May 29, 2007

The Mad Shuffling of Priorities

Guilt is a byproduct of my writing endeavours, desperation too. At 32, I feel a keen sense of urgency to get somewhere with all of this, make something of myself. Right now I can only call myself a writer in the loosest of terms. So I get frantic sometimes, which results in some likely subpar output. It's like there is a magic number in my head, some age limit, that I need to be successful by (and I realize that success is a rather subjective quality). I want writing to be my priority, the focus of what I am about, the core substance which defines my processes as an adult. But I'm realizing that this may never be the case. Life is notorious with its ability to make you take stock and implement changes.

Last year, my wife and I went on a three week backpacking trip through various parts of Europe. By far, it was the single most remarkable thing we'd ever done as a couple. The art, culture, food, drink, people -all left a permanent impression with us, something we value and talk about all the time. Of course, added into the mix was the fact that our first child (still in
Sandra's belly as I write this) was conceived. I'd heard that trips to Europe could do this to a couple, but I always thought we'd outside the norm. Not so. Novotel in Brussels will always be held in very high regard.
Throughout Sandra's pregnancy, I've wrestled with where to place writing on my list of priorities once the baby is here. Instinctually, I know the baby comes first. Each time I talk to the grub through dear Wifey's belly and it tries to thump me in the nose I am overwhelmed. But in the back of my mind I get this desperate feeling like I need to keep writing at the top of my list, that to let it take a back seat to anything will ultimately result in prolonged failure down the road. Surely, the successful writers out there let nothing deter them. I grow concerned that I will have to sacrifice one for the other.

A poet friend of mine and I were emailing back and forth recently. He mentioned that when he was married to his then wife, he made the big error of telling her that writing would always be his biggest priority. He wasn't being disingenuous with her (though he did say it was young and stupid of him to say this), just honest about where he was at. He didn't want her to think he would sacrifice his writing for job or relationship. But when his first child came, all of that was thrown out the window. He considered it primal instinct, something you cannot avoid, something deeper than marriage. Your children always come first.

In the
Belly to Baby classes Sandra and I attended this past weekend (which I highly recommend), I watched at least six different DVD births. Each and every one of them was beautiful and remarkable. And I get this sense that I'm realizing what my poet friend was talking about. This instinct is so immense and yet I only feel twinges of it right now. Even if I were callous enough to want to put writing in front of my children, I do not think I would be able to. When the bambino finally arrives, after all the labour and work my dear wife will go through, there will not be any doubt about priorities. And it may not be a matter of sacrifice. Writing is influenced by experiences. And this will be an unforgettable one, I'm sure.


Ken Dyck said...

Ever thought of combining the two? Write about the experience of becoming and being father?

There's a blog that I read called Dooce by Heather Armstrong. It's a classic blog in the sense that she writes about what's going on in her life. You know, whatever. But every month she writes these letters to her 3-year-old daughter about what happened in the preceding month. It sounds like it should be dry, but it's actually surprisingly engaging and has become my favourite regular feature of the blog. I mean, I'm not a parent and I still enjoy it. Here's the latest installment.

Anyways, she writes. She spends time with her kid. She combines her passions into something pretty amazing.

So there you have one example of somebody who has managed to combine parenting and writing.

I'm not suggesting that you need to copy Dooce or start a baby blog or anything like that. What I would suggest is that it might not be an either-or proposition. Maybe you don't need to choose one over the other. Maybe there's some way to do both.

Just a thought.

Harry Tournemille said...

Yes, you are spot on with your comment there, Kenneth. That is precisely what I want to do. I checked out the Dooce blog and it is superb. I added it to my RSS feeds so I remember to read it often. Thanks for the feedback.

Kent said...

Hi Harry. I'm pretty sure you're only 32! I'll talk to you soon.