There’s Never a Right Time to Begin
Every weekday morning at approximately 5:07 I light a candle. Sometimes it’s a hand-poured, essential oil-infused, organic soy wax candle from a pop-up farmers’ market. Sometimes it’s a grocery store paraffin wax candle that I threw into my cart because it was on sale for two-ninety nine and the fragrance wasn’t Cat Litter Box in July.
As long as it burns, I’m not picky.
The candle is part of my morning ritual. The flame signals to my brain that it’s time to write and it reminds me of the mantra I developed for myself after a year or so of struggling to gain traction in my writing practice while also mothering two small children full time.
I am not trying to set the world on fire. This is my kindling season. My intention is to keep the flame alight.
For the past three years, along with essays, blog posts and a few pieces of short fiction, I’ve been writing a YA contemporary novel that I’ve wanted to walk away from more times than I can count. More than anything, it’s habit that keeps me going. Get out of bed. Turn off the alarm. Make the coffee. Light the candle. Power up the laptop. Type.
Some days I’ll write a page or two of my novel, but usually I only write a few sentences which I’ll later delete. Often times I’ll end a writing session with fewer words than I started with, not necessarily a good thing since I’m drafting, not editing.
Regardless of how much I’ve managed to write during my candlelit communion with my creativity, each and every session ends the exact same way. My older kid wakes up, full of needs, and storms into my writing space demanding my attention. I’ll stare at the unfinished manuscript open on my screen one last time in an attempt to grasp the utterly brilliant, completely nebulous thought I can almost hear sucking back into the ether.
And when I’m swallowing down my agitation over having to stop writing before I am actually done writing, my inner critic — let’s call her Debbie — always chimes in.
“Is now really the right time to be doing this?”
“Wouldn’t it be less painful if you waited until they were in school?”
“All of these unfinished projects are making you unhappy.”
“Think of all the uninterrupted hours you’ll have one day.”
“You don’t have to torture yourself.”
“There’s a better time to begin something new.”
If I sit there long enough, Debbie will drone on and on. And just when I start thinking maybe Debbie has a point, that now might not be the exact right time to be doing this, my kid will jump on my lap and blow out my candle.
“I’m sorry I blew out your candle, Mommy,” my son will say, grinning as though he’s not sorry at all. “Now the house won’t burn down.”
I’ll smile, ruffle his hair and say, “thanks, honey.”
“Can you light it now so I can do it again?” he’ll say.
“Tomorrow,” I’ll say.
Then he’ll run to the kitchen for breakfast, trusting that he’ll get yet another chance to save my life again tomorrow.