Wondering About Other Writers

Early in December, Kristen from Little Lodestar wrote a post called, 9 Things I Wonder About Other Writers, and it sparked quite the response. Turns out many other bloggers share her curiosity, myself included.

I love reading and writing about the creative process, and knew I’d soon have to add my own answers. Scroll all the way down for a list of everyone who has responded so far – if I missed anyone, please let me know in comments and I’ll add you to the list!

Here are my answers with Kristen’s questions in bold…

  1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? (I share with my husband something that I submit elsewhere only AFTER it’s been published, and I am pretty certain he does not read my blog 90% of the time.)

Not for blog posts. My husband actually has a good eye for typos (alas, I often don’t) but the idea of a snappy turnaround is foreign to him. I could give him a post and not hear back for weeks! So mostly he finds them after I publish…if he reads the post. But he is always my first reader for fiction.

  1. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it? (Comments from my family and friends, either online or in person, are overwhelmingly rare. I’m totally fine with that, but I am curious if this is the norm for others.)

Like many have said before me, this can be a sensitive issue if I let myself dwell, but the truth is, I don’t actually know. Some read my work, like my dad. He is so wonderfully supportive of my writing, as he has been my whole life. His girlfriend, the more computer savvy of the two, signed them both up for my newsletter and to follow my blog, which was very sweet.

My husband reads my blog in spurts. He’ll catch up and let me know about it, but usually not with any feedback. As far as close friends, I’m not sure, but if and when they do I’m grateful.

  1. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

Fortunately (or unfortunately?!) I don’t have that problem since I’m not currently submitting to many other publications, but it has happened a few times. I think when I was younger I would’ve been more likely to feel the sting of rejection and scrap it, but I realize now that sometimes a piece either hasn’t found the right home, or needs to be reworked/reconfigured in order to find one.

Of course there are times when you just have to say enough is enough, which I did with one essay I submitted. It was a piece I wrote for a mothering publication, one that had accepted a previous essay of mine. After getting the rejection, I realized I had been trying to write in a style that didn’t come naturally to me. It reminded me that it’s not about racking up a number of publications, but writing from my heart and in my own voice.

  1. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

I answered this above, but I think the second part of the question depends on the piece. Sure, there are times when you realize, okay this piece isn’t working and I should set it aside (I never delete! I just “hide” things on my hard drive). Then other times it’s a matter of reshaping and editing to make it the piece it should have been all along.

  1. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

I’m not a magazine person, though I used to read The New Yorker quite religiously (before I had kids, alas) and I have an on-off again relationship with Poets & Writers. But mostly, I keep up with essays and fiction via blogs. I use Bloglovin to keep track of them.

  1. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

Daily life, which sometimes includes things I read and hear about. I gather nubs of ideas like crumbs and scribble them into notebooks or on my phone. Sometimes a news headline will spark my attention, other times it’s a phrase or an image. I believe Dani Shaprio refers to it as the shimmer in her marvelous book, On Writing. You know it when you see it.

  1. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

Wow, this is a great question and I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’m drawing a blank. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like… Note to self, new year’s resolution, read more.

  1. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

I am loving and savoring Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and am about to give away a free copy! It’s the perfect book for any woman who has been in creative hibernation and is ready to come out, claws unsheathed.

women who run with the wolves

I’m still reading it because it’s not the kind of book you tear through, at least not for me. I read a few pages at night, or when I can steal a moment during the day, and her powerful words invigorate, inspire, and more often than not, give me chills.

The funny thing is, I tried to read it in college and failed. It was too dense or perhaps I wasn’t ready for her wisdom. But last year my dear friend Anastasia, an artist and writer, suggested I try again, and her recommendation was so persuasive and spine tingling, I ordered it right away.

I’ve since recommended it my friend Janice, an artist and jewelry maker, who coincidentally couldn’t get through it in her 20s either. So far I think she’s enjoying it. On her family holiday card she added this line on the back, which I loved so much I put it on my cork board in my office:

time of the wolf

  1. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? (Obviously we all grow as writers and looking back at our “clunkier” writing can be cringeworthy…that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean are there things you wish you hadn’t said out loud either because of what you said or how you said it. I’m not in this position right now, but some things I’d like to write about might get me there. And yet…how can I ignore those topics, you know?)

I have. It was content, and at the time I thought I was being sensitive to the person I was writing about, but turns out, not so much.

