February 14, 2020 § 23 Comments
By Sandra Ebejer
I was sitting on the floor of my too-cluttered office, flipping through magazines in the name of “research,” when my six-year-old walked into the room.
“What are you doing, Mommy?”
“I’m just looking at magazines.”
“Oh, right, so you can try to make them better.”
My son is enormously proud of my work. Despite having never read my writing, he is staunch in his conviction that my talent is unparalleled and it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.
I will admit I’m an ace when it comes to bedtime stories. Our nightly routine involves him providing me with two characters, typically superheroes, and me conjuring up some tale of good overcoming evil. He makes these caped crusaders as ludicrous as possible (“The bad guy is Captain Singer, who sings horribly, and the good guy is Super Fish Man, who uses fish as his powers”), and is astounded when I instantly pull together a yarn that would make Dav Pilkey weep. (For the unfamiliar, Pilkey is the author of the Captain Underpants and Dog Man series, and perhaps the only writer my son feels could rival my artistry.)
When he leaves for school in the morning, he asks what I plan to write that day. When he returns home six hours later, he expects to find a newly-completed novel on the kitchen counter—printed, bound, and wrapped in a full-color cover with my photo on the back. So far, I’ve staved off his disappointment by telling him books take a really, really long time to write but once I’ve finished my novel, he’ll be the first to read it.
The truth, though—what I can’t bring myself to tell him—is that Mommy hasn’t started writing a book. In fact, Mommy may never start writing one because much of the time, she feels like a hack.
Most days, I rarely accomplish anything. I’m busy, but it’s an empty, hollow busy that doesn’t equate to a sense of fulfillment or achievement. I would love to share the reality of my career with my little one, but what could I possibly say?
“Honey, writing is challenging and the idea of tackling an entire book scares Mommy to death. See, Mommy has nearly 70 drafts of essays, articles, and short fiction saved on her computer, most of which will probably never be finished. While you’re reading fun chapter books at school, Mommy is spending her time submitting pitch after pitch to editors and then hitting refresh on her browser in the hopes that just one of them will respond. When they don’t, Mommy drowns her sorrows in chocolate and famous author rejection letters, telling herself that if J.K. Rowling could make it big after being snubbed hundreds of times, then dammit, she will too. Then Mommy pops on over to Twitter to share her newfound, albeit brief, spark of confidence with her fellow #WritingCommunity members, ignoring the irony of crafting a Tweet about perseverance as a way to avoid actual writing. Then Mommy repeats the process. So, see, honey? A book is a bit out of Mommy’s league right now.”
I don’t want to tell my son this is how I spend my time. I can’t tell him Mommy is racked with crippling self-doubt and a persistent fear that her work will never be published. At least not until he’s in third grade.
So, for now, I hide my truth. My son thinks Mommy is writing a book. He thinks Mommy is fixing the magazines. He thinks Mommy is, and I quote, “The best storyteller in the world.”
Why ruin that narrative? I’ll go on playing the role of full-time writer extraordinaire. I’ll continue imbuing his made-up characters with life and craft bedtime stories full of tension, rich descriptions, and as much of a narrative arc as I can muster, given the limitations of a fish-wielding superhero. I won’t shush him when he tells his friends and teachers that “Mommy’s writing is in all the newspapers,” and I’ll nod and smile when he asks how my book is coming along.
I’ll let him continue to think I’m a top-notch writer whose talents know no bounds.
Because maybe, slowly, his unconditional confidence in my abilities will rub off on me, and someday I’ll think these things, too.
Sandra Ebejer lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, and two cats who haven’t figured out how to get along. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, FLOOD Magazine, The Girlfriend from AARP, Motherfigure, Folks, 50-Word Stories, and Across the Margin. Read more of her work at www.sandraebejer.com.