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Joining the PTA As Writerly Self-Sabotage

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In his masterful book Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer writes at great length about not being able to write a book about D. H. Lawrence and, in the process, writes a book about D. H. Lawrence and about himself. There’s a bit of a novel thrown in there, too. It’s the holy grail of procrastination. All of this not-writing piles up, and miraculously a book emerges. Even more miraculously, Dyer gets to not-write on a beach on a Greek island.

I do my not-writing in a coffee shop in Park Slope for the hour and a half between dropping the kids off at school and starting my actual job. I do my not-writing at five in the morning, before everyone gets up and starts eating cereal, and looking for socks in my office, which is the living room and the dining room, too. Sometimes, in a desperate pinch, I do my not-writing on Saturday morning, hunching guiltily in the corner pretending that I’m not not-helping clean the apartment. Though I also have the gall on those occasions to bark furiously at anyone who has the temerity to approach my desk about borrowing scissors.

My daughter has taped a cheerful sign to the back of my chair: DON’T BOTHER ASKING MOMMY. SHE’S AT WORK. The “asking” has been artfully inserted as if by afterthought: Protect Mommy. Recriminate Mommy … Describe Mommy.

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