Without going into too much detail, I wrote about a personal experience with my daughter that was traumatic for my family, which occurred at a friend’s home. Months later I found out she had been terribly hurt by the post. Sadly to say, even after a heartfelt apology we are no longer close. I’ve since deleted it and am now more conscientious when writing about people in my life.

I wrote my reflections about that experience here.

I think there was a better way to write about what happened, and my advice to people is to pause before hitting “publish” – especially if it’s very soon after a traumatic event. I’m not talking about censoring controversial topics or strong opinions, but being cautious when our words may hurt the people we love.

Thank you Kristen for igniting this amazing ongoing dialogue with your wise and wonderful questions. Here is my additional question:

How do you balance blogging with other kinds of writing, if you happen to do both? (Or if you write for more than one blog.) Do you allot time for each? Do you feel guilty, like I sometimes do, when I choose to write a blog post over working on my albatross, I mean novel? Have you ever taken a blogging hiatus to finish a different project? I’m super curious to know how other writers deal with this, since finding a balance is a struggle for me.

Interested in sharing your behind the scenes writerly habits? If so, feel free to post your answers in comments or on your own blog. I will definitely come by and read them. 

Here is the list of bloggers who have answered Kristen’s questions. Please take a look, I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses! 

Nina Badzin

Lindsey Mead (A Design So Vast)

Lara Anderson (Joy, Lovely Joy)

Justine Uhlenbrock (Heirloom Mothering)

Andrea Jarrell

Stacey Loscalzo

Tricia Mirchandani (Raising Humans)

Rivki Silver (Life in the Married Lane)

Zsofia McMullin (Hunglish Girl)

Rebecca Klempner

Sarah Brentyn (Lemon Shark)

Being Rudri

A.F. Marcom

Evelyn Lauer

Katie Sluiter (Sluiter Nation)

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Recipe: Chocolate Mint Pretzel Bark and a Contest

*Congratulations to Yolanda, winner of Stephen King’s, “On Writing.” The last book I’m giving away is one of my favorites: “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. The winner will be chosen at random from my entire email subscription list. Sign up now to be eligible. (Scroll down for details.) 

So, as you are probably aware, it’s holiday crunch time. My daughter’s class party is tomorrow, there are teacher cards to write, last minute gifts to buy, and chocolate bark to eat, um, I mean make. Well, both.

peppermint pretzel bark

This is one of the easiest and fastest homemade holiday treats and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already. If not, I’m betting you have to go back to the grocery store anyhow. I know I do.

I posted a version of this recipe way back when on my other blog, which I’ve modified slightly and added new pics. The great thing about it is you can use whatever kind of candy or chocolate you want. I use gluten free pretzels because that’s what my family eats, but obviously you don’t have to. Mix up the salty and the sweet, or stick with sweet. I won’t judge.

This time I added marshmallows just because. Mini would’ve been easier because cutting them with a knife was a rather sticky and frustrating experience, but the good news is, it is possible.

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Bark with Marshmallows

peppermint bark close up

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags of semi sweet chocolate chips, 24 ounces
  • little less than half a bag of broken up pretzels (I used Snyder’s gluten free)
  • 8 regular sized candy canes (Bob’s brand is GF, btw) crunched up (set aside a handful)
  • about a cup of mini marshmallows or a handful of big ones cut up (optional)
  • 2 gallon size zip lock bags for candy cane crunching

*You can easily halve this recipe, but I needed A LOT so I went for it. In the end it filled 7 small gift bags.

bark gift bag close up

Notice that the measurements are approximate. Play with what you have. As long as you can pour the lumpy chocolate mixture on a sheet and smooth it out a bit, you’re good to go.

Directions:

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or wax) paper, set aside.

2. Put chips in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 second intervals. Check and stir after each 30 second increment. Be careful not to overcook. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny. Let sit for a minute or two while you smash candy canes and pretzels.

3. Break up the pretzels into pieces, not crumbs. Put candy canes in a zip lock bag and then ANOTHER zip lock (that’s two zip locks) and then hit with the back of a spoon to crunch up. If you use one bag you’ll risk breaking it and candy cane particles will fly all over the place. Not fun.

4. Add all pretzel bits and MOST of the candy cane pieces and marshmallows to the melted chocolate. Stir it up so it’s completely coated.

5. Using a spatula or spoon, pour onto the parchment paper. Smooth out a bit. If you used the recipe above it will almost fill up the cookie sheet.

