Monday, December 04, 2006
Mucking Up The Works
And a lot more needs still to happen.
I’m afraid that this is not one novel, but two. Yipes. Did I bite off more than I can chew? All of a sudden, I have an underground movement of the worker class, some new characters that are important, although they may be blamed for a murder and executed, a new and different hidden society in the woods, and perhaps a needed pov from the powers that be.
Worse, none of these things have even been hinted at in my story as it stands now—at 353 pages.
What do I do? Do I just keep writing? Just keep moving forward until the loose ends are tied up? Do I go back into the already written text and add the parts that need to be there? I don’t actually want to do that one, because that requires I read the story and I haven’t yet. Don’t want to. Not yet.
And I really don’t want to let the internal editor in yet.
So I suppose the answer to my dilemma is to just keep writing. Not worry about what’s missing or how long the story might go. Actually, there’s something enjoyable about writing when you aren’t sure exactly what is supposed to happen next. Surprising things occur.
Okay. Back to work. Anxiety gets swept back under the rug. Editor goes back under the rock. Back to being a slave to the word count—even if it’s not as harsh a task master as it was last month.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
It doesn’t matter what you write. Do not be afraid of the blank page or the chapter that is to come. Do not be afraid if it is bad. Do not be afraid if it is good because then you will be afraid that you will ruin it. Do not be afraid of what it means in your life or about who you are as a human being.
Take it one letter at a time, one word at a time. Each word leads like a stepping stone to the next. And the next.
Trust in the process. Trust in the writing. Trust in the…whatever it is that allows you to create something from nothing. Trust in yourself.
Your job is to commit to writing. Your job is to sit down at the computer (or notebook, or typewriter, or journal, or whatever) and show up as a writer. Your job is to do what you said you do and just write. Your job is to ignore all the fears and insecurities that pop up when you are afraid of something that matters—and just write. Your job is to do it for yourself no matter the outcome.
You are the hero of your own story…. and this, this life, this writing, this is it.
Why Be Creative?
I pick art because I’ve been doing it forever and have studied it and taught it and does something important for me personally. But really, what I think is important for mothers is to have SOMETHING outside of children, family, home, partner in which they can feel successful and productive. Something that gives the spark back to them because they do it for themselves, because it feels good and makes them feel good about themselves. Something that gives them purpose, outside of being a mother.
We are mothers, but we are, first and foremost humans. Should the mother in us overwhelm the human?
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in the living when you have small beings running around who are looking to you to feed them and clothe them and play with them and keep them out of trouble. It’s easy when you look around at all the duties you have to say, “well, I’ll just do all this, because I have to, and then maybe someday I’ll do something for myself.”
But the more often you put off that self-duty, the easier it is to keep putting it off. There’s just so much to do. But taking care of yourself and your passions, having a purpose makes it so much easier and more joyful to take care of all the other little things that are required of moms. And it fills us up so we have more to give our children.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I think we've hit the slump
I’m not feeling very excited about writing a novel or about NoNoWriMo. Looking at everyone’s posts about their progress, it seems a lot of us are having the same problem.
The first flush is definitely gone. It’s a little depressing. Now it’s about getting down to work and plugging away, whether you like what is happening on the page or not.
It’s a struggle to open up my Nano file and start writing. No more adrenaline, no more ‘can I/can’t I hit my minimum?’ It doesn’t quite feel like a joyful game that I’m playing, anymore. Is this why I’m feeling this way? Now I’m thinking of all the other things in my life I am not giving attention to. Fears about writing a bad, boring story are popping up. Insecurity. Thoughts that I’ll never be a novelist, never get published, never make this real. Shouldn’t I be taking care of things that might make my future more secure? Is writing a pipe dream?
All right. Time to get some perspective. This is part of the process. It is. It can’t all be racing along at light speed. The natural fears and insecurities of living WILL rear their ugly heads. Life has a rhythm. Sometimes it’s up sometimes it’s down, and you just have to ride out the down points.
Writing a novel is hard, just like anything worth doing. And it’s an incredible commitment. There have to be adjustments and difficulties and points where you don’t really want to be tied down to this thing you’ve promised. Do we just power through these points with gritted teeth until it starts to get happy again?
I guess so. And it’s normal. Normal, normal, normal. Breathe deep and continue on.
Friday, November 03, 2006
12,517 Words in NaNoWriMo by Day Three. Tell me to Shut Up.
I’ve been doing really well. 5456 words on the first. 4550 words on the second, and today 2511 words. All above the minimum word count. All leaving me far above the mark needed if I want to finish, but…
I just got so lazy today. I had given myself the unofficial goal of 5,000 words a day, so slacking off when the baby went to bed instead of writing, it made me feel bad. Did I happen to say that the word count needed to meet the goals of NaNoWriMo is 1,667 words a day. Not 5,000. Not 2,511—like I wrote today, but I still feel bad about it.
I do this. When I get into something and commit to it, I throw my entire self into it. When I really want something, my standards are far beyond what normal people ask of themselves. I get all perfectionist and intense.
It’s good because I get somewhere, I do good work. (In this case, “good work” means word count, not good writing.) But it’s bad, because when I fall short of my perfectionist standards into the realm of the merely human but still good, I start feeling bad about myself.
I know what I’m doing. I’m in a good place, just being a freak. So, shake it off mamacita. Shake it off.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Word count, word count, word count
I wrote 5,456 words today— before 4:30 pm. And after I hit five thousand, which was way over my goal, I gave myself permission to do some other things. I don’t mean play with the baby, this was when he was still sleeping. I set up a graph system so that I can visually track my progress (I’m a visual learner), I read some helpful hints on doing this NaNoWriMo contest, I went on the web and looked around for a while. I even made a writing date to meet with another writing mom in my neighborhood. That last is such an unexpected bonus I can hardly believe it. She even writes Fantasy.
Now, the little one is asleep, and I am watching television. Granted, it is my America’s Next Top Model and Lost night, but I feel good allowing myself that treat.
I feel good also for so exceeding my initial goals. I think this is going to be a lot easier than I first feared. I mean, I’m not getting cocky about what a great writer I am. I just think that the word count is not as formidable as I thought. There were definite moments when I was writing where I could scarcely bear the excrement on the page… but luckily, I had the word count to worry about, and smothered my internal editor.
That’s one of the main purposes in setting myself this challenge, let me tell you. I need an exorcist for the evil internal editor. I still don’t know that when I look at what I have written in December there will be anything salvageable, but I’m going to not think about that now. I am just going to focus on the writing.
Even more than that, I am going to have faith in myself.
Friday, October 27, 2006
You Are Not Alone
Something important in maintaining your creativity as a mom, I think… being a part of a community that supports and encourages your creativity. One that holds you accountable for creating. One that can discuss with you the trials and tribulations of being creative, as well as the joys.
I don’t think you necessarily have to go back to art school or join a writing group or a crafting circle. I think even an online community can give you that push. Maybe it helps to have constraints on your creativity… as in write a novel in a month, or finish your painting by monday, or show the group what you have been crafting. As a mom, we put our needs last, a lot. But if we promise someone else that we will do something, maybe it’s easier for us to commit to those things.
I know I blow off my own personal goals to take care of things that affect other people. But what if someone else is watching what I produce creatively? What if they are depending upon it? What if they are keeping watch on my page count?
Somehow, I think it will help me stick to my goals.
I will tell you how this proceeds in a month, when I’ve finished my novel along with all the thousands of other people writing along with me on NaNoWriMo.org
Monday, October 23, 2006
So I am going to do NaNoWriMo
Write a novel in a month! I’ve wanted to do it in past years, but the timing has always been off.
This year, though, I have a novel idea, an outline, a character list, a setting and so on. I started it months ago, and then stopped it, months ago. Now, though, I am really feeling the pressure of time. I mean, I’m having ANOTHER baby in 4 or 5 months. If I don’t kick myself into gear, when will be my next opportunity? It’s not only the only timing there is, it’s the perfect timing. Yes, it will be a struggle, but when wouldn’t writing a novel be a struggle?
