Recently, I read a description of a popular novelist’s daily routine. It went something like this:
She wakes up in the morning and greets the day with a few sun salutations, flawlessly executed on a deck overlooking a meadow bursting with flowers, apparently no matter the season. She then dons a silk robe and slippers and sashays to the kitchen to fix a pot of Earl Grey tea, served in a lovely Wedgewood cup and saucer. A blueberry scone, freshly baked of course, accompanies the tea because every good writer knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
After eating, this queen of romance sits down at her desk and, gazing upon the same flower filled meadow I mentioned earlier, she writes for three hours. The reward for this burst of creative output is a gourmet lunch, complete with greens from her half-acre organic garden, followed by a brisk walk outside in the sun and fresh air. Sometimes she meets friends along her winding country road and always stops to chat. Authors must be mindful of communication with actual living people, lest their neighbors begin to mistake them for the undead or something equally unappealing.
After the walk, it’s back to that big old oak desk for three more hours of work. Of course, late afternoon isn’t complete without a hot rock massage, a mani/pedi or an extract of seaweed facial. It’s important to take the edge off at the end of a stressful day.
Most evenings, our author spends alone, maybe with an old romantic comedy or a few chapters of the latest bestselling novel. She goes to bed early, recognizing how important a good night’s sleep is when saddled with such a grueling daily routine.
Reading this, I laughed so hard that coffee came out of my nose. The kids went and hid in their rooms. I wasn’t laughing because I thought what she described was particularly funny. No. It was more laughter of the hysterical variety; the kind that bursts out when you glimpse a life so orderly and refined you immediately begin to drool but also recognize it is one hundred percent beyond your grasp.
I’m the author of two novels about a stay-at-home mom who used to be a spy for the U.S. government, currently bundled into a single book titled Spy Mom. I am halfway through the third entry in that series, as well as knee deep in several other projects. I have two young children. And a husband. And a house. And one very old cat.
This is what my day looks like:
I wake up in the dark to exercise, because if it doesn’t happen by sun-up, it doesn’t happen – and I need to stay healthy so I have some chance of finishing my ‘to do’ list before I die.
I return from the gym to find children sitting on the couch, not so patiently waiting for breakfast. I make coffee, empty the dishwasher, put the laundry in the dryer, making note of the unfolded Everest sized pile of clean clothes now occupying the whole of my hallway. When did that happen? Probably when I was volunteering in my son’s first grade classroom. Or driving my daughter’s field trip. Or relaxing at the new day spa here in town. Okay, maybe not that one. But I like the idea. I really do.
I flip pancakes, pack lunchboxes and bark orders about wearing socks that match, all the while watching the clock count down the minutes until we are officially late for school.
Zipping homework into backpacks, we race out the door. The final warning bell rings as we skid into an illegal parking place.
“Go fast,” I say. The kids floor it, crossing the finish line into their classrooms just as the doors close.
Heading back to my car, I wave hello and good-bye to a handful of lingering parents. Those who know me understand why I don’t stop to chat. Those who don’t think there must be something wrong with me and hope their kids don’t decide to be best friends with my kids, because who wants to go on a play date with a crazy person?
Finally, I slide into a seat at the coffee shop where I like to write. As I flip open my laptop, my whole body exhales. My shoulders relax, my mind clears and I enter a world of spies and bad guys, a world nothing like the one in which I live. I will stay here for three hours. On the other side of these hours more chaos awaits, but I wouldn’t trade the rich, mad fabric of my life for even a single day of peace and facials.
Well, maybe just one.
About Beth McMullen
Beth McMullen graduated from Boston University with a degree in English Literature and received an MLS from Long Island University. After landing a gig with Reader’s Digest, she eventually realized she’d rather write books than condense them.
She lives in Davis, California, with her husband and their two children. Visit her website at bethmcmullen.com.
In time for beach bags everywhere comes Beth McMullen’s SPY MOM: The Adventures of Sally Sin (Hyperion Trade Paperback Original, on sale 6/12/2012) featuring a two-in-one special with last summer’s release Original Sin and the never-before-published To Sin Again. Readers get twice the international intrigue, twice the sass of mom and super-spy Sally Sin, and (we apologize) twice the dirty diapers.
Raising a child is hard enough without having to save the world too, but Sally Sin handles the rogue nations, arms dealers, sandbox wars, and toddler melt downs with the right amount of calm, grace, and jiu-jitsu each one requires. Funny, fast-paced, and compulsively readable, SPY MOM offers action-packed adventure for mothers and spies, and anyone who has ever dreamed about being either.