Making it Count

This is the hardest part. Getting there. The sitting down to write. The writing.

desk at workAfter the morning rush – making breakfasts, lunches, fixing hair snafus, finding socks, waking up a rumpled, warm late-sleeping little boy from my bed, and then hurrying out the door for school drop-offs, first the big kid, then the little.

Throughout it all, there is buzzing in the back of my head, a warm recognition of what day it is, that soon, this morning will belong to me. Soon the house will be quiet and I will be alone, except for the cat nudging the computer with her chin, and the birds frequenting the feeder outside my office window.

But first, the logistics of mothering two children. Sometimes there is a struggle, a scuffle or two. Often there are tears, from the little, at our parting. Arms wrapped octopus style around my neck, fingers that are sometimes pried off, one by one.

Me walking to my car in a sad defeated haze, thinking, is this worth it? Am I doing everything wrong? And yet, I know that I’m not. I know that I need these mornings alone as much as my little needs school. On those days especially, I know I must make my alone time count. Every minute.

I didn’t always. There were the hibernation years of early motherhood when I wasn’t writing. My daughter, newly diagnosed with celiac, was often hungry for sweets she was unable to eat, so I’d bake gluten free treats during naps, then fold laundry or do dishes. I’d keep my hands busy, but my mind was restless, itchy.

Things are different now. There is much less baking and even less folded laundry (if that’s even possible).

I’m not winning any housework awards and I must admit to feeling a stubborn knot of pride about this. My kids have clothes that are clean, even if they have to pick through a pile to find them sometimes. They eat off dishes that have been washed. But mundane chores are not a priority. Not ever, to be perfectly honest, but especially not during my writing time.

I protect it, as fiercely as I protect them. Because if I don’t, there is a price to pay. My rising irritation and frustration. Unhappiness. Snappishness. Writing releases something for me, it helps me to both understand and escape myself.

After ushering the kids off to school and returning home, it’s time to begin. I walk briskly by the detritus of the morning rush. There’s pretty much zero chance I’ll stop to fold the laundry, though I may kick a pair of underwear out of my path. The real concern is the internet.

It beckons me with its side roads and back routes, under the guise of research, a promise of just five minutes, the happy ping of outside validation. If I step in, I’m sunk. I might lose an hour, or worse, my confidence.

On the way to my office I grab everything I need because I won’t get up again until my time runs out. Not to reheat my coffee, which I only drink hot, or to retrieve a forgotten water bottle. My computer, breakfast, books, and journals must be at the ready.

I sit down, turn on the computer, and open the blank page. I’ve arrived at the leaping off point. The almost-there place. It could all go wrong with one simple click. Most days I hold steady, keep focused.

Then I begin. The words come or they don’t. But I remain at my desk for three hours, taking breaks only to sip my coffee, flip through a book, or gaze at the birds. I feel grateful for my time, even though it’s short.

In a little over a year, when the little guy starts kindergarten, there will be entire days stretched out in front of me like taffy. I hope the practice I do now will help me take advantage of those luxurious hours. Until then, I am a madwoman, making every minute count.

Do you have solo time to unspool your creativity? How do you keep it safe? Do you?

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Time to Unfurl

Though I haven’t yet spotted my first spring flower of the season, it’s coming, and fast.

pink flower

I’m ready for it now, but few weeks ago, I wasn’t. This is unusual for me. Normally I’m on high alert for the first signs of spring. But not this year. For some reason I was hanging onto winter – despite the freezing temperatures and towering drifts of snow – I didn’t want it to end. I wasn’t ready for the thaw, for the melt and the mud, for the sudden exposure and vulnerability.

There is a risk in being seen, and heard.

A couple months ago I wrote about discovering my love for winter, and how in a way, my writing life has been in an extended winter since the birth of my daughter almost seven years ago.

It’s not as if I stopped writing. I blogged and journaled, I even published another short story, but writing was something I squeezed into the edges of my life.

When I read this passage in my favorite creative book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I recognized myself:

“Women trick themselves this way. They’ve thrown away the treasure, whatever it may be, but they’re sneaking bits and pieces any way they can.”

Writing wasn’t a priority. My life as a writer was in hibernation.

I’ve been hesitating into spring for some time.

My daughter's attempt to hurry the season.

My daughter’s attempt to hurry the season.

Now that I’m finally ready to claim it, there is – of course – fear. Not just fear of failure, which is a familiar companion, but fear of keeping up.

The clock of my life is ticking away. I will be forty years old in a few months. I’m itching to begin and yet paralyzed by the task ahead of me.

Against my better judgement, I’ve been playing the dangerous game of comparison. Social media is not helping. Though I enjoy it for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, there is a danger in falling down that rabbit hole. When I spend too much time there scrolling, clicking, commenting, favoriting, I grow exceedingly anxious.

