Saturday, January 19, 2013

Already a Prize

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Claire S.

I like sunrises, don't you?

Morning is grand because yesterday is over. Now things can start again. The persistence of things from yesterday into the brand new day is surprising. Possibility seems to abound and then there is your life from before, like cold leftovers, coming at you again. Tomorrow, I will return all my comments. Tomorrow, I will write a new post. Tomorrow, I will finish...Yesterday is following me like a bit a toilet paper stuck to my shoe, or like Ariadne's thread, making sure I'll get back to where I was. O, yes there it is!—my context.

Don't worry. That last paragraph doesn't make sense even to me.

I have something I am writing for submission. I have done that only once before. Then, it was a contest. I had to pay twenty-five bucks. If the editors liked my piece, they'd send me comments. If they liked it best, I would get to be princess of Tunisia. No reply was sent. I was reminded of my sons, standing giddy as helium balloons before a mechanical claw.

"If I put in a quarter, I'll get a toy! Mama, pleeeasse?"

"Me too, Mama! Pleeeease?""

I let them do it several times. Some things you have to learn yourself. Some lessons are worth carrying two children out of a mall in tantrum for. This is one: You don't get a toy in a machine for free.

Here is another one: my writing isn't as clever as I think it is. It's not as good. Accolades are not free.

Real writers: they work.

I am trying to do this, but I don't seem to have all that much free time. That's not precisely true. I have, in spades, the kind of time you could use to write one good sentence and then tell your kids gruffly to go away if you wanted to do any more. I'm not complaining. This is my chosen life. I homeschool one child and a half. I do this, in the way I do all things, which is to say: I go overboard. I have lesson plans. I have objectives. I do research. I pile books upon the table and we work. Grammar, literature, mathematics, world history, spelling, typing, vocabulary from Greek and Latin roots. We are deep and thick in all of it. After the "work," there are library books to read, documentaries to watch, debates to undertake.

All this is to say that I have made my life more about mothering than writing. I am fine with that.
In the spaces in between other people's needs, I tend to look at Facebook. It is easily broken off from, but gives me something to do. My writing, on the hand, sucks me in. When I write, I get up at 4:45 am. I sit in silence. If my husband wakes up and starts talking, I've been known to cover my ears, without thinking, before noticing how rude this is. It takes me twenty minutes to produce the first paragraph. That's the hardest one. Then, hopefully, it goes faster. Sometimes, it doesn't. The process is less like bleeding out lyrical inspiration and more like hacking through stone. Hack, smash, cut. I keep dusting up so that I can see what I have done. The longer I write, the longer it takes for me to write. The longer I do this: The more I revise. The more I think. The less likely I am to hit publish. I have studied grammar, learned to diagram sentences, sent copious emails to my writer friend. I have become much more insecure.

The longer I do this, the longer the chances look of catching that animal in my claw. I think it's called perspective. Or depression. Take your pick.

This writing has made me a lousy blogger. I haven't returned enough of your comments. I read every single one. I haven't visited enough of your blogs. Often, I visit and then leave before I can think of anything to say. I'm a lurker. I've used up all my words. I just wake up, write, school my kids, clean up the books, serve lunch, tutor, clean up again, start dinner and collapse on my couch in a pile of frizzy hair and clothes. Some child comes and cuddles me. When a fifteen year-old head perches on my shoulder, I remain still, like there's a butterfly on my hand.

The sun is up. Today I am going to see a circus. I have a migraine. It's beautiful outside. There's other writing to do. It's time to start thinking about buying seeds. Context. My context just keeps chasing me through my days. I am surrounded by all the parts of me that I have already won and only have to keep. There is no suspense as the claw hovers, no disappointment as it pulls back.

Here, I am already a prize that somebody gets to hold.


  1. Writer's block has been around a lot lately for many people. I've had a hard time even writing in a journal. I want to read what others have written before sharing my own thoughts. And, even then, I wonder if others will care. But, I know I need to do it. You are writing, even if you don't always share it. It's easier to be hard on yourself than congratulate yourself when you do write something. At the same time, being a mother is more important than anything else, and time consuming no matter how old your children are. You're doing a great job, and I enjoy reading your blogs.

    1. Gosh, I hadn't really thought of it as writer's block, but I suppose that's true in a way. Being a mother is time-consuming! I suppose it's miraculous that any of us writes. It's good to remember that perspective.