The whole thing really scared me when I first started. I have no concept of numbers at the level of 50,000. I thought I would need to be writing full time to write a novel in 30 days. But when I figured out that wriing 50,000pp in 30days means writing 1,776 words a day—and then I checked my writing log from the brief time when I was writing in this book, I realized I was already writing about one thousand words a day, in about an hour.
I wasn’t pushing myself past one page or one hour, either. So if I do push myself—then why can’t I tack on another hour, another thousand pages? I can do this. I’ve done this.
And you know what? Even if I don’t write 50,000 words, I will still have written more than if I didn’t take on the challenge. I will be much farther on my way to my first draft.
So, onwards and upwards. Writing is really the fine art of applying butt to chair, anyway. Who said that? Should give them a medal.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Mothering the Mom
I had an idea about Mothering. Well, first off, why should being creative while being a mother be any different than being creative without kids, or as a man?
I think it’s because being creative at all means you have to tackle your demons—we all have them, but mothers have a certain set of demons in common, on top of their regular human being demons.
One issue is about taking care of others. Mothering. Raising children. We need to be mothers—and often, you’ll hear people saying that the children come first… so our identity as mothers is frequently considered the most important part of who we are.
Mothering isn’t just about hugs and kisses. We feed, we clean, we dress, we entertain, we educate, we praise, we punish, we set boundaries, we love. Every human being needs this. It’s hard to overcome lack of mothering—whoever one gets it from.
But I think we forget sometimes that we need mothering too. Not just the rewards and indulgences of unconditional love, but also the discipline, boundary setting, nourishing, and the daily preparing and maintenance that any mother gives those she is responsible for.
Who else is responsible for us? For our creative ambitions? For our art? We are.
What does that mean to our art? I think a lot, I’m still working on everything that means, but right now, I am definitely in the world of boundaries and accountability.
If I am to mother my creativity, my artist self, then I need to say, “no more tv, time to get to work, even if you are tired and would rather snack on chocolate and rot your brain.” I need to require more of myself than relaxing because I am so worn from mothering everyone else all day. I need to set myself some goals, and then, hold myself to them.
Writing To Do Lists is on my To Do List
Planning my day is the first step in getting my productivity and creativity and, well, life back.
Organizing my mind so that I can see what I need to do. For me, that takes lists. Looking at my apartment, you would never guess that I was relatively organized—or maybe that I need organization to function, but I do.
There are so many thoughts going through my head that it is hard to grab ahold of one and make it come real. This is why I need lists. This is why I need to decide on priorities and on schedules. And I always know what I need to do when I do not have the time to do it.
When I am ready to do stuff, I can’t for the life of me remember what I wanted to do.
Brains are funny that way. They’re so amorphous and immediate—like brie flashes of life, but living is very concrete and set in steps… this to that to the other to the next step. I don’t know if that makes sense, it’s my amorphous brain trying to get across an idea I had for one, brief moment.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Start All Over Again
I haven’t written in so long. I am so out of it. Out of practice. Out of the mindset. Out of the story. Out of focus.
I am so lazy right now. My energy is drained. My time is occupied. I am FULL of excuses, though.
Just saw the writer Jennifer Egan on a talk show, talking about writing and how she never knows where her story is going. She lives in Brooklyn and has two kids. Makes me want to write again. Makes me want to be a writer again.
I am afraid to start all over again. Not “start all over again,” because I still have my ideas and my first chapter, but I am afraid to START—again.
Time to battle the demons. Time to commit to action. Time to pick up the sword (pen, keyboard, whatever) and attack.
Time to stop talking about.
I promise, after I post this, I will open up my novel file and just start writing—even typing at this point is acceptable—just to get the words flowing.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
This Weekend Was Family Time
We didn’t go out to eat or play softball or even the park. We didn’t even go out for a walk.
We stayed at home, cleaning, doing laundry, working on projects that have been neglected for the last two years.
The boy spent his time with us. Running around trying to get into things he’s not supposed to get into, tossing the ball around, chasing the kitty.
He also started dancing. It was adorable. We played music for him, Doo Wop, I think, and he held his arms out and twirled around the room, singing along. I kept wanting him to dance like his friends were—kind of bouncing on their knees, but he never got into that. If he danced, it was always more a bop of his head. Now I’m so glad that I didn’t try to train him to bounce, because he found his own dancing.
He also started scribbling for the first time. I gave him some washable crayons and he drew all over a page, in multiple colors. He also chewed on the crayons and ended up with a purple face. Oh well.
And he played on the deck. He doesn’t usually get to, because I feel that it will require too much close supervision, but Papa was there. He danced and sang around the deck, playing in the planters, and generally being the boy.
He’s a very artistic boy, I think. All the singing and dancing and drawing. He even demanded to play the piano, then sat there on Papa’s lap, playing with the keys. I believe in fostering his interests, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that both Papa and Mama are artistic.
Yes might mean more than I thought
I have spent so many years saying “no,I can’t” to life, that saying “yes” has come to mean accepting opportunities and taking chances and being active—DOing stuff.
But I am in a stage of life right now that is limited by many things—the responsibility of taking care of a child, having a limited budget, having very limited free time, also the physical limitations of being pregnant mean I just don’t have the energy or focus I normally do.
My adventures have to pull back to fit my life. It doesn’t mean I should say ‘no’ to everything, but I have to be reallistic about what works for me, for us.
So I was just thinking about what it means to be saying “yes” in this situation. Maybe it’s also about saying “yes” to my life—as it is. Accepting life for flaws, loving the positives, knowing it can’t ever be perfect. Accepting, even the limitations. Realizing that they aren’t about stealing something from my life or denying my happiness, but just my life as it is. Limitations add shape to life, they do, but my life is still my life, within those boundaries.
So maybe I can say yes to my apartment, a cozy and comfy place, even though it is always in transition, between cleanings, or big projects, cluttered with the stuff of living. Maybe I can say “yes” to my relationship, even though we don’t spend a lot of time alone together, because he is working to provide for us, and I am working to raise our son and keep our home, and we both still need time to ourselves. Maybe I can say “yes” to my need to nap whenever the boy naps, or constantly graze to feed myself, or being unable to remember my phone number or keep a conversation—because it means I am growing another human being inside of me. Accept who I am and the place I am in my life.
That doesn’t mean that I allow it all to fall apart. Let go of dreams and responsibilities. I still have those, I still want to write my novel and see the world and have a great, fulfilling relationship, and a gorgeous home and good friends, but perfection will never happen. I don’t want to keep looking down on what I do have because it doesn’t look like the perfect picture I have in my head.
Saying “yes” might now mean, “Yes, this is my life, and it is good.”
Friday, September 22, 2006
I am an Improved Brain Power
I have been putting energy into not giving in to my baby-brian. Getting sleep is a big thing here. Plus actually thinking about things, actively, as opposed to passively watching tv.
However, I’ve also decided to accept the state of my brain power. I am actively trying to use it, but I am not going to fight the power of hormones, either.
Did you know that studies have found pregnant women lose around 2% of their brain. Something about protein or acids or something that the baby sucks right out of your garbanzo bean. I’d give you exact details on the studies or percentage or what actually is being removed from your brain, but those are the facts that have been taken over by baby making. Oh well.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Creative Blocks and Momhood
I’m stuggling, right now. My urge to create has evaporated with my energy and my concentration. My excuse is that I am pregnant, again, and just recently escaped the first trimester. My last pregnancy, I didn’t write or paint or journal or craft or sing or dance or even listen to music, I just gestated. I sat and gestated—surely a creative act, as is raising a child, but not an artistic one at all. I was like a chicken sitting on her egg. I was broody hen. I was brooding. Am right now.
I can’t bear to lose another nine months of creativity. Nine months and more, if you think about the long months after birth when you have a tiny creature totally dependent upon you, who wakes you up every hour to nurse. The exhaustion nearly made me psychotic. I’m terrified of becoming this exhausted, brooding, non-creative thing. I’m worried about sinking into this new being and losing my old one. But I can’t do it. I need to be creative, both for myself and for my child/children. I need to do it for my relationship with their father, too, because the less I create, the crankier and meaner I get.