6. Sprinkle with the rest of the candy cane pieces and stick a few marshmallows on the top, if you’d like. This is mostly for looks since the bulk of the candy is mixed in.

This is last year's version sans marshmallows.

This is last year’s version sans marshmallows.

7. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer until hardened. Then break up into pieces and serve, or wrap up as gifts. Store in a cold place or risk meltage.

This recipe yields 7 small gift bags. Not bad.

bark gift bags

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. We do pretty much all of it.

dec kids 2014

 But don’t forget about the…

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

This month’s final giveaway, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., is closest to my creative heart. I believe reading this book helped reignite me as a writer.

women who run with the wolves

I know that may sound dramatic, but there were times when I felt the author was speaking directly to me, as if the paragraph I read was exactly the one I needed at that moment. Eerie, but true. This is not a book about writing, per say, but about creating and self-discovery. I believe every woman, no matter her vocation or interest, would benefit from reading this book.

Keep in mind, it’s dense, gorgeously so, but it can be intimidating at first. My suggestion is don’t be afraid to skip around or even skim. I first tried reading this book in college and gave up. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. But last year a dear friend, a talented writer, artist, and mother, suggested I try again, and I was blown away by what I discovered. Thank you Anastasia!

All you have to do is sign up for my email newsletter and you’re eligible to win. The results of this random drawing will be posted here on Tuesday, December 30rd. 

What I’m Writing

One of the reasons I started this blog was to find and foster community among my fellow mother-writers, and I’ve already found a lovely one in Maddy over at Writing Bubble. She invited me to join her weekly link up that she co-hosts with Chrissie over at Muddled Manuscript (oh, I love that name) called, “What I’m Writing,” which of course I can’t resist.

This week I’ve spent much of my (minimal) writing time polishing up the rusty bits of a blog post and formatting my very first newsletter (!) that I will be sending out shortly. I really enjoyed writing the newsletter, but felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t working on the novel.

Oh, the novel! It’s like my albatross, but a very special and beloved albatross that I tend to with absolute devotion despite its overwhelming weight and refusal to budge off my neck.

Photo Credit: ultomatt via Compfight cc They look so innocent flying in the air.

Photo Credit: ultomatt via Compfight cc
They look so innocent flying in the air.

But I will say, I’ve made progress on it this year. Last January I dusted off my woefully neglected albatross, I mean, manuscript – one that sat in a safe (literally, a safe!) for five years. I had finished it just two days before giving birth to my daughter…who is now six and a half. Do the math if you must. It’s not pretty.

Photo Credit: elseniorfox via Compfight cc Ok, it wasn't this old.

Photo Credit: elseniorfox via Comp fight cc
Ok, it wasn’t quite this old.

One day while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son with his sitter, I read the whole thing, from start to finish. I don’t know what I expected, certainly not perfection or genius (I’m not that deluded), but I also didn’t think it would be total garbage (though parts came close). When I finally put the pages down I felt a strange sense of relief. I knew what I had to do. Start again.

I salvaged what I could, about sixty pages, and then cut the rest of it. There is still a file on my computer with 200+ pages that should for all intents and purposes be deleted but I can’t bear to do so, yet. Since then I’ve written many, many more pages, some of which have made the cut while many more have not.

You have to be ruthless as a writer, but you also have to hold onto a certain naiveté or willful ignorance. Dani Shapiro says it well in her book, Still Writing:

“So how do we make peace with the knowledge that every word, every sentence we write may very well hit the cutting room floor? Well, we don’t make peace with this knowledge. We willfully disregard it.”

That’s what I’m doing as I work on my novel. Some days the task feels so monumental, so overwhelming, it’s like chipping away at a glacier with a toothpick.

Photo Credit: blue polaris via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: blue polaris via Compfight cc

But I keep on going, not knowing what will be saved or cut, not knowing if this latest draft will be good enough to merit an edit, and then, after that, if it will ever be read by eyes other than my own.

I’m writing in the dark, slow and steady like the tortoise because my kids are young and underfoot, and that’s how it has to be, for now.

But I sense with a kind of animal instinct, or maybe just a writerly one, that I’m approaching something with my novel. There is a quickening, a slight uptake in the beating of my heart. I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster, ratcheting up the tracks. Before all I could hear was the steady clacking sound, but now I can see something too, a glimmering in the distance. I am getting closer to the top. Closer than I have been. If I keep going I will finish. And that is my goal.

