Being A Writer Has Made Me A Bad Wife, Dog Mom, Housekeeper & Employee

Writing takes up a lot of mental real estate.

You need room for characters to be born and mature. You’re always observing–people, the environment, situations–for beautiful descriptions, interesting turns of phrase, or plot inspiration.

If you’re outlining or revising a story, your mind is completely overtaken by the minutiae of perfecting your plot. Without warning, an idea will come to you–perhaps in the middle of a conversation–and you have to stop what you’re doing to write it down before if flies away.

If you’re a writer, you’re always lost in those made-up worlds, oft-times oblivious to the real one around you. And that’s why being a writer has made me suck at life just a little.

I’m an absentee wife. Neglectful dog mom. Distracted employee. And a really crappy housekeeper.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Your marriage! Care to join me?

People with busy minds need exterior calm.

Seriously–I have entire worlds unfolding in my head. Characters being born, then talking. To each other and to us. Works in progress, playing in my subconscious. Visions–of faces, or homes, or entire plots–that pop in and out like intrusive neighbors.

So when my dear spouse has a story to tell, or a problem, or simply wants to go do something, I may not be in any condition to listen, advise, or leave the house.

Of course, the natural state of the writer isn’t a comatose, selfish, and temperamental pain in the ass. That’s just how we feel when we’re in revision mode. Or waiting for our editors to return a manuscript. Or trying to work through a thorny plot issue.

So just don’t just burst in, interrupting my characters’ very important conversations. Wait a minute. Let me take a breath, calm my mind and prepare myself for real-world activities.

Given this preoccupation, I simply may not be emotionally available at a moment’s notice. And that’s not very convenient, nor does it make me a very good partner. But of all the shortcomings I try to mitigate, this is the one I work at the hardest.

‘Want to play mom?’ the dog pleaded. ‘Just one more minute!’ the writer answered.

Violet, the redbone coonhound, is just over a year old. When she was little, we spent our mornings in my office, where I write. She was a rambunctious, very energetic and mischievous puppy. She’s still all those things, but now thirty pounds heavier.

She went through this phase where she wanted to play but didn’t know how to ask. So she’d sit in the middle of the floor and stare at me while barking incessantly. Or she’d tug on my clothes–sleeve, hem of a dress, pant leg.

That phase has passed. She asks to place nicely now. But it’s often when I’m writing, since that was the routine from her puppy days. We’ll tug, we’ll play catch. I’ll indulge her for maybe five minutes, then I’ll turn back around to my computer.

If it’s not enough, she’ll ask again and again, until she’s all played out.

I never say no to play time. But I always stop it before she’s ready, because I’m on a deadline, self-imposed or determined by my editor. I write in the mornings, and need a break before I go to work. This writing time is precious, and I only have so much left over to play.

And every time I cut fetch or tug short, I feel guilty.

Writing, then work

My day job is perfect for writing.

It’s easy. It requires little mental energy. It’s (usually) stress-free. I work at the family business, a very busy restaurant that serves pizzas, subs, and wings. I run the kitchen, manage the employees.

My mind is able to wander while frying wings or rolling pizza dough. I can mine the customers for character quirks, and use their personal stories for inspiration. And it gets me out of my head and into the world, doing something physical. That’s important for a writer.

I work with my husband and in-laws. I’m allowed to be on my phone, which is the life line to my creative world. I can jot down ideas that pop into my head. Receive emails from my editor. Do some quick, furtive research.

My job is second in my list of professional priorities. I’m never fully present when I’m there–I always have one foot in my imaginary world. I care about my job, in so far as I appreciate its value in supporting my writing career.  Though I enjoy it, immensely, I’d still rather be writing.

Writing comes first. It’s a good thing I work with family, because chances are, anyone else would fire me.

Move over life, I’m trying to be creative

Here’s a list of things that need to be done in my house.

Clean the fridge. There’s some sticky stuff on the shelf. It’s been there for a long time and I have no idea what it is.

Organize the cupboards. They’re full of crap I don’t remember buying.

Clean my office. It’s a mess; there are piles and piles of random stuff everywhere.  I wonder what’s hiding beneath them…

Sweep my floors. The aforementioned redbone is expert at making messes. I need to start cleaning them up.

I could go on, but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a hog. I’m not. I keep my house just clean enough. That’s what I have time for. It doesn’t stink, I keep up with the dishes and cleaning the bathrooms. It’s fine.

But could it be cleaner? Yes. Absolutely. Do I have time? Maybe next week…

Despite all my failings at life, I’d argue that it’s a small price to pay for what I’ve achieved. Three books under my belt, soon to be published, and I think they’re pretty darn good.

And after all the damage I’ve probably done, my husband and dog still love me for some reason, and the house will get cleaned.

Eventually.

Click here to read the first three chapters of my book, “Wicked Innocents.”

Seven Ways Criminals Would Use Magical Powers to Wreak Havoc on the World

Where there is a human problem, someone has devised a magical incantation to deal with it.