These are my issues right now. But anytime you create, you are going to be faced with issues. Come to think of it, these have really always been my issues—exhaustion, feeling ill, getting distracted by other tasks, putting myself and my needs last, procrastination, depression, lack of self confidence. It’s almost like being a mother and being pregnant institutionalizes what once was just my individual bugaboo. Now I’ve got hormones to blame, or a baby who needs my time, or morning sickness, or the energy drain of chasing after a toddler, or needing to keep the house from becoming a permanent pig pen, or making sure everyone gets enough of the right kind of food to keep on chugging. So many “mom” things to do.
And it doesn’t always feel so victorious when I push through my blocks and get creative anyway. What once would feel courageous now feels selish. What once was considered focus now feels like neglect of child and home and partner.
How to reconcile this? Who comes first, the mom-role, or the artist-role? Does it have to be one or the other? One over the other? Can’t a mom carve the time out of the day to be both, to do both?
It seems like it should be possible. The busiest people are often the most productive—I know I’ve always gotten so much done when I had the most on my plate, strangely. Maybe it’s about having the will and determination to do it. Maybe it’s about overcoming your fears and flaws and excuses, just like it is for everyone. Maybe it’s about figuring out what works for you and your family and your work. Maybe it’s about what the sneaker company says. Just do it.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
A Lovely Poem by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
by Mary Oliver.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Back From Vacation
I’ve been away, off on adventures with Adventure Boy!
We went to Florida to visit Grandma and all the family down there.
It was nice to get out of the city and smell green trees and have the boy meet his uncles and aunts and cousins and get to spend time with his Grandma—whom he loves, of course. He also got to explore grandma’s house, and all the various toys in the shelves. Some were toys actually meant for boys, some were things like books, or newspapers, or dog toys. Adventure Boy! makes no distinction. He did get to hang out with Grandma’s doggie, too, and chase Grandma’s cats.
Adventure Boy! went to the beach and into the ocean for the first time. It was the Gulf of Mexico, and it was so soft and warm and salty and clear. He enjoyed it and even dunked his head which made him sputter, and then laugh, so he did it again—dunk, sputter, laugh. And we went out for food and live music and saw a wild egret come down from the sky and sit next to us at the table. We drove all around and played with a second cousin who was 8months old (who I hadn’t even known existed) and… what else did we do? Oh, so much.
All great fun.
The plane ride was not as much of an adventure for him as you’d think it would be. He prefers people watching. And animal grabbing. And eating.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
We went to the Central Park Zoo for adventure Thursday, today. We saw penguins and polar bears and harbor seals and little jumpy monkeys. We saw goats and sheep and pigs and a cow that went, “mmmm-ooooo-oooooo!”
Adventure Boy!’s favorites were probably the penguins and harbor seals—oh, I mean aside from the farm animals that he lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-oves. He demands to be put on his feet, and then sticks his hand through the bars so that he can touch the animals, and he laughs hysterically when they lick his fingers. Of course, that’s in the petting zoo. No sticking hand through bars of the polar bear environs.
We did see two polar bears wrestling underwater. Just about the coolest thing I ever saw. Didn’t realize how big they were. I think they were too big for Adventure Boy! He spent more time watching the big girls watching the polar bears than watching the polar bears themselves.
All of this journey was on my back. No stroller. I carried him in an Ergo carrier, which I love, but didn’t keep me from getting exhausted and achy.
After, we stopped at Barnes & Noble for a coffee and a break from the Ergo carrier. I showed him a book of paintings. That counts as adventure, too.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Moving along at a steady clip
Writing about a thousand words a day in my novel. Today, I even stopped myself when I could have gone longer… why? Well, I had other things to do. Unfortunately, my full time job is being a stay at home mom—that’s taking care of the munchkin and the house (not that you’d be able to tell I was taking care of the house by the looks of it right now).
It would be nice if writing could be my full time job. It would be nice to write ten pages a day. Shoot. It would be nice to have it part time, even ten pages a day on the weekend would be nice—but, alas, such is not to be.
The baby cries, the cats meow to be fed, the laundry begs washing, the plants wilt with thirst, the dishes moulder in the sink.
And I STILL write. Yeay me.
Not only that, I also did some research online about the publishing business—specifically in the SF field. This is important, because writing is not only an art, but it is also a business. And I think that is a place where I can get hung up. I start thinking no one would want to read my book, let alone buy a copy or want to sign me for a contract or represent my book or what have you.
So, I start my research when I have only 36 pages. (Did I mention I have 36 pages? Weehee!) By the time I am ready to send out my book, I will know how I’m supposed to do it, and to whom I should send it, and what I can expect.
That’s business. Along artistic lines, I was quite amazed today how the story is coming out. Characters come out of nowhere, and after a few pages, they are necessary to the story. Details are added that flesh out a whole world and its laws and politics and history. Someone says one small thing, and the story takes on a whole new, completely logical and utterly necessary spin.
This is what I love about writing a novel, even more than short stories, or poetry, or painting a picture, even—it’s how the world of the piece builds and gets deeper and richer and more real.
It's True, I Am a Geek
I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Ranger Bard
Neutral Good characters believe in the power of good above all else. They will work to make the world a better place, and will do whatever is necessary to bring that about, whether it goes for or against whatever is considered 'normal'.
Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.
Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.
Find out what D&D character you are. NeppyMan had the plan. http://neppyman.irulethe.net/dndwho/index.html
I miss playing D&D. And I think I really might be a Neutral Good Elf Ranger Bard. I shall name myself Milliandra Scalarion the Gwynedd. And I shall sing for my supper, tra la.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
I Think I'm Back
Having a baby and suddenly (nine months in the process, but suddenly, all the same) becoming a mother can be very hard on the self identity.
Who I was, once upon a time, was creative and independent and sexy and hard working and a little bit rockstar and a little bit bohemian poet in a windy garret. And a lot more. It was always fluid, but always up to me to determine.
Being a mother is to be swept away in the tides of humanity—countless others have been there before me. I never realized the strength that biology would hold over me. The whole process of creating a new human being out of my body is still kind of unbelievable to me. I was completely unready for the number that hormones would do on my body, on my emotions, and even on my mind. Then there is the responsibility and time commitment of raising a child. The loss of freedom and the ability to travel light and/or at a moment’s notice. And how I underestimated the toll that sleepless nights would take.
Being a mother kind of swept away who I was.
But I think I have figured out a way back. It’s about asking for the things I need. It’s about taking time away from household duties and even mothering in order to take care of my duties to myself and my writing and my creativity. It’s about joining a community of other mothers, even if we don’t know each other that well yet. It’s about keeping track of where my life is going and remembering the goals that I want to reach down the road. It’s not easy, really, but it’s not all that complicated either—simple to comprehend, hard to do.
I can’t say that everything, or even anything is perfect. I’m still working on it all. I’m still learning how it works. But, at least I am back to who I am.
I think I’ve finished chapter one of my novel.
I thought it would take longer, at least a week. But writing a novel is a game of inches. It’s the inches that add up to the miles long journey.
Oh, don’t get me wrong… it’s not “done” done. But I see the beginning and I see the ending. Needs some filling in, but it’s there.
I have been struggling for the last few days.
It’s funny how well the writing can be going and then all of a sudden, it’s a strain, and painful… yes… it’s constipated. I don’t want to sit down and write and when I do I’m confused and uninspired and dissatisfied. It seems as if it comes out of nowhere, but maybe it doesn’t.
I think you might be able to find my difficulty with writing coincided with G’s difficulty with sleeping.
He’s still having difficulty getting to sleep, but atleast he’s staying asleep once he cries himself out. And maybe I am getting used to the tension of a not-sleeping baby.
But here’s the question, do I keep going with my writing, and start on chapter two, or do I go back and start revising what I already have???
I think I should just keep moving forward. See what happens.
Besides, when I go to visit my mom, I should have time to revise what I already have. (chapter one! woo hoo!)
Friday, June 09, 2006
Yes, my good-sleeping boy has become a don't-wanna-go-to-sleep-I-want-to-stay-up-all-night-and-hang-out-but-if-I-do-have-to-go-to-sleep-I-wanna-go-to-sleep-on-top-of-mama-boy. It's been a couple of days of this.