What are you working on? Are you chipping away a sliver at a time or are you making great gouges?

typewriter-butterflies-badge-small

Recipe: DIY Starbucks Kale + Veggie Salad

*First of all, congratulations to Carolyn, winner of Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”! Thanks to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. There are still two more great books to give away. Next up is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my entire email subscription list. (Scroll all the way down for more info.) The next drawing will be on Tuesday, December 23, and the final one on the 30.

Now, let’s talk about some writing – and eating habits…

diy starbucks kale and roasted veggie salad

During the thirteen years I lived in Brooklyn, I rarely went to Starbucks. Why would I? I lived in the land of Quirky Cool Coffee Shops (that’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way, I’m not trying to be a snob), and besides, the closest Starbucks was too far of a walk.

But I love writing in cafes, and the closest one to me in Brooklyn was a little sliver of a cafe called Steeplechase, which had the most delicious cinnamon chip scones (alas, not gluten free). I used to go there once a week when my son had a sitter. 

When we moved to New Hope, I knew I’d have to find a place to write. Sure, I had a whole house instead of a tiny apartment, but the thing is, I like the background noise of coffee shops. Plus, I love coffee.

I tried seeking out a cute little independent shop, but seating was a problem. The local Starbucks, however, has some rather comfy armchairs. Did you know they now offer a blonde (light) roast? It’s pretty tasty and far less intense than their dark roasts. Just my personal preference because I know plenty of people who can’t get enough of their regular sludge, I mean coffee.

Anyway, I was also pleased to see that they added some healthy and hearty food options to their menu. Including this awesome salad, which to my knowledge, is gluten free (though not labeled as such):

starbucks kale salad

(Yes, it’s sitting on my dashboard because I was too hungry to take it home for a proper photo shoot.)

So, after buying it several times, I decided to make it myself. It’s a bit labor intensive, but it makes a week’s worth of lunches (unless someone in your household steals half of them…)

DIY Kale, Brown Rice + Roasted Veggie Bowl

IMG_3999

Stuff to buy:

  • big old bag of Kale
  • pre-chopped butternut squash
  • golden or red beets
  • shredded carrots
  • shredded red cabbage
  • broccoli
  • peas
  • brown rice (or grain of choice)
  • dressing of choice, I used a Tahini Sesame kind to mimic Starbucks
  • olive oil, salt, pepper for roasting veggies
  • small/medium plastic or glass containers for storing each portion

To make things easier, look for precut and shredded veggies, frozen and steam ready packages of broccoli and peas (or whatever veggie you’d like, edamame would be great). Pre cooked brown rice would be awesome. Can you tell I love short cuts?

Instructions:

1. Chop up your kale into bite sized pieces. You really don’t want to try to eat a piece the size of your head.

chopped kale

2. Roast your butternut squash by peeling and chopping into bite size pieces (unless you bought pre-cut). Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast at 400 in a casserole dish or on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for about thirty minutes. Let them cool.

3. Roast your beets. Beware they will stain your fingers when you peel them, even golden beets! But they are SO good, and pretty, it’s (almost) worth the effort.

roasted beets

4. Cook your rice. I used short grain brown rice for a nice chewy effect, but you could use ANY other grain like quinoa, millet, etc. I have a rice cooker that I’m terribly in love with, but you could use the quick cooking kind or pre-cooked.

IMG_3984

5. Microwave your other veggies like broccoli and peas. The best kind is the one you steam in the bag. I LOVE the single serve packages.

IMG_3988

6. Assemble your assembly line. Put stuff in bowls, try to make it sort of organized. Put your kids in front of the TV so they stop asking you why there’s food all over the counter.

kale salad assembly line

7. Then put it together! I put the kale on the bottom and then added everything else on top. I made 4 portions, but probably could’ve made another.

diy kale salads stacked

My daughter was very intrigued by my efforts and wanted to be in a picture. That purple stuff on her cheek is face paint. Created by me. Yes, I’m multi-talented. Just don’t ask for anything but a flower or a rainbow.

kale salads and bunkyThen make sure you hide them in the fridge just in case your veggie averse husband or partner or housemate or child catches wind of your kitchen witchery and tries to steal your lunch. Which totally happened.

gffridaybadge

What are your guilty (or not so guilty) coffee shop pleasures? Do you prefer to write in cafes or at home?

