Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites.com, and a writer herself, recounts a moment of inspiration for her new novel Wishful Thinking. “I remember at one point I was late for pick-up, I had my bag on my shoulder, I was carrying a violin and running, but not like running in a metaphorical sense. I’m actually running.” It soon became a scene: the heroine, Jennifer, a divorced, working mom, finds herself running to work. Wicoff wanted to capture “This is sort of madness — those kinds of moments where the feeling is like I need to be in all these places and how do I prioritize in any given moment the choice I have to make?”
The answer for Jennifer is that she gets an app that allows her to be in two places at once. When she’s got that version of mommy’s little helper, she becomes the top performer at work, investing as much time as she needs to, and she’s the supermom who’s there every day for school pick-up, and showing up at every event.
Of course, there’s a rhythm to this sort of tale, and the app could never turn out to be unmitigated good. Then we wouldn’t have a plot, which would be a real problem in a novel. And so we see that life still requires choices and eventually the heroine makes her peace with the world as it is.
I wanted to interview Kamy about this because, while her book is certainly a fun and thoughtful read to stick in the beach bag, as long-time readers know, I take some issue with literature that indulges in what I call a Recitation of Dark Moments. It is the scene in I Don’t Know How She Does It of the executive distressing pies to make them look homemade. Why do we wallow in these moments of crazy? The epiphany is often that something needs to change, and yet when I look at time diaries, I see that life is vast. It is often possible to be a great performer at work and do school pick-up (at least on some days). Does this really require an app?
Kamy gamely chatted about the idea. The opening line, she notes, is that “Jennifer Sharpe had always dreamed of being two people,” and Kamy says that “I remember distinctly having that feeling as a girl.” Her mom was a stay-at-home mom, and she really admired her. Her aunt was a hard-charging career woman and, in her child’s view of it, fell into an entirely different category. “I had a bit of a false sense of the starkness of this choice,” she says, and so Jennifer inherits some starkness too. But “Now I see it all around me, lots of my women friends, lots of my male friends doing it and it works,” says Kamy. Jennifer discovers that life can work too, app or not.
I can’t say that I have a whole lot of moments of desperately wishing I could be in two places. I can see that Jennifer, as a single mom, might feel that sting a bit more if she can’t as easily send the other parent, and since she works for a boss. Part of solo self-employment is choosing where you invest your time, and so I do feel like I have chosen to be where I am. That’s my philosophy of time generally. If I want to go to something for my professional life, I generally have the ability to trade off time with my husband or find a sitter and go. I may lament that I often don’t, because it seems like a pain, but that’s a choice. I do a lot of kid stuff. Indeed, one of the lessons from my time log is that I’m working less than in the past because I do kid stuff during the work day. Perhaps I sometimes wish I could be scoring more me time and sleeping simultaneously. I imagine that I’d like to take a grand European tour while also being home as it would require a lot of work to find childcare for multiple weeks. But I also know that all the most amazing, accomplished people in the world have the exact same 168 hours per week as the rest of us. Probably the time is there for whatever I want. That grand tour will happen someday.
I think the time is there in Kamy’s life too. People often talk to each other comparing the crazy, but when I asked her to describe her previous day, it sounded quite nice and balanced. She went to a non-profit board meeting. She did some work and practiced sports with her kids after school. Then she hosted a dinner party for friends, and “It was a great day,” she says. “Dinner was delicious.” And none of it required being in two places at once.
If you could be in two places at once, which places would they be?
In other news: This is the first in what might become an occasional series of “Fiction Fridays.” From promoting my own novel, I know that there are not a lot of outlets that cover fiction and so I’d like to help address that in some small way. I welcome suggestions; the books don’t have to deal with time. That was just a lucky coincidence!