I hardly know what to do. He's been fed, nursed, changed, rocked, held, petted. He has his pacifier, his doggie-blanket, his Bob Marley playing on the cd player, and a fan to keep the room cool. He's so tired that he has already fallen asleep and woken up five times. Of course he woke up the minute I left the room. He has everything he needs to go to sleep, he just won't do it. He is so tired.
I just need to leave him in his room and let him sort it out for himself.
What I have to do is block out his whimpering and complaining and stop holding all this tension in my shoulders. Breathe and relax and move forward. Just get to work.
Hmmph. That's interesting. I just realized that there is a connection between an over tired boy who refuses sleep and a woman who is desperate to be creative and productive and mentally stimulated, but is resisting doing what she needs to do.
But why? Why does Gabriel resist sleep? Why do I resist writing?
I suppose switching gears can be really difficult... especially when sleep or writing is so over due. Going from being awake to asleep, or non-creative to creative is hard. And scary, too. There's always the possibility that we won't be able to sleep. Or the writing just won't come, or maybe it'll just never be any good.
And as someone who has experienced occassional insomnia, I also know that the stress of not being able to sleep, watching the night pass and wondering if you will ever be able to get to sleep, is incredibly stressful. If you just chill out and relax about whether it will or not or when will it or how hard it will be or will I be rested in the morning-- well, chances are you'd fall asleep much easier. And the same goes for being creative.
I swear, I did not start writing this post with the intention to say this. It just came to me as I wrote, an epiphany, of sorts.
It came through the writing.
See, Rowena, if you write, there will be brain movement.
And, by the way, by the time I finished writing this post, Gabriel stopped crying and just went to sleep.
To Do or Not to Do
I’m finding that I am resisting my productivity.
At least I am today. I don’t want to open up the files for my novel. I don’t want to wash the dishes. I don’t want to sort through the piles of clothes waiting in the bedroom. I don’t want to turn off the tv and MAKE myself face the things I have to do.
I know if I sat down and tried to get my brain working again, it would start to work. The ideas would begin to flow and thoughts would trickle back and logic would click into place.
Instead, I find myself digging my heels into the ground and hanging onto the towel bar, screaming, “I won’t grow up!”
Of course, not literally. But this is what I am realizing is going on. I’m not “too tired,” or “too busy” or “too sick,” or even “too lazy.” I am afraid and do not want to take responsibility for my own life.
Why? Why not? Why not take chances and step on out into the real world? Why not try to make my wishes a reality? Why not DO instead of daydream????
Is it really that hard to take control of life, instead of waiting for it to happen to me?
I’ll get back to you on the answer to that.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Writing Past the Demons
I wrote over a thousand words today. Woo hoo. Even though G woke up too soon from his nap and I had to go meet my sister. Yes, after I sat down at the computer, I sat down again and went at it one more time. I did not give up. I did not say I couldn’t do it. I just did it. I could, if I wanted to, still go back and write some more.
The crazy thing about writing a novel is that people underestimated how hard it is. Even people who think it’s hard underestimate how hard it is. They love to write, they enjoy stories, they want to BE a writer, they may even be very talented.
The thing people don’t often realize is that writing a long work like a novel, you are not only confronting the difficulties of your characters, plot, style, and so on—but you are also confronting every dark and painful issue in your own life.
To write a novel is to face yourself, in a very bald and exposed way. Do you have issues with self esteem? That will come up. Do you have issues with self destructive behavior? Do me a favor, don’t keep a bottle of whiskey in your study. Is organization your problem? Perfectionism? Depression? Loneliness? Commitment?
Honey, whatever it is, it is sure to come up while you write your novel—if not in the actual story, then in the writing of it.
I suppose there are many ways to get through all these personal burdens. You can face them directly and let them go, you can use them to power your story, you can bully through and shut everything down but what you have to do. I’m not actually sure how everyone gets past their demons… but that is part of what makes writing so hard.
The demons come out to play, and you don’t get to ignore them… not if you want to write.
Growing Up (Warning, baby post)
Now, when I pick him up and hold him in my arms, instead of lying there all compact and cuddly, he strings out, long legs and arms akimbo. He is about to start walking all by himself, everyone says so, as he is cruising around the room, going from coffee table to couch to high chair to piano bench, to tv. He is also practicing standing alone-- and he's getting pretty steady on his feet.
It's obvious that he is more able to understand what we are saying, now. He listens, he responds, he anticipates. Now I can have conversations with him, and even if he can't talk back, there's real communication happening.
He also has girlfriends all over Williamsburg. And most of them are older women. He's such a flirt. He likes to get people's attention and have them fawn all over him. Everyonce in a while, they don't respond at all. I tell him then that not everybody is going to want to play. Then he moves on to the next target.
I can't believe that G is 11 months old. Hardly a baby anymore. A toddler, a big boy. He's even getting hair, although it is still strangely strawberry blond. No teeth, though. He might be gumming his food til college.
He loves music. He stops whatever he is doing and turns whenever someone starts singing on Blues Clues or Sesame Street. He's begun to clap along to it, also. So cute when he claps with his chubby little hands. Sometimes, it looks more like he is brushing his hands, or cleaning them. Well, I guess there's a learning curve to everything.
Yesterday, he was standing with Papa, and he was doing so well, that he started clapping. He knew he was doing well. Just like he gets frustrated when he falls and starts to cry-- because he really wants to get up and run around and just keep going. Adventure Boy! indeed, just still in training.
It's like a miracle the way people go from these little lumps of blank baby clay into these real, honest to goodness people.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Do It, Baby.
Well, we had a cook-out that went well, even with the many littles splashing around in our new blow up pool. And all cleaning and cooking and shopping and running around like chickens with their heads cut off is over. The place is relatively presentable, despite the empty beer bottles still to be taken out to the curb.
Now back to my life. Now, back on my schedules and my to do lists. So un-romantic! But I'm such a creative right-brainer, that I really need to give myself some boxes and rules in order to feel like I am getting anywhere.
All this management of life stuff is a lot of work. For so many years I kind of just went with the flow. With the boy, I just can't do that, because I would just flow on out on a wave of baby food and stinky diapers and the never ending baby needs. Ahh.
Must be conscious about my own life and what I want from it.
Particularly since I am going to need to go back to work soon. I did get a lead on a job teaching English at a community college in the neighborhood. It's what I want to do. I think that the hours would work with what I need. I think the money is necessary. I think I would like to teach again. Will it all work out?
Well, I have to take the steps to make it work out. My resume is the first step. Sending it to the appropriate folks is the next. Who knows? I may have a job come September.
That really means I have to get my butt in gear around my novel. I really do want to write it-- to have it written-- to have it revised-- to have it published. I want all that. So how determined am I?
According to William James, "If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it."
That doesn't mean just wishing for something like a genie is going to come down in a puff of smoke and nod their head for all you've ever wanted. It means determination, positive thinking, action, commitment.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Inch by Inch
Yesterday I wrote three pages in my novel. Then I looked down and I had twelve pages total. How did I get to twelve pages? I had thought I wasn’t writing.
How? I’ll tell you. By plugging away. Even if it was only ten lines before Gabriel woke up from his nap. I switched off my internal editor and forced myself to sit down, to turn on the computer while simultaneously not connecting the internet. I had little sayings at the top of my page that I would keep referring to. Things like, “just write one word at a time,” or “allow yourself to write crap,” or “be a God—a nasty, manipulative, jealous god, and mess with your characters lives.” (Not sure how that last one works with the motivational speaker-ness of the first ones, but it’s up there, too.)
I know 12 pages isn’t a lot. I know there’s a whole bunch more to go. But it’s a start, and it was really hard to get to this start.
And the story also took a turn I was not expecting, just by following where the characters wanted to go. I love it when that happens. It’s also good, because where I had to go before that was dry and expositional. Yea for being up for the adventure.
Complications (or Sometimes I'm So Tired Everything Seems Very Hard)
Why should they succeed where I didn't? Is it talent? No. Intelligence? No. Contacts? Maybe. Support? Maybe. Really I think it's all about commitment and drive.
I think I could be successful if I put myself into whatever I wanted to do. I always have been before. Commit 100% and follow through. It really isn't that difficult.
I always have buts. I always complicate things, over think, get afraid, psych myself out.
