Working Through Chaos

By now I’ve made the announcement of the Major Life Change that is buying a house. I was warned before the whole thing started that such an event is incredibly stressful, that I would plumb the bitter depths of despair, and generally that one does not simply walk into home-buying, that there was evil there that did not sleep.

I didn’t listen. Hell, I thought, I’ve written through several moves, two kids, a multiplicity of cats, several breakups and at least one divorce, not to mention death, car accident, crippling anxiety, grinding poverty, and lack of Cheerios. This can’t be any different.

Hoooooooooo boy. Was I ever wrong.

It wasn’t so much the fact that I was going to be signing away my soul for a significant chunk of change I would be paying back for decades. It was the incredible, titanic uncertainty of, day by day, jumping through one hoop after another only to find that as soon as I’d hopped through one, four more appeared. It was like being at the mercy of a sadistic beast never quite satisfied with one’s efforts, always asking for more.

Kind of, well, like publishing. Or taxes. But I digress.

My homebuying experience devolved into a nightmare (I know, that’s a pretty common thing to say) and during it all, I tried to keep writing. I forced myself to sit down daily. Sometimes I only got 200 words or so out; sometimes I would stare blankly at proof pages and look up at the pile of boxes in the living room–this was during the Saga Of Closing That Just Would Not End–and think, I cannot do this.

Really the only thing that kept me going was the consciousness of looming deadlines, and that if I didn’t make them, we don’t eat. My children have a fondness for eating, you see, and the dogs like their kibble. Plus, I was attempting to get a mortgage, so making the deadlines was a given. (If we ever frocking closed–I mean, come on, WE WERE ONLY GOING FOR A THREE-HOUR TOUR…)

Guarding one’s emotional energy so as to have some left over for writing is a difficult thing. Some days I sat for an hour or two and only had those pitiful two hundred words to show for it. If not for years of watering and feeding the habit of doing it every goddamn day, I’m not sure I would have survived. There were times I thought oh holy fuck, if I lose the words, if this keeps going, I am going to get through closing–IF I EVER DO–and then find out I can’t write anymore and we’ll lose the house and we will starve and the sun will go out and EVERYONE WILL HATE MEEEEE…

“You were a basket case,” my writing partner informed me wryly, during the move. “Sometimes I just wanted to drive over and thump you on the head to get you to stop.”

Even with pushing and shoving and whipping myself like Balaam’s donkey, I still had to bite the bullet and do something I’ve never done before. I had to call my agent and have her ask my publishers for extensions. Short ones, of course, and for books far out in the publishing cycle…but still. The terror of dealing with underwriters and title companies and loan processing received an extra fillip–the crushing fear that I was going to get a reputation as a flake or a Speshul Snoflake and never work in publishing again.

Drama, thy name is Lili.

Needless to say, my editors were fine with it. My agent told me to chill the fuck out (though much more politely) and that buying a house made even her eyes cross, and she reads contracts for a living. I tried to find it comforting, but there was such a burr under my saddle I’m not sure anything other than a tranquilizer dart or two would have worked. Plus a 2×4 upside the head, and half a dozen Valium for good measure.

I got through it. (Obviously.) Seriously behind and looking at months of ten to twelve hour days to catch up. The inside of my head is ringing and the trickle of energy I can divert from the massive expenditure that is daily life right now isn’t enough to both replenish batteries and use for writing. So I’m going to have to charge those batteries later, once the dust settles and the boxes are unpacked.

Frankly, I have this sneaking suspicion that home-buying and moving was the easy part, and the hard part is going to be even more jealously hoarding and guarding my time and energy so I can make the extended deadlines without my brain turning to curdled milk inside my aching skull.

Working through chaos is no picnic, and it is absolutely critical to make the commitment to guard the time and energy necessary to write. Habit is your best friend in that endeavor, which is why I keep ringing the bell and yelling that making that habit and strengthening it daily is by far the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself as a writer.

So yeah. Greeeeat. Fun times ahead, I can already tell…


  1. says

    I’m currently in the process of buying a house- on my own- and it’s been sooooooooo stressful. It’s been pretty smooth, for the most part not a lot of bumps, but Lord and Lady…as the closing date gets closer, the more I just want to scream. Trying not to give myself a damn ulcer!

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