I’m on the motorway, with my kids in the backseat squabbling because one is breathing in a way that offends the others, or encroaches on their space, or some other crap excuse to argue, when a creative nugget hits me. Creativity is sometimes inconvenient in its arrival, but hey I’m just glad it’s arriving.
I repeat the creative nugget over and over again, mantra-style and hope that the escalating argument in the back seat doesn’t require intervention, because my brain has the retention capability of a toddler and I know that my nugget will slip through the door of creativity into the desert wasteland of writer’s drought before I can pull over safely and write it down.
In desperation, I involve the son next to me –the eldest, M12. He’s switched on enough to follow my instructions and transcribe my words onto the scribble app on my phone – my cache of awkwardly timed creative inspirations. My creative nugget will then be recorded with all the others in the app, and need never wander into the desert wasteland of writer’s drought.
Me: ‘I’ve just had a great idea and I need you write it down for me. Can you find my phone in my bag?’
M12: ‘What?’ He stares at me with pre-teen blankness.
I repeat myself, watching my epiphany strolling towards the desert wasteland. He rummages around in my bag and pulls out the tin of mints.
M12: ‘Oh, cool. Mentos. Can I have some?’
Me: ‘Yes, just get the phone out first, please.’
He rummages around a bit more.
M12: ‘Hey, look at this photo in your wallet. Is that me? I must be about six. Damn, I was cute. No wonder I’m your favourite.’
Me: ‘Yes, that’s you, now please, please, get to the scribble pad on my phone.’ Clearly, he’s not picking up on the urgency in my voice.
He rummages around for a very long time. The nugget-mantra is still in a holding pattern, but I can feel it slipping away.
M12: ‘Mum, I’ll take your silence as agreement that I am your favourite. I knew it!’
Me: ‘I don’t have a favourite. Where’s the phone?’
The distance between me and my nugget is increasing as it edges towards the desert wasteland. Meanwhile, M12 continues to rummage.
M12: ‘Have you and dad talked about my new surfboard for Christmas yet?’
Me: ‘No, not yet. Where’s my phone?’
By this stage I am antsy. The door of creativity is cracking open and I can see the desert wasteland from where I’m sitting in this bloody car on the motorway, with no hope of pulling over any time soon.
M12: ’Cos, you know, I love surfing. I’d use it all the time. I could even pay for some of it.’
Me: ‘Yes, yes, where’s the phone?’
M12: ‘So that’s a yes! Whoo-hoo!’
Me: ‘No, that’s not a yes. Where’s the phone?’
The nugget is fading ... fading ... fading...
M12: ‘Are you sure that wasn’t a yes?’ he says, with far too much confidence. ‘I think someone wants to say yes to her favourite son.’
From the backseat: ‘He’s your favourite? I thought I was!’
Me: ‘None of you are my favourite. I don’t have a favourite. Is there an ETA on that phone yet?’
M12 finally pulls the phone from the bag and turns it on. The nugget is leaving me; it’s going ... going...
Me: ‘Okay, write this down, word for word ...’
M12: ‘Righto, I’m ready. Hey Mum, what’s a schlong?’
Oh shit! I’d forgotten about the last nugget of I’d scribbled on that app.
Me: ‘Ahhh, nothing. It’s... (brain paralysis) nothing ...’
M12: ‘Kinda sounds German, s-c-h-l-o-n-g.’
Me: ‘Yeah, maybe. Now, write this down ...’
M12: ‘Hey boys,’ he calls to his brothers in the backseat, ‘what do you reckon a schlong is? I think it’s German.’
Oh sweet Jesus! I can’t wait for this to be discussed at the dinner table tonight.
M8: ‘Yeah, maybe it’s like a schnitzel.’
M6: ‘I like schnitzels.’
Me: ‘Yes, I think it is a kind of schnitzel. Now, write this down-‘
M10: ‘What’s the sentence? ‘M10 asks M12. ‘We might be able to work out what it is from the words around it.’
Context! What an insightful academic response, but this conversation has to stop. Immediately.
M12: ‘Good idea. It says, ‘While she was appreciative of his manscaping effort, she wasn’t convinced his schlong warranted such devotion –‘
Me: ‘No! No! No! Stop. Forget it, turn off the phone.’
M10: ’What’s manscaping?’
M12: ‘I think it’s when men do gardening.’
M8: ‘So we’ve got a schnitzel in a garden? Mum, that is one strange book you’re writing.’
M6: ‘I like gardens and schnitzels. He he he.’
Oh for gawd’s sake! I can only imagine the conversations they’ll have at school tomorrow. My preppiewill ask his teacher what a schlong is, and M10 will attempt to discuss manscaping during his class excursion to the volunteer coastal erosion group. M8 will write a story about a woman’s devotion to a schlong schnitzel. Wonderful. Here comes another nomination for Mother of the Year. My brain is overcrowded with the possible repercussions of this seemingly innocent conversation. My husband’s stunned silence when they ask him what a schlong is at dinner time. The phone call I will get from the school tomorrow querying my children’s vocabulary. The glares from other parents as they ask me why the hell I thought it was acceptable to use such language in front of my impressionable children- who have now taught their impressionable children the words ‘schlong’ and ‘manscaping’.
M12: ‘Okay mum, so what was it you wanted me to write down for you?’
Mental blank. Nothing. My creative nugget is gone. It’s followed the schlong schnitzel into the manscaped world of the desert wasteland of writer’s drought. The moral of this story – write your nuggets down with old fashioned pen and paper. It worked for Shakespeare and Bronte, so it should be good enough for me.