I am staying with my mother for two weeks, specifically to work, the idea being that I can put in many hours a day without the interruptions I usually have at home.
It sounds simple, but it isn't. It is my mother, and it is my writing. Can the two be in the same place at the same time?
"I hate your voice," my son used to say to me. I understood. There's nothing quite like your mother's voice. For better or worse, you're sensitive to it. And yes, sometimes hate it--particularly when it is calling up the stairs. Particularly when it interrupts.
At this point in my life, I can recognize the flash of rage, and neutralize it. My mother is old and she's not going to change now. I will miss her when she's gone--if she dies first. I want to spend time with her. But is this a place to write? Really?
So many writers have gone to live with their mothers to get their work done. I am thinking particularly of Gustave Flaubert, Flannery O' Connor, and Eudora Welty. How did that go? Did they struggle to maintain an equilibrium? Did they feel supported? Did they offer support? Did they ever feel undermined, if only by the past?
One thing I do imagine; that living with their mothers put them in touch with some deep feelings.
I speak for myself, but I find it both difficult and compelling to be with my mother and writing at the same time. The fantasy of no interruptions is a laugh. She moves around the house, and I know exactly her gestures and expressions, and that knowledge comes with waves of associations. Do I want to go ahead and think about about them or do I spend energy tying them off? Then there are all the things I want to do for her before I go back, as well as the day to day of dishes and laundry. She's very independent, but I feel like I should keep her company. And we have my two dogs and one of my cats, her two dogs and her cat in the house--with all their many needs and desires. It's complicated!
But I have gotten lots of work done. It never feels like much in a day--I always think I have written nothing--but it adds up. I am still inside this book, feeling it, and haven't yet stepped outside and judged it or thrown it out. The large plot I had in mind is naturally breaking down to the smaller step by step moments that move the whole shabang forward. My back and shoulder are in incredible pain from this table and chair, but something's happening.
Once I pressed Flannery O'Connor on a student. She came back to me saying she didn't know what to make of it--was it even fiction? It was so much like her own mother. Oh. That wasn't the part of the stories I'd focused on, or what I was thinking about FOC. Suddenly whoosh! I could see where she got her sense of humor, where she'd need it.
My mother is relatively easy to be around, but she's still my mother. She's nervous that I'm writing about her. No, I'm not. I'm staying with her. That's a whole different story.