. I had about 55,000 words down on paper. And chapters. Actual chapters! I’d done it. I’d tackled that one task–that huge project–that’d always seemed like a dream to me, and I did it. I’d written a book. I jumped up and down, high-fived David, and sat back down to look over what I’d written. A book. My book.  Oh, I felt terrific. But there was just one problem.

It wasn’t a book after all. If fact, it more closely resembled a giant, steaming pile of horse manure.  I’m not kidding, here. I grew up in farm country. This momma knows the smell of horse poo, and those chapters on my laptop emanated the same sort of stank. You, I thought to myself, have GOT to be kidding me. I couldn’t have written worse sentences–yes, worse chapters–if I had drunk that bottle of wine after all and made a joke of it.

That was a few months ago. I recently tried to revisit My Great American Novel of Steaming Horse Poo, but it’s really just a lesson in humility. I thought I was writing Literary Fiction. No, these 272 pages are about as literary as the People magazine lying on my coffee table right now. It’s chick lit. Chick flipping lit, and it’s embarrassing. I don’t even read chick lit, and somehow I managed to do a poor man’s version of it. I swear to you, the first chapter describes my protagonist putting on her eye shadow for a good seven pages. I’m not making this up.

Hmm, I thought to myself, in a desperate attempt to justify all these weeks of ignoring my family–all that money spent on concealer to hide the dark circles under my eyes–why don’t I have my lead character die? That’d be brilliantSo I wrote a foreshadow-y preface, and started to pick through the chapters again in an ill-begotten attempt to give my steaming novel of doo-doo some depth.

No go. Now I have not just a chick lit book, but a wannabe Nicholas Sparks one at that.

The shame is real. The quality of writing is not. But the thing is, I was loving working on that stinky mess. I loved–love, really–having some sort of creative outlet more intensive than making up child-friendly lyrics to “Bad Romance.” This was something for me. It was a reminder that there’s more to me than Chief Hugger, and Grilled Cheese Maker, and Diaper Changer. I love being a mom–you know that–but I’m a happier person when I have that kind of outlet. I relish the feeling of having all these ideas banging around inside my skull, desperate to get out. And I like having a hobby that in no way can be described as “domestic.” With my Grand Literary Masterpiece of Awesomeness, I felt like I was using a chunk of my brain that that I wanted to continue to explore, to practice, to enjoy.

It’s just too bad that no evidence of that brain power can be found in the “Novel” folder of my computer.

I will keep working on it.  Actually, I don’t know. It really is terrible. If I thought, for even a second, that what I’d written would be worth sharing some day–my other secret dream is of query letters and agents–I wouldn’t mention it to you. No way. David said that before he proposed, he’d chosen the diamond for my ring before the setting itself, and carried just the loose stone around with him for days, in that inside pocket of his jacket closest to his chest (I know, right? Hey, take THAT for romantic, Mr. Sparks!). That’s how I’d keep something I’d written–close, a secret–if were actually good. Because it’d be more important to me.

Alas, I give you my crop fertilizer. Maybe I could just spread the pages over my garden, because the tomatoes sure could use a little compost.  I appear to be taking the wrong stab at this whole desperate housewifery thing.  The wine in the afternoon option won’t work for me. I like to live without regular visits from Child Protection, after all. And to tell you the truth, I have made cookies and given them to the UPS guy, but only because it was Christmastime and the poor man was trudging up my front walk through the snow practically every day, and I’d already made a ton, and could spare them.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  I don’t know. I might reattempt to revise the Great American Work of Horse Dung. Or I’ll just save myself the self-esteem and go back to reworking pop songs for the 3-year-old set. It’s about time I give that new Britney Spears song a go.

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