And don’t forget about the…

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

This week’s giveaway book is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a clever and entertaining book filled anecdotes about his life interspersed with practical advice.

onwriting

I had it in my collection for years, but for some reason it took me almost a decade to pick it up. Big mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat. 

All you have to do is sign up for my email newsletter and you’re eligible to win. The results of this random drawing will be posted here on Tuesday, December 23rd. 

Thank you to all who have already signed up! You can also follow my blog by clicking the button on the sidebar if you’d like to be notified every time I post something new.

5 Ways to Finish

Photo Credit: Vic de Vera via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Vic de Vera via Compfight cc

That’s the goal, isn’t it? To finish, to sit back and say: Yes, this is DONE.

I’m not talking about finishing a draft of something (short story, novel, play, painting – you get the idea), although that absolutely IS its own awe-inspiring feat.

I mean finishing to completion, realizing you’ve done all you can to say, a manuscript. You’ve toiled and rewritten, edited and deleted, you’ve pounded your desk in triumph and cried into your coffee. You’ve cycled through euphoria and depression, you’ve persevered and come out the other side.

You’re ready to share your creation with others. Perhaps this means pursuing traditional publishing á la querying agents, or going DIY and self-publishing. But the point is, you’re ready. Your work is ready.

The goal could be to end up on a shelf. Photo Credit: isayx3 via Compfight cc

The goal is to end up on a shelf.
Photo Credit: isayx3 via Compfight cc

Some days this feat feels attainable, and other days (um, most days) it feels like trying to touch the moon.

The world is full of finishers. They’re all around me. From the author blogs I follow to the lovely women I write with on Wednesdays.

This is a good thing, an inspiring thing, but if I’m not careful, it can turn ugly – in my brain. That’s when doubt and fear try to wrestle me to the ground. Voices snake into my ears, tunnel into my heart. They say things like this:

How can you call yourself a writer?

You’ve been working on your novel for how many years?

Look around, everyone is ahead of you by miles, light years. You might as well quit now.

Photo Credit: HQheart via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HQheart via Compfight cc

Once you start down this road, it snowballs fast. One of my favorite bloggers, Chuck Wendig, of terribleminds.com, describes the feeling in a post titled, “There’s This Thing That Happens Sometimes.” Here’s a snippet:

“You step onto this grease-slick slope, sliding down through the shadow of envy, doubt, uncertainty. You feel smaller and smaller as you fall farther and farther. You tumble face-first into the revelation of your own inadequacy, your grotesque and unconquerable imperfection, your worst failures… ”

His advice? Step away from the pit. As soon as you sense it, the second you smell it. Really, it’s all you can do.

Because if you don’t you might get stuck, and if you’re stuck you’re not writing, and if you’re not writing you won’t finish.

Thinking about the ever present quandary of pit falling versus goal finishing inspired me to come up with my own list of advice. While certainly not foolproof, this list has served me well thus far in my attempt at finishing my novel.

5 Ways to Finish

1. Be selective with your recreational reading.

Read books, blogs, and articles that inspire you, offer tangible advice, that buoy. Stay away from the sinkers. When I say “sinker” I mean what sinks you. There may be nothing inherently wrong with that person’s words, in fact, they may buoy someone else, but if it makes you question or second guess yourself, it’s best to step away from the book, blog, Twitter feed, or whatever. Just STOP. Use your reading time for sharpening your skills or boosting your confidence, or – hey, here’s a crazy thought – enjoying yourself.

For me, examples of this is devouring posts on Positive Writer (the name says it all) and Writer Unboxed. I’d love to hear what it is for you.

2. Zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket.

That’s a phrase my six-year-old daughter says, and I kind of love it. Besides saying it to both my kids on a regular basis, I say it to myself.

What does this have to do with finishing? Here’s what: Don’t talk about your work. Too much. Or at all.

Maybe I’m suspicious, but I find when I talk too much about the story or novel I’m working on, the magic fades. It’s like a balloon slowly leaking air, I don’t even realize it’s happening until it’s too late.

Photo Credit: Laizee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Laizee via Compfight cc

Sometimes it’s crucial to talk shop, especially when trying to untangle a knot, or brainstorm an important plot element, but for the most part, keep it to yourself. When you feel a rise in excitement and feel like you’re going to bubble over, instead of talking about it, write.