Today, I was strolling in Central Park with the mommy crew, and we were passing the folks sitting out with their pencil portraits for sale, the ones who will draw you or your sweetheart or your child for eighty bucks.
A mommy friend said, "we should do that with the babies, get their portraits drawn."
I rolled my eyes and said, "They're expensive. I would never pay for that, I could do it myself." Which is true, I've done a lot of portraits, mostly self portraits in the last 20some years of my life.
And the mommy friend says, "So you don't think what you can do is worth the money?"
Shoot. Brand new friend, barely knows me at all, and she pegged me.
It all comes down to the money. I know I have talent. I know I can do things very few other people can do, maybe even no one else can do them, and yet, I don't feel, still after all these years of working on myself, I don't feel I am worth as much as other people. I don't feel as if what I can do is worth money.
And so, after decades of practicing my craft, or my crafts, I still hide them away in boxes and folders and drawers, only half heartedly trying to be published or shown or seen or heard. Never ask for money, and when I do, ask for less than I deserve. So everything I do remains, well, amateur.
So I am an amateur and not a professional, not because of the quality of my work, but because of my hang-ups and the stories I tell about who I am.
Why is being a fully realized human being so complicated?
Monday, May 22, 2006
Driving at Night
I’ve been wondering lately if I need to have an outline before I start writing this story. I just don’t know where it’s going, really.
I have the set up, I have the main characters and a general idea about what might happen to them, but I don’t really know where I am going.
I should take my own advice and do an “interview” with my characters as an exercise. Exercses help us to understand the inner workings of our mind/story. I probably won’t though. I am resisting my own working.
Just think about how far we all could get if we took the energy we put into RESISTING our forward movement, and used it to actually move forward.
Besides, there’s that quote… “Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see a few feet ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”
Who the heck said that? Were they also trying to care for a baby at the same time? Probably not. I think it was a guy, and you know how that is. They have wives and such. I wish I had a wife to cook and clean and take care of the baby so I could get my writing done and be published and make some money.
Well. I think by writing about my difficulty and how to solve it, I’ve decided to just keep writing and not be so stressed out about not knowing where it is going. Word by word, baby.
Of course, since this is the stay at home mom kind of life, the baby just woke up from his nap and is crying for attention/lunch/mommy. Sigh.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Adventure Boy! and Super Mama
We were feeling a little stressed, Gabriel and I... Destructo Boy was starting to peek out of sweet baby boy, so it was time to go on a little adventure. Okay, fine, a walk-- but to Adventure Boy! that is the same thing. He gets so happy when Mama puts on her magic sunglasses and becomes Super Mama. He loves his adventures.
We just started by going to the store to get more (and yet more!) baby food for he who never stops eating. Then we ran into Gabriel's friend on the way home. Gabriel and Dinah sat in their strollers flirting and kicking. They were born on the same day, I love that. Me and her mom talked, too.
Then, after we parted ways, Adventure Boy! and I, Super Mama wandered down unfamiliar streets and stopped in two, count 'em, TWO galleries. Gabriel-- I mean Adventure Boy! likes art. Well, some of it. He's picky. (Go! Adventure Boy!) He is getting to be a very cultured super boy.
This was a good adventure for me, because it helped me remember that I was an artist, too. Haven't painted in ages. There was one point where I was showing a painting to Gab--Adventure Boy! and he was smiling at it, staring at it, and I asked, "would you like a new painting for your room?"
The guy in the gallery got excited and started showing me the list. I didn't have the heart to tell him I wasn't about to buy. And there were actually paintings that were WITHIN my budget. (And by that, I don't mean that I have lots of money stashed away somewhere, but that there were works on paper that were only 30$.) I just didn't like any of them enough to actually spend money on them. More was the refrain in my head, "I could do that." Luckily, Adventure Boy! with his keen sense of when an adventure has gotten tiresome, started fussing... and we got out of there lickety split.
Actually, I do want to paint Adventure Boy! a painting-- one of a roaring Lion. I got him a new picture book called "Little Gorilla" and his favoritest part of the book is the drawing of the lion roaring with his mouth wide open and all his teeth showing. He wouldn't even let me turn the page.
So adventures are a good thing. Adventure Boy! might lead Super Mama off on all sorts of journeys... who knows to where?
This is one of my favorite photos of Gabriel when we went to the Brooklyn Zoo. Babies love animals... here, they are loving fishies. I love my Thursday Adventures with my Playgroup. What would I have done without them?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Public School and Art Museum
It wasn't breathtaking art-- not for me, anyway. Some of it was interesting, some of it was funny, some of it was thought provoking, but I didn't love most of it. And I really like modern art. There was this one exhibit where an Australian woman made "mind maps" embroidered on sheer cloth-- and I liked that a lot. It was very intricate, and a lot like the Aboriginal Dream Maps, which I love. Bad art reviewer who can't remember her name. Gabriel liked an exhibit of watercolors on paper... John Lurie, that was his name. They were very odd and art brutish. Strange animals and faces where G's favorite. He would keep turning back to certain pictures. Funny that, even at that young an age, they have preferences in art. There were also a lot of video installations, and I guess that's not my favorite medium... the babies seemed to like them, though. Especially when they could get out and crawl around on the glossy gallery floor.
P.S. 1 is actually an old school building. I love those old school buildings. It get so nostalgic for I'm not sure what.
The other moms and I were also talking about the future of school for our kids. Yes, they're terribly young now, but there's a worry in NYC about preschool and good schools and finding our kids places in said schools.
One of the moms said she's not worried because the demand for better schools is really strong right now in our neighborhood, with the huge generation of kids coming up, but even if they don't manage to fix the schools by the time our kids are ready, she said with the talent in our mother's group, we could start our own school.
Why does that idea keep coming up in my life? For the last ten years, that idea has popped up again and again, even before I got my masters in Education. And it makes me excited. Even though I generally teach High School, and Gabriel is a long way off from that, I love the idea of starting a co-op school. Oh, alternative education, how you pull my heart. Oh, progressive education, I do miss you.
We were also talking about how, if we didn't have our group, we probably would not be doing so well about now. Our friends and communities have seemed to go their own ways, and so the mom's group has given us something new.
It's not just the one glass of white wine I had talking, is it? The one I sipped as we sat outside in the museum courtyard? Maybe some things are going right in this motherhood thing. Maybe life isn't quite over, and new opportunities are opening up.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I Have Dreams of Strumming the Guitar and Singing for the Children
I told S that I want to play guitar. He said, “really?” as if that was an interesting idea.
It came up because we were talking about the baby liking music, and that we were a musical family. I said we should have the baby play with the piano more. S plays piano, I don’t, and besides, our hand me down piano is WAY out of tune.
I told him I wanted to play and sing for the baby. I hope that sticks in his mind, and if he happens to come across a guitar for give-away or cheap, maybe he’ll pick it up for me.
I don’t need lessons. I don’t want to be a professional, here. I just need some “learn to play” books and some music. I’ve taken music classes before. I can even sight read a little bit.
I know this kind of takes me out of my resolution to not start anything new, to not try and learn a new genre, but I have ALWAYS loved the guitar, and wanted to learn to play since my sister got guitar lessons, and I got recorder lessons when I was eight. RECORDER lessons, I tell you. One of the times in my life when being the middle sibling has sucked.
I do sing, and I sing well. And I’ve always thought that being able to strum along on a guitar while I sing would be so lovely. Particularly now, while I’m coming into contact with so many children. Maybe I’ll even write my own songs. Years of scribbling poems should come in handy somewhere.
Besides, if G is going to be a rock star, we should start while he’s young. (I’m just kidding. Sort of.)
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Difficult Process of Applying Butt to Chair
I wrote half a page just now. While Gabriel napped. This is how it starts. Ofcourse, Gabriel slept for 2 hours, and I only wrote for the last 5 minutes of said nap. Nap entailed my procrastination, dressing, eating, blogging, even planting ornamental grass.
I forced myself to start writing even though I was scared, even though G was about to wake up. It just took me one hour and 55 minutes for the forcing to work.
That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Now I have to run. It’s lunch time, and we need to go to playgroup.