If it actually worked, magic would be the easy way out. Human beings love the easy way out, the simplest route around an obstacle. I know I do. If I had a choice between working hard to get what I want and flicking a wand and having it appear, I’m not ashamed to admit I’d flick that wand.

I’d use spells to clear acne, stop a stomachache, ensure safe passage for traveling relatives, or make me speak another language fluently. I’d definitely use the one that allows me to teleport or be invisible. I wouldn’t think twice about it.

And because I’m a (relatively) good person, I’d like to believe that, should I be blessed with magical powers, I wouldn’t use those powers to do bad things, like curse those who scorn me with dandruff, bunions and red traffic lights.

Let’s imagine for a moment that magic is a natural ability one is born with and can’t acquire. This ability is gifted randomly, meaning to both good and bad people. It’s a chaotic and unpredictable ability, wielded by creatures with free will in a society that values individual rights.

Think of all the extra precautions and security measures that would have to be in place to prevent magically-facilitated crimes. Citizens could never let your guard down or relax, because at any moment anyone could be victimized.

And you know the victims would most certainly be the easiest, most vulnerable targets: people who were not blessed with magical powers and can’t really fight back.

As wonderful as Harry Potter makes it look, I think a world with magic would be an absolute nightmare. In that world, anyone could get anything they want, any time.

Including criminals.

A world with magic would be a world rife with crime, because the obstacles preventing or stymieing crime wouldn’t exist. Magical powers meant for good would also be used for evil.

With this philosophy in mind, I’ve devised a rather grim list: seven hypothetical spells/incantations/charms that would most certainly be used to commit crime.

A Spell To Overcome Barriers

Without magic, burglars have to pick locks, break windows, or pry open doors to gain access to your home. That trail of destruction is a trail of evidence, leading back to the perpetrator.

Imagine a world where this criminal can just mutter a few nonsense words and the lock to your door simply unlatches for him. Or perhaps the window glass silently melts away and climbs right in. I couldn’t sleep soundly in such a world.

A Spell That Makes Objects Come to You

I’d use this one to fetch the remote control without getting up. Because I’m lazy.

The more criminally-minded would use it to lift your wallet from your pocket. Float your laptop off your desk and through an open window. Surreptitiously steal your prescription narcotics right from your medicine cabinet.

If a magical thief wants something, and there’s an open path to get it, he’d certainly use this spell.

A Spell To Slow People Down

In a foot chase with police, a criminal would have an advantage thanks to this spell. He could just flick his wand over his shoulder and recite the words and boom–the cop’s legs buckle beneath him and he falls to his knees. The criminal’s escape from the law is assured.

Or, alternately, a criminal is attacking a victim who’s just a little too feisty for his own good. He just uses this spell to slow him down and the victim is unable to defend himself. Perfect. The criminal is free to complete his felony without further impediment.

A Spell To Teleport Or Become Invisible

I would use teleportation to travel. Think of the money saved on airplane tickets!

But once again, being able to teleport from one location to another in a split second would just make the criminal’s life easier. With this power, he can leave the scene of a crime without a trace. He can get out of dodge, mid-misdeed, as soon as the police arrive.

As to being invisible–the advantages there are obvious. How easy would it be for a serial killer to stalk a victim if the killer couldn’t be seen? How hard it would be for a victim to fight back against an invisible attacker? And forget about witnesses. They can’t report what they can’t see.

A Spell to Wipe Memories

This is the perfect power to cover your tracks. If, somehow, the criminal’s powers of invisibility don’t work, he could simply wipe the witness’s memory. He could wipe the memories of the victims who remember critical details or the detectives close to tracking him down. He could wipe the memory of everyone who ever knew him and navigate society anonymously.

A Spell To Cause Pain

The violent magical criminal could cause physical pain in one of two ways, neither of which would require him to lay a hand on his victim. Unless that’s his thing, of course.

He could inflict pain that doesn’t leave a mark, igniting his victim’s sensory receptors and nerves from a comfortable distance, as much or as little as he wants. Or he could recite a spell that slashes and cuts and stabs flesh, or restricts airways without using his hands.

No physical contact means no physical evidence. It would be as if his victims were killed by a phantom.

A Spell to Control Someone’s Mind

While you could use any other of these spells for benign reasons–to lazily fetch the remote, travel to Paris, or cut veggies–this one doesn’t have an innocent application. If you want to manipulate someone else’s mind, no matter the reason, you’re simply up to no good.

Such a criminal could convince a detective to investigate another suspect. Force an innocent person to commit crimes for him. Create more willing victims. Or convince others that his crimes aren’t crimes at all.

So, to conclude, I don’t wish for a world filled with magic. If somehow mankind evolved enough to develop magical abilities, I think that would spell apocalypse. Call me cynical, but mankind must be limited.

Without the benefit of magical powers to make his plans easier to achieve, mankind has already wreaked havoc and destruction upon himself and the planet.

Let’s not give him magical powers, too.

Photo Courtesy Pexels

Click here to read the first three chapters of my book, “Wicked Innocents.”