  2. I don't know how helpful it will be to point out that it's ALL part of the process. On the one hand, that's a pretty obvious statement and on the other, you can never really see the process when you're in the thick of it--you need the perspective, the panning out that only time can give you. So, either way, not terribly helpful to point it out, but really it's all I've got other than a crap-ton of empathy...

    1. No, it's helpful. I sort of think it's part of a process and sort of think that I'm just mentally ill. I can never decide which. If I step back, it's a familiar place, really—that place where my standards have exceeded my ability and I have to keep thinking I'm failing for a while. I've met this place before, in other areas of my life, and lived to tell the tale.

  3. 15 year old cuddles are exactly like a butterfly in your hand. Grind on Tara through the ebb and flow of your muse. Mine always likes to return with the sun.

    1. Ah, you're right. The sun is so good for many things! And, in the easy schedule of summer days, is when my writing flows the most as well. Having the time to explore, long days and fewer responsibilities, is good for the writer's soul. :)

  4. I love this piece. I don't' even know where to start in defining my love - and, oh, thats so me - defining my love? like love has to be defined? But I digress.....
    I love the sunrise part. That first paragraph that you dissed - it completely made sense to me - the yesterdays that follow me around. Mostly they scream at me....
    And, for years, I was about mothering more than anything: more than reading, more than writing, more than working, more than wifing (as in being a wife) , more than everything. And what happens when you no longer have kids in the house who need mama?
    And, you are (familiarly) hard on yourself - What? you are not a good blogger b/c why? You don't respond to every comment? You don't make comments? No, no , no - in my book you are a good blogger b/c you reveal yourself - you take that chance - and you write when it matters and I get to have a connection with you through your writing. I always look forward to your pieces (even if they make me cringe b/c in comparison? In comparison I feel small. But that's my problem. :)

    1. Your comments always leave me so much to think about. I am wondering: that stage you describe having been through, after the kids go—is that really avoidable? I mean, I do have other interests and passions, aside from my kids, but they are central because if they weren't, I feel like I would be missing so much and so much that I could give. I guess I wonder if, on one hand, I might go through the loss of them and have to re-imagine myself and, on the other, I might pine for all the involvement that I missed. Life is nothing if not an invitation to regret. So I guess I feel like their absence will take care of itself when I get there. Perhaps, though, I am naive. You have been there and I have not. You always make me think, as I've said.

      Thanks for re-contextualizing the "good blogger" thing. There is blogging as writing and blogging as a kind of social media, and I know which one I'm better at. In the end, all I want to do is write and read and be read. The fact that I have readers that come and look at what I've put here thrills me beyond belief. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have every one.

    2. I grieved in anticipation of the first child's departure - for much of his senior year in hs I was aware that he would be moving on - gotta say though, once we got him ensconced in his new life, I had a different perspective on it. When the second child went off to her new life, I was rather (yes it's true) joyful. I wanted - needed - my life back. The thing is, my life after kids in the house could not be the same as my life before kids in the house. I had changed. So, it has been almost 8 years since that second one left (with a couple of stops back here and there) and I am still trying to determine what I will be when I grow up this time. But this time? This time growing up is for reals. I have very few regrets about the mothering days but I certainly do not pine for their return. Except for wishing I had that thirty year old body and energy back - the one that was pre-arthritis and pre aging issues!

  5. You are already a good writer of non-fiction! I never miss reading one of your posts! But fiction is harder, because you're creating a new world, even if what you write is laid in this one. And I know all about what you're going through. I never had children, but my mother and I always lived together. Between 1969 and 1983, I used every spare minute that I had to write. I was working full time, but my mother would fix the meals, do some of the housework and the laundry and the grocery shopping, etc. Then in 1983 she had a stroke and I didn't write a word again until 2000. By then she was gone and I had nothing to bother me any longer, so I started writing again. So I would say, take care of your family first, because that's what you love. Nibble at the writing if you can, but if you have to, wait twenty years. Then you'll find yourself with all the free time in the world, maybe more than you want. But don't wait too long, or you yourself will be too old to accomplish anything. I personally almost waiting too long.

    1. You are always so wise. That is pretty much the conclusion that I reached, Lorinda. I guard my writing time jealously, but my kids and family have a mortgage on my heart. And I am told that grow fast. I talk to them about my writing process, so that they will see what it looks like to work hard on something you care about, and sometimes I read them what I wrote. I'm rambling...I try never to stop writing and always to up my game. The time and results, if they come, will come when I am ready for them, I guess.


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