What I Have Done So Far to Make My Deck an Attractive and Inviting Retreat Because there will Likely be No Vacation this Summer.
Planted morning glory seeds (blue and magenta), sunflower seeds, purple flower seeds.
Bought magenta petunias in hanging baskets.
Bought pink and coral begonias (Is it begonias? I can’t remember. Something like that.)
Brought out the big tree in a pot that winters inside.
Acquired a beach umbrella that I’m using in the table.
Acquired two lovely cedar folding chairs.
Acquired two lounge chairs with lovely cerulean covers.
Rearranged the furniture so there are “conversation areas”, like in a house.
Tossed winter refuse.
Cleaned the gutters (not me, Sean did that.)
Cleaned up the plant table.
Bought a blow up wading pool for Gabriel to splash around in.
Bought a red and white checked vinyl table cloth… which, unfortunately, does not seem to go with the developing color scheme of cerulean, and magenta with splashes of yellow and other brights. Red is pretty much the only color that DOESN’T go.
What I Still Have to Do:
Buy a new vinyl table cloth—one in cerulean and magenta—also acceptable are pink, coral, green. I suppose the classiest would actually be white. Hmm. Do I want to go classy or cheerful? Well, it will all depend on what kind of vinyl table cloths they have at The Gem Store… my neighborhood discount store.
Transfer a few more inside plants outside to the garden. The question is, how much do I want to strip my Studio/sun room of greenery? I can see trees outside the window, so there is that already.
Buy a few more plants for the deck, both flowers and greenery.
Buy new soil.
Plant the ornamental grass—because who knows how long it will take to grow.
Rearrange furniture, because it’s not quite right.
Buy a floor covering so Gabriel can do some well-supervised crawling and hanging around outside.
Blow up the inflatable pool and fill with water when the weather gets nice.
Keep fresh limes in stock so I can make margaritas and sit out there after the baby goes to sleep.
Buy a juicer—because making margaritas with fresh lime squeezed by hand is too labor intensive to be relaxing.
Host get togethers out there—small or large, it’s all good.
And most important…
Develop the habit of going out there when Gabriel has gone to sleep, and taking my laptop, so I can write my novel while drinking my margaritas and sitting in my lounge chair amongst all the beautiful flowers.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Me not very smart
I stole this goal from a Sudoku book I bought. Frankly, I’m doing Sudoku now because I can’t stand being so stupid anymore. This whole mom brain thing is no joke. Between the hormones, the baby talk, limited adult contact and the lack of sleep, my brain feels like it’s shriveling up in my head.
I want to be able to watch a serious movie again—shoot, even a silly movie in one sitting would be an improvement. I want to remember people’s names. I want to stop using “thingy” and “whatchamacallit” in common conversation. I want to be able to concentrate on an idea and take it further into what it could mean or where it could go.
I used to be smart. I’d like to be smart again.
Now that I’ve gotten myself a planner, I feel like I’ve taken a step towards being more productive in my life.
Aside from my lovely ToDo lists (which, to be honest, I have been slacking on) there is a place to plan projects. There is, of course, a calendar, so I can keep track of appointments, deadlines, time bound goals, etc. I can store my receipts. I can keep lists of websites or books or magazines or whatever I need for research.
It’s almost as if I shouldn’t consider myself a stay at home mom, but a work at home mom, one who is a writer, but simply hasn’t made any money at it—yet.
It’s almost as if it is a first step in taking my life as seriously as I might a job. I do have a tendency to wander around with out purpose, nowadays. I mean, my “purpose” is to take care of the baby, so as long as I’m doing that, I can do anything I want, go anywhere. The problem is, none of what I “want” to do seems all that important or pressing, and it isn’t. I often stand on street corners, looking down the street this way, and then that way, wondering which direction I should go.
Is that a metaphor for life, or what?
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Gabriel is more than ten months old, and I still do a double take sometimes, and say, who's a mom? me? Sorry, you have the wrong chica.
But oh, wait. Yes I am. M-O-T-H-E-R.
I'm not quite sure why it stuns me so much to be a mother. I mean, I've wanted to have children since I was 15. We planned to have kids. I had nine months before Gabriel arrived to get used to it, and ten months after, to boot. Yet still, it surprises me.
I think it's because I spent so many years as such an independent, internally motivated person. It was always about what I needed to do for my life, my development, my art, my work. And now, well... hi, it's about sweet potato mash and diapers and nap schedules.
It's only about me during nap times, and at night, once he's gone to bed. And usually, by then I just crash.
Well, yesterday, I got myself a planner-- the old fashioned kind, on paper, with binder rings and a loop to hold my pen. I want to make sure that my old life hasn't finished with bringing forth a new life.
When I was still pregnant and distressed over my lack of ability to create, worried about whether or not I would be able to create once the baby came back, another woman told me, "don't worry, it comes back."
This is where I am now. Nurturing my creativity, while nurturing the baby, I am nurturing me.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Back to My Current LIfe
It was great to see my friend, but I definitely realized how my life had changed. I used to just go along with whatever was on the agenda... like a piece of driftwood on the tide, I'd go wherever I was taken. Not so, anylonger.
No parties in the next town. No late night bar hopping. No stops for Italian food, nor for Nathan's hotdogs on Coney Island. I said "no" to multiple adventures. It's just not realistic anymore. Do I really want to haul around an overtired baby to stranger's houses, missing naps and meals and all sorts of things? I don't. I want our long and painful car ride back to Brooklyn to end. I want to corral all the random baby stuff-- shoes, pacifiers, toys, yogurt cups-- and sit down on my own couch, watch tv, and let him sleep in his own bed.
Yes, I have become an old lady mom. Or maybe not an old lady mom, maybe just a mom to a little baby. Normal, perfectly normal.
And I didn't give up every adventure on my trip. We stopped at a bar in Amangansett, had chowder at a dock side restaurant with a smoky pot bellied stove, stuffed mooses on the walls, and a curmudgeonly bartender who will shout you out with a bullhorn if you talk on your cell phone. Gabriel and I wandered the near deserted town of Montauk, looking for coffee and whatever we could find. Gabriel met the ocean and the beach for the first time-- if it had been warmer, we would've spent more time there. And when Gabriel went to sleep, my friend and I had some long missed girl talk (since she moved to Costa Rica months ago.)
So a nice vacation, but much different from what it would have been in my previous life. Now back to the homefront, and all the projects I am growing now-- from raising Gabriel, to writing a novel, to decorating the house and deck, to keeping my relationship with Sean strong... all those projects that are my life.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
No More Traveling Light
But it's ending. My friend is selling her little house. It was a great place, but it was a drain on them financially and psychically-- always worried that the sea would come in and the dune would collapse and the whole thing would just be swept out into the ocean. They got a nice deal, not great, but nice, and it's time for them to move on. Sigh. I will miss it.
But then again, that time in my life is over, too. I no longer travel light. Where once I could have tossed my swimsuit in a bag and hopped on the train out to the end of Long Island, now I must plan and schedule, scrounge up a car seat, stuff three bags and fold up the stroller, pack the diapers and baby food, figure out what he needs for the weather and then double that. I've got to figure in his naps and nursing and lunch times. I'm certainly not thinking about what I'm going to wear when I go out to bars. It's not an issue anymore.
It's a whole new life, now. Time to dive into the depth and weight of my life now. Sure, it's not fancy free and footloose like it used to be. It's something else entirely. I'm still figuring out what exactly it is, though.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Three Whole Pages
I actually started my novel. By that I mean I started to write the story, as opposed to ideas about the story.
I started it by telling myself it was okay to write crap. Not just okay, but necessary. Everytime I cringed at the awfulness of what I was putting on the page, I shook it off, said, “that’s okay,” and kept going. Word by word, sentence by sentence. It was painful, but still I did it, and then afterwards, I felt better about myself. Even “good”.
I wrote three pages of dialogue, description, action and exposition. Wow. I forgot I knew that. The components of a story. I used to teach creative writing to teenagers, and you have to break things down to the elements when you teach kids. Adults need that too, sometimes. It helps to pinpoint what things are made of, because then you can consciously craft your work, and not just go on instinct.
Although instinct is good, too. It can get you very far. And dependinig upon your purpose in your art, it may be all you need.
