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Ruth Baxter

Picture Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter," sitting in the middle of her kitchen with her guitar, trying to write a song while her kids climb all over her. Now, put Sissy in front of a 17-inch Sony monitor, banging on her keyboard, trying to write a story while her kids climb all over her. That's me.

I've been a writer longer than I've been a mother, but I'm a writer again because of the kids. Certainly, that hallucinatory state that comes with long-term sleep deprivation is fertile ground for story ideas. That is, if you don't mind your main characters suddenly changing into four-slice toasters right before they proclaim their undying love. I don't know why anyone spends money on drugs when sleep deprivation is absolutely free.

Ruth BaxterDid I mention I have kids? Three of them, under the age of five. I didn't even start having them until I had gone through my 20s as a single person. Before kids, I was a newspaper reporter, a P.R. writer, a copy editor, a grad student, and a teacher. I had hobbies: guitar playing, reading, hiking, tall ship sailing. I had dates, relationships, romance, a career. Now I'm not working "outside the home," which means that I've also got no hobbies, few dates, and little romance with a relationship that is hobbling along the best it can. I do still read as much as possible. Paperbacks work best when rocking a baby.

I could get one of those Dr. Laura t-shirts that say so proudly, "I Am My Kids' Mom." But this is readily apparent to anyone who can match up the stains on my daughter's bib to the big splotch on my left shoulder.

The great thing about stay-at-home motherhood - which is physically grueling when you're toting a 20-pound baby around all the time -- is that it's full of mental downtime, time to daydream and create. It builds up all day long until the kids go to bed and I can finally sit still and get some of it down in writing. Thus, sleep deprivation sustains itself and my idea file never runs out of inspiration.

It's what gets me through my days. I hope Loretta would be proud.

You can contact me at rbaxter@tenet.edu.

Ruth Baxter's writing on Conversely

Listed from the most recent.

I like Ben - who loves Catherine, who loves Robert - but nobody loves me. Date: 05/1/01

In Real Life
Years later, she still wishes what might have been. A story about a not-entirely unrequited love.  Date: 11/1/00

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