In March, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Maria Odessky Rosen’s essay, In Search of a New Writing Nook. We asked readers to tell us about their favorite writing nook and how they discovered it. Below is Susie Aybar’s response.
Confessions of a Car Nap Writer
by Susie Aybar
When I was a new mother, finding time and space to write seemed impossible. Just getting my colicky, firstborn son to sleep was a daunting challenge. The parenting book said he should sleep in his crib, but he never would. So, feeling a small wave of guilt each time, I strapped my infant son into his car seat, and together we set out for his daily nap.
As I drove on the winding roads circling our upstate New York town, listening to “Freddy the Teddy Bear” for the umpteenth time, my son’s cries reluctantly gave way to sleep. In the summer and fall, leafy trees leaned over the road, covering the car in shade and lulling him to slumber.
With my son asleep at last, I pulled my Acura MDX into the parking lot of the A&P grocery store. There I sat with windows open in the summer and closed in the winter, an extra blanket on my son when it was chilly. When I opened my laptop, I was free to write in my own silent bubble. Here at last was peace and space to write.
Back then, I took online writing classes. After my second son arrived, I entered a graduate writing program at night at a local college, filling myself with Fitzgerald’s fiction, Frost’s poetry, Lahiri’s short stories, and Kincaid’s nonfiction.
I took one class each semester, spending most afternoons during naptime writing. My car changed to a blue Honda Odyssey minivan. My second son became my backseat companion and eventually my third son took his place. I wrote half a young adult novel—mostly in the minivan.
My screen glimmered as I focused on picking the perfect words, debating their strength and specificity. I didn’t have time to polish the writing. Nor did I have time to worry it wasn’t good enough. My doubts and insecurities would have to wait until all three kids went to school and I could sit alone in my real office with four walls and write with no kids crying, needing a diaper change, or refusing sleep.
When that day finally arrived, and I had finished my MFA, I often stared at the blank computer screen. Without the structure and deadlines of a weekly class, I lost my habit of writing daily. After ten minutes, I might decide the closet in the back hall needed cleaning out or I had to wash the boys’ baseball uniforms.
These days I freelance, writing health articles at my desk, a logical spot. I have a room of my own just for writing. It’s strange to think I couldn’t wait for the parking-lot writing sessions to end. Now I wish I could go back to those desperate days of writing in the car, when I was held captive by my kids’ sleep schedules—back to the days when the novel was certain to be finished because I was a prolific car nap writer.
Susie Aybar received her MFA from Manhattanville College. Her poetry has appeared in Inkwell and Balanced Rock: The North Salem Review. She writes for Westchester Senior Voice and facilitates a “Healing Through Writing” class for people affected by cancer at Gilda’s Club. She lives in New York with her husband and three sons.