Ofcourse, instinct or craft, the only way to get anything done is to just do it, despite all the things getting in your away. Apply butt to chair and create.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
We walked through the park-- long walk-- but stopped at the lake to see the geese and ducks. Much fun, then got to the zoo proper. The babies were hysterical when they got to the huge fish tank. They all lined up in front of the glass, standing on the ledge, hands and faces pressed up to the tank, watching the big ole fish and turtles swim past. Very cute.
Gabriel liked the bunny, and the meerkats, and the otters-- basically anything that reminded him of his kitty-girlfriend, I think. But he ADORED the alpaca. It was in the "barn", kind of a petting zoo, and the alpacas had just been sheared for the summer. They had these long stringy necks and their heads were big, and still fuzzy. They came right up to the babies, looking to be fed, I think. Gabriel loved them. Reached out for alpaca nose, got licked. He stood on the stall door and giggled hysterically. Then, when it was time to move on to the next animal, wouldn't let go of the door. Hung on, leaning over, laughing and staring at the alpaca. Then, the goats nibbled his toes and the cow ignored him.
So much fun. Then we walked back through the park, took the subway home. Now I'm pooped, and Gabriel's sleeping.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Thanks For Sharing
But then I remember. This is normal. This is expected. This is part of the process, this anxiety that nothing will come, this fear that what comes will be crap, this terror that I will be exposed. Normal, all normal.
So, what if, instead of turning away from the fear and hiding in the sand of busywork, I face it? What if I listen to the fear? I’m not saying I should let it win. I’m not going to agree with the fear. Instead, I will listen to the fear, and I will say, “Yes, fear, I hear you. Thank you for sharing, but I have to go work now.”
Simple as that, “I hear you, but I have work to do.”
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I have been stopped, lately. I’m writing in my journal and my blog, but not my novel. I’m just stopped. I wouldn’t call it blocked, exactly—that’s not a nice word, it’s almost like not writing becomes an illness, and I don’t need an “illness” as an excuse for not writing.
Honestly, I think I’ve been stopped in my writing because I am too close to making it real. I was fine with writing when I was just planning. Taking notes, asking questions, doing character sketches… all that was going along fine. It came to a screeching halt as soon as I got to the point of actually starting to write the STORY.
So, face it. Face my reluctance.
You have no idea where my head just went. Suddenly, Oprah was riveting. I thought I heard Gabriel stirring. I looked at my studio and started planning how to baby proof it. I noticed my lips were chapped. I started thinking about a class I took years ago. I noticed that my clothes smell like baby puke and I should probably go do something about it—
All to get away from writing—and thinking about removing the blocks to writing.
The truth is, I shouldn’t even expend this energy on thinking about why I can’t write and what is getting in my way. I should just go write.
First one word, then the next, then the next, until it makes a sentence. Then add another sentence, another, another—that’s how writing happens. That’s how stories get written.
Monday, May 01, 2006
What's the Story, Morning Glory?
Yesterday, I planted Teddy Bear Sunflowers in a huge pot. That's for Gabriel. The package said they were fuzzy and wonderful to touch. So Gabriel will be able to pet a hundred fuzzy suns.
I am a neophyte gardener. And certainly have never grown anything from seeds, except for maybe those beans you grew in milk cartons for kindergarten.
Last year, I completely ignored my deck and all my container gardens. I was busy growing a little booboo in my belly-- and it wasn't near as romantic as it sounds. It was hard and exhausting work, and I had no energy for flowers.
But that's done with. Now he's on the outside. And there's less time to do all that other stuff, like gardening, or writing, or painting, or washing the dishes-- but there is more energy. I just have to learn how to plan it all out and keep it up. Figure out some sort of routine or schedule to keep everybody fed and clean and watered and inspired enough to grow up tall and strong and beautiful. Flowers, baby, stories.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
New Life, New Ways
I get ideas when I don’t have opportunity to try them out. Like wanting to draw pictures of the things from his day—the cherry blossoms and lilacs from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A great cartoon dog from a book at Barnes and Noble. Or a real dog named Pinky, sitting outside of Teddy’s Bar and Grill, which Gabriel spent hours watching.
I read blogs and sites about creative types, and it is inspiring, it is. But I don’t have that time that I used to. Once upon a time, I would read my blogs or books and then I would go paint or write and do whatever I had been inspired to do. Now, I read, and then hear the baby stirring from his nap in the other room. Mommy time over.
I know it’s possible. I have to work on it. Figure out this new trick.
Like a baby learning how to stand, how to walk, how to talk. I'm new at this, just like Gabriel.
Friday, April 28, 2006
I got a library card. It was so much easier than I even thought. I kept imagining things that would get in the way. Maybe I’d need a utility bill as proof of address. Maybe someone would have used my card and built up fines. Maybe the stroller would be too difficult to get up the stairs… maybe, maybe, maybe.
It turns out that i went in, showed an ID, the librarian punched some numbers into the computer, I signed the card, and that was it. Wow. Didn’t even have to wait two weeks for the card to come in the mail.
I think I always imagine things to be more difficult than they actually are. Sometimes that imagining stops me from trying, or from persevering. And then I do not achieve the things I want to achieve.
It may be time to give up the life philosophy I picked when I was 13: Hope for the best, but expect the worst.
I lived that to save myself from heartbreak and disappointment, but I think it sometimes turned into a self fulfilling prophecy. Expecting the worst, all the time—it was as if I didn’t deserve to get the best, didn’t deserve to get what I wished for.
Definitely time for a new philosophy.
What do May Flowers Bring?
The trees full of leaves and flowers constantly surprise me. I look at them, and think, "Wow! Where did that come from?" Time has sped up so rapidly, it's quite taken my breath away. Time passed leisurely last year, in comparison to now.
Gabriel's infancy is gone. Long gone. He's almost a year old. I could actually call him 10 months now, although I think I'm stuck on 9 months. He's standing, pulling up on furniture, cruising along the coffee table and sofa, he's walking if he holds onto our fingers. Isn't that a toddler? He is literally toddling along, chasing after the cat.
So I'm not the mom of an infant anymore. And I won't be the mom of a toddler for long. I see the other moms in Williamsburg (and there are a LOT) the ones chasing after their toddlers, and it seems like such a permanent state. It seems like they are so far ahead of me, and I will never get there, and they will never be anything else but toddler moms. But that's just not the case.
It's all a transition. Life is always on it's way to some other state. Motion. Moving. Mobility. Gosh, he'll be starting school soon. I just heard from another mom that my zoned school is actually a good one. That's a lucky relief.
So am I supposed to be thinking about schools now? Gabriel learns to sit up, learns to eat solids, learns to walk-- then school? Greadness Gooshus. Okay, maybe some talking and toilet training in there, too, but it seems like first love and college and his own apartment is right down the chute.
And then what about me? What about my goals? Ignore them now for Gabriel, so that when his life is taking off independently I have nothing? Nuh, uh. Take care of mommy, take care of baby. I want him to have a fulfilled mother. I want him to know it's possible to work for and attain the goals that are most important.
I'm thinking ahead, definitely. I need to work on using those moment that I have in the present, though. It's those little present moments that get us to the future. Step by step. Day by day. First it's April, then it's May, then...?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Bear With Me
However. I still have not figured out how to get the images that are in the camera into the computer and onto the blog, or various other sites where I need them to go. Nothing sinister about that, I just haven't had the time to even attempt it. Technical things are close to the last thing on my To Do list-- even after the dishes, if you can imagine.
Bear with me. Hopefully, I will soon be stepping up my blog. Baby first, then me, then Sean (but he's at work all day), then house, then blog.
Oh, wait. I haven't eaten breakfast yet. I really have to start being diligent about my To Do list. I don't even eat if it's not on the fricking list.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I Fell off the Horse
I’ve been sick for the last two weeks. Nothing serious, just a bad cold, but I just didn’t feel like writing. Or doing much of anything. Then Gabriel got a little sick, and that took all my attention.
All my goals fell by the wayside. Chicken soup was more important. Orange juice. Tea. Naps.
