Sunday, July 13, 2008

WHY ARE MADRID CAFÉS SO FULL OF SMOKE?

A writer’s efforts to balance creativity and pregnancy in the heart of Spain

Vivian Watson

Who I was

A few weeks ago I was still me. Life was good. I had a dream and I was pursuing it. The novel I’d been working on for years was finally complete, and the revision process felt like play. Everyday I’d walk to the National Library after work. A part of me delighted on the beautiful streets of Madrid, the flowers on the balconies, the busy cafés, the sunshine. But a deeper part of myself was already splashing around my story, watching the characters busily living their lives, making love, daydreaming, arguing. I’d arrive at the library in a dreamy state of mind, as if crossing the bridge to that other world, so it was easy to get carried away in my writing as soon as I switched my laptop on.

The Spanish National Library is a beautiful, magnificent 18th century building. In the main reading room the names of the Spanish greatest classical writers are spelt out high on the walls, as if Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora were silent guardian angels watching over you as you work. They knew I was writing a novel and not working on a PhD thesis. And I’d wonder how many fellow library users were writers too, and not students or researchers. Sometimes I knew one or two writers in the room but most of the times it was just me, the silence, the Greats, and the little secret I shared with them. My novel, growing slowly, taking shape. What more could I ask for?

So you can imagine my surprise when that Friday afternoon I arrived at the library, switched on my laptop, Chapter 5 appeared on the screen, and I immediately felt sick with a rancid feeling, the kind of disgust you feel at the smell of garbage. What was going on? Was it my stomach? Indigestion, maybe? No. It was the work in front of me. My novel made me retch.

That was my very first pregnancy symptom, although I didn’t know it then. And now everything has changed completely. Yes, I’m happy, of course, I’ve always wanted to have children, but that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t know who I am anymore. My novel, my writing, my creativity are no longer priorities, and that’s not something I consciously chose. It just happened. I’ve made an effort to keep working on my book, but the enthusiasm is gone. I’d rather surf the web for baby stuff and pregnancy forums.

No more evenings out drinking wine and discussing the literary life with my writer friends in smoke-filled cafés. No more wine. No more smoke. No more cafés. So what’s the point of living in Madrid anyway? And who is this new woman emerging in me? Will I ever be the same again? Will I be able to finish my novel and continue writing while changing diapers and heating bottles? Will I still have my own dreams?

My guess is, I will. But until I can integrate this new woman I’m becoming with what’s left of my old self, I can only guess. This is a journey, an adventure. I’m a writer, so I’ll write about it. Been there? Drop me a line! And stay tuned if you want to see how this story ends. After all, this is just the beginning. *Sigh*.

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Vivian Watson is a Venezuelan prize-winning journalist, writer and storyteller currently revising her first novel while pregnant with her first child. She lives in Madrid with her husband. She collaborates with the music blog Blue Monk Moods http://www.bluemonkmoods.com and has her own blog (in Spanish): http://sopotocientos.blogia.com. You can drop her a line at
watson.vivian@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Great post Vivian, I look forward to finding out what happens to you 'in the end'.