It takes effort, such effort, to drag myself away and remember this truth:

comparing

It helps to have friends. Ones who I’ve never met except online. Their words are like hands reaching out in the darkness, footholds in the cliff I scramble to climb.

There are many voices that I gravitate toward for guidance and grounding, but these two in particular rang out like bells this week, guiding me out of the shadows of winter into the green golden light of spring.

“Without the clutter, I feel the weight of my frailty, the extent of my lostness, and the possibility of newness. I put aside the striving of to-do lists and achievements, and the burst of energy comes.” studies in hope

YES. This is what I needed to hear. In a post inspired by Lent, which I know little about, the idea of making space, of clearing the path, and seeing what may filter in resonated with me.

Then there is this quote, from another wonderful site, Healing Your Grief:

“Our freedom is always in letting go, surrendering and allowing our life to unfold exactly as it is meant to be. This doesn’t mean we do not create and open or build doors towards our goals, it means we need to loosen our grip and stop holding on so tightly to our plans and dreams.”

This one I’m still untangling. What does it mean to loosen my grip, to let go of what I’ve been clutching for years? What might I accomplish if I let my gaze wander away from the prize?

I don’t know, but I’m ready to find out.

As I steady myself on this precipice of change, I know it’s imperative to turn down and tune out some of that noise. I must remember to focus, my word of 2015, and to trust myself.

focus rock

Are you ready for spring, or do you harbor some residual winter longing? (Clearly, this is not the case if you are a New Englander!) What season of your creative life are you in?

Word Up 2015

I’ve never been much of a resolution person, if only because I’m cynical and already know if I make them, I’ll break them. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the One Word concept. You choose a word that resonates and you try (key word, try!) to hang onto it throughout the year. Since there’s no specific declarations involved, no one (but you) knows if you slack off.

Well. I totally bombed last year’s, which is to say, I can’t remember what I chose. Terrible! I see now it was “open,” which in theory, is a great word, but I didn’t practice it much beyond this post. Oops.

This year I’ve been on the fence. Every time I’m this close to nixing the whole pick-a-word thing, some blogger I love writes a post and I’m overcome with word envy. Here a few I’ve considered stealing and/or am just enjoying vicariously…

Believe (Minuscule Moments)

Reach (Little Lodestar)

Practice, runner up Moose (Tamara Like Camera)

Rise (The Gift of Writing)

I was this close to stealing Kath’s “Believe” because I could really use a hefty dose of confidence and/or magical thinking about finishing my novel.

Naturally, this led me to consider “Finish,” which I almost chose but it seemed kind of resolution-y rather than word-y since what else do I need to finish besides my writing projects? The only thing that came to mind is the enormous laundry pile that I pretend not to see every time I pass it, but the crap thing about laundry is that even when you don’t ignore it you’re never finished. Ever. So forget that.

One morning, after a particularly cranky child-wrangling session, I briefly toyed with the word “Yes.” Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if I stopped yelling “NO” at my kids (amongst other things)? But then I scrapped it after pick up. Because how silly.

Then, sometime very late past my bedtime the other night when my brain is supposed to be quieting down but doesn’t, so I do the exact opposite of what I’m supposed to do and reach for my phone and scroll through Twitter, and then become disgusted with myself and delete the app, and then I check my email, which is ridiculous because no one but spam sends me emails at midnight and not even spam because even they are sleeping, so I put my phone face down and start to panic like I did when I was a kid and knew the night was getting on without me, and just then, a word drops in my brain with a thump, like a leftover holiday package that had been temporarily lost in the post office or the back corner of a UPS truck.

???????????????????????????????????????

(Of course I picked my phone right back up and wrote the word down because that’s how addled my brain is and also how addicted I am to my phone.)

So, yes. Focus. I really need more of this in my life. Often, I feel so wild-brained and scattered. I try and fail to multitask. One example that springs to mind is when I’m supposed to be playing/listening/being with my kids but I’m really on my phone. Horrible! I hate this! Sometimes I rationalize, well, he’s perfectly fine playing trains next to me while I read and comment on this blog post… or I say to my daughter for the zillionth time, just let me finish this last thing… Not good.

This year, I’d like to focus on ONE THING AT A TIME.

My writing. My family. Myself.

I may have to tattoo it on my wrist, or maybe just write it on. I used to draw hearts on the top of my daughter’s wrist to remind her of my love when she was in preschool. It’s funny, because now I’m wearing a heart on my wrist, one that she bought me at the gift fair at school.

heart on my wrist

I’m hoping if I can focus more, I will be more present (another good word) and more productive.

I will focus on finishing my novel.

I will focus on my writing as a career, not just a dream.

I will focus on my marriage.

I will focus on laughing more and yelling less.

And finally, I will focus on my children, who are growing up so fast, too fast, rising like beautiful weeds up toward the sun and out of my reach.

I’m sharing this post on Mum Turned Mom’s The Prompt, whose word this week happens to be, focus. Click here to see what other writers have been focusing on…

the prompt