Now I’m feeling better, and I want to get back on that horse of activity and growth and movement. I want to start writing my novel again. (The 100 days idea is still there, I’ve just added 14 extra days to it. 114 days to write my novel…well, we’ll see) I want to get back to my poor neglected blog again. And I finally got my digital camera, so as soon as I have the time/energy to figure out how to get the pictures from the camera into the blog, well, then I’ll have visual proof that I’m not making it all up.
I also want to get back into the goal of cleaning my wreck of a house. Gabriel’s learning to cruise/walk and to pull himself up to stand, so the house is turning into a minefield of baby dangers.
How to get back into the routine? Baby step by baby step. Back to the To Do list. Keep determination without expecting perfection. Realize backsliding is natural in all processes, but especially in creative processes. Be aware of those dread excuses that get you out of doing the most important, scariest, hardest things—for me it’s “I don’t feel well” and “I’m too tired.” Fight through the resistance. Stand up, Sit down, fight, fight, fight. Gooooooo Horse!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Things That Make Me Happy, 11 through 20
11—A junky street in Williamsburg lined with green/white flowering trees. Like frosting for old tenements and factories and cement. Proof that Spring is coming—and something that Gabriel has never seen
12—Walking down Bedford Avenue on the first really warm day of Spring.
13—Running into people I know and stopping to have conversations with them on the street.
15—Flip flops, and being able to wear them outside.
16—Stopping in a thrift store to browse and finding brand new storage baskets for $3.50
17—Watching Gabriel learn how to stand… particularly when he uses a sleeping Papa as his ladder/prop. First he grabs hold, then he gets his feet under him and sticks his butt up in the air, then he pulls up with his arms until he is looming over sleeping Papa. Then he stands there, wiggling his butt around and talking to himself.
18—Gabriel talking. “Dai dai dai dai. Ya ya, thhhhhpppppppbbbtt. Aaaaah. Dai dai. Thhhhpppbbbttt!”
19—That Gabriel falls asleep listening to Bob Marley.
20—Coffee with cream and sugar. That’s all. It’s the simple things.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Keep it Going, Sugarlumps
I am off duty. Phew. Still on-call, of course, but off duty. Sean won't be home until late, because he's taken on some extra shifts for the money, so it's all me. We can only hope the boy won't wake up.
So, it's time to jump back in to the writing. I've been sick with a pretty bad cold, and have nothing left for creating or even thinking, particularly after taking care of the baby. I was on such a good roll not too long ago, and then I got sick, and didn't care to push myself through the icky feelings and cotton stuffed brain.
I've been trying to figure out what is the balance between allowing myself the imperfection of not always being on top of everything-- and keeping my determination and commitment to my goals. Is it okay to take a few days off because you're sick, or because there are family commitments? Or should I be vigilant in keeping my writing priorities high?
I guess the balance I have come up with is to allow myself some days of not writing, to allow myself to take care of myself, or other responsibilities, or even to be sick and lazy, while at the same time keeping track of that slack, and not allowing the inactivity to take over.
It would be really easy to NOT write right now. Not in the blog, or the journal, or the story ideas. It would be easy to sit down in front of the tv with something to eat and just veg. Normally, that's what I do. Evening hours are my decompression hours-- but it's been so long since I haven't written, that I feel I need to work.
Work on top of work. Oh, well. That's what I want. I wanted kids, and I still want to be a writer.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Ten Things That Make me Happy
It’s time to do this. It’s time to pay attention to what is great about my life, instead of what I don’t have enough of.
Everything has changed so much in the last two years. My life has seemed to spiral off into a different direction than it was going before. It feels a bit out of my control, as if it has all happened to me without any active participation on my part. I have a tendency to focus on “fixing” the things that are wrong, so I look around my life, and all I see are the messes, the lack of time or money or attention. I worry about not going anywhere with my art and my career. I worry about not getting what I want out of life.
It’s definitely time to switch all that negative energy into positive. Like draws like. If all I see is lack, I don’t know how I can ever be fulfilled. However, if I look around and see abundance, that will open life up for more abundance. It’s all mindset. I want my positive mindset back.
1. Gabriel’s eyes—They are large and almond shaped, with long eyelashes. And they are such an unusual color, a ring of midnight blue on the outside, a gray/blue/turquoise in the center, and a ring of yellow/green inside that. Depending on the day, the light, and what he is wearing, his eyes are gray or blue or green—or some combination of those colors.
2. Writing again—it’s such a relief to have my creativity come back. It’s a relief to have ideas again. It’s a relief to be productive. It’s relief to have that motivating passion. Just one big “phew!” and a load off my shoulders.
3. Being held by Sean—it just makes me feel safe and loved.
4. The plants in the front window—I enjoy looking up and seeing the light filter through the green leaves. Plants make a house feel like home.
5. Gabriel when he laughs—there is something that is just so pure about a baby’s laughter. It touches something outside of the everyday. It’s like the true nature of being human, or of god.
6. Me Laughing with Gabriel—I don’t know when I belly laughed as much before Gabriel came along. Adults don’t go off into giggle fits like kids. Adults aren’t amazed and entertained by so many things. It’s beautiful to get that back.
7. A nice, hot shower, without worrying about Gabriel waking up, or “hearing” his cry in the water going down the drain, or the exhaust fan, or the cat meowing—self explanatory, no?
8. Oatmeal with brown sugar and bananas!—I just had this yesterday and was surprised at how tasty it was.
9. New episodes of “Lost” on TV—lame, maybe, but for an hour, I get sucked into a Pacific mystery adventure. And the baby’s asleep by then, too.
10. Making the bed—Who knew? First of all, it makes me feel like I’ve done something. Like I have something under control. And then it also looks like a blank slate whenever I walk in my bedroom. There’s a place to rest my eyes without chaos or piles of clothes/papers/books.
Friday, April 07, 2006
I Am an Artist Because I Say I Am an Artist.
I've thought about this a bit, and decided what makes someone an artist is basically two things.
1: Self Identification. You have to believe yourself an artist. It's not about what other people say or how many people say it, it's about believing it. It's not about how many other things you have to do in a day or who you owe your time and energy to. It's not about selling your art and making money or being published or performing infront of an audience. It's not about how good you are and how much talent you have--I've known plenty of people with lots of talent who never considered themselves artists and so never were. It is about trusting your vision and living an artistic life and creating art because you ARE an artist.
2: Commitment. Commitment to your art and your craft. Commitment to exploring. Commitment to giving your time and energy to create. Commitment to a project. Commitment to an idea.
I would say it's the first one that is most important, because it's really about believing you have the right and the potential to create. It's nearly impossible to put all that energy into something that you don't believe you have a right to do.
I think that may be why it's easier for young people to be artists and writers and musician and actors and all that-- they really BELIEVE they have a right to do all this. OFCOURSE they are artists! But as life ticks on and they learn everything that goes into being an artist, and they confront all the people who say no, and the difficulty of the craft itself, and struggle with their own creativity, and all the other things in life they have to commit to, and doubts about their abilities and so on-- they come to believe that they may not have as much of a right to be an artist as they thought they did. Maybe that's when people start giving up their poetry or their paintbrush for "real life."
It's perfectly rational to put making a living or taking care of your family above painting a picture. Perfectly rational and adult. I think you really have to believe that being creative is vital to your identity, your happiness, even your sanity, in order to put it above those adult things.
I carve time out of my day with Gabriel, out of my (pitiful) housekeeping, because I am an artist, down to my toes. It is a vital part of my identity, and without it, I start to shrink in on myself.
I am not saying-- I didn't say it anywhere here-- that being an artist is a good and wonderful thing. I certainly didn't say it's an easy thing. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live a simple life that consists of a career and a family, without the constant need to be creative and productive and innovative and go searching in my head and heart for more emotional depth so I can put it on paper. I'd still be teaching if it weren't for my belief that I am an artist. My house would be cleaner and I'd have a garden and dinner on the table every night.
I am an artist because I say I am an artist and am willing to make sacrifices to BE that artist.
Which leads us to #2: Commitment.
Yes, I should be committed, because being an artist is often a crazy thing to be. It's like leaping off of a high building sometimes, because you really believe that you can fly. Of course, when you're an artist... there is the chance that you actually can sprout wings and take off into the sky.
I'm only half kidding.