3. Set realistic goals.

I try to keep my expectations and goals reasonable – as in doable. Otherwise my self-esteem takes a nose dive when I inevitably fall short of say, a five-page-a-day kind of goal. Two pages a day? Much more doable (for me).

I’m not saying sell yourself short, but figure out a daily or weekly goal that works for your lifestyle and do everything in your power to stick to it. When life – inevitably – backs up into your writing time, brush yourself off and start again. It will be harder to get back on track. Dani Shapiro likens the spurned page to a jilted lover (see #5), but if your goals are on the reasonable side, it may be a faster recovery.

4. Indulge in some fantasy.

Um, I’m talking about visualization here. Don’t get any funny ideas.

For me, the ultimate fantasy is seeing my book on a bookstore shelf, or better yet, a display table. (Hey, I worked in a bookstore after college and spent much of my restocking time daydreaming about this.)

Photo Credit: Ruth and Dave via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ruth and Dave via Compfight cc

This kind of indulgence is a nice counterbalance to a writer’s usual modus operandi, which resembles a huge twitching ball of anxiety and self-doubt.

A little time spent fantasizing is fine, but beware of relying too heavily on these lovely interludes when you should be writing. FYI (to myself), nothing actually gets accomplished while you imagine yourself alone in a room surrounded by hundreds of boxes of your published novel.

5. Don’t Stop. No matter what.

Maybe you haven’t written in a few days, weeks, or months. Perhaps even years. It doesn’t matter. The thing about writing is that it’s always there waiting for you. I love this quote from Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing:

“Writing is hard. We resist, we procrastinate, we veer off course. But we have this tool, this ability to begin again.”

When we stray, the return can be tough. The longer we wait, the harder it is. Shapiro also acknowledges this, saying, “The return won’t be easy… The page turns from us like a wounded lover. We will have to win it over, coax it out of hiding.”

True enough. But on the upside? It’s always possible to begin again… and to finish.

…………………………………

Maybe you’re a finisher, or in the thick of it like me. Either way, I’d love to know if any of these tips resonate with you, or what you do to keep yourself on track.

Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me)

Writing those words is not easy. Feels a little taboo, like something a mom is never supposed to admit.

Then there’s the whole people pleaser part of me that doesn’t want to make anyone mad. But this idea has been sitting on the back burner of my mind for a while now, simmering like a pot of water. Steam is escaping out of the edges and the lid is rattling. Time to look inside.

Photo Credit: *floydgal* via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: *floydgal* via Compfight cc

I believe being a mom can be enough, and is enough for some women.

Let me go deeper – I believe that being a mom is enough for some women at certain times of their children’s lives. Like for me, when my kids were infants, all I could do was nurture them and try to get enough sleep in between night wakings to stay alive. Writing was not on my priority list back then. Things like showers and sleep were.

During my daughter's newborn stage.

During my daughter’s newborn stage. A mommy nap.

But as the years rolled by there came a point when I realized I needed something else, something that belonged just to me.

I wonder about my own mother. Was being a mom enough for her? Unfortunately, we never had a chance to be moms at the same time and explore these types of questions. She died a year before my daughter was born.

Me and my mom, May 1977

Me and my mom, May 1977

She was a stay at home mom by choice, and I know that was important to her, in part because her own mother worked long hours after her husband died young. My mom never wanted us to experience the loneliness she felt as a child, and so even when she worked part-time or volunteered, she was always there to greet us after school.

This clearly influenced me. I wanted to offer my children what she did, and I have, while also trying to pursue my writing. My mom was an artist too, a talented sculptor whose beautiful and haunting creations outlived her.

susan schwartz masks

Unfortunately for her – and for our whole family – she was diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis when she was just forty years old, a disease that cruelly took away her mobility, one limb at a time, in rapid succession. Her deft fingers that sculpted vases and bowls, that painstakingly etched emotion into clay faces, were rendered useless. Her art endures though, as does her signature. And her love.

mom signature green

I’m soon to approach that milestone birthday, and I wonder if I’m holding onto a kernel of fear that something may befall me and derail my creative ambitions, like what happened to her. Perhaps that is what pushes me to write now with more urgency than before.

Or perhaps I’m finally ready to write with fervor.

I am fortunate that I have two healthy children, and the luxury of choice to stay home with them. I am grateful to my partner for supporting our family financially, for my health, and my ability to pursue my dreams.

me and kids winter 2014

I want to be their mother AND a writer.

And so, that’s what I’m finally trying to do.

today i will make magic happen