Time to Reclaim the Narrative

 

It is 10:30 on Friday night and this is the first time in the entire week that I haven’t had to answer to anyone or do anything for anyone else.

I am a mother and a wife. At any given moment, I’m under pressure to change a diaper, give a kiss, give a hand job, make a dinner, prepare a lunch, make an appointment, chaperon at a park, be a good listener, scrub a floor, fix a television, queue up a children’s show, give a critique, look beautiful, stop snoring

satisfy

satisfy

satisfy.

All week long my duty is to satisfy a need. All week long, I defer my wants and dreams in order to satisfy the needs of a 2 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old and a husband. Peripherally, I am sometimes asked to satisfy the needs of my mother, step-father, sister, father, step-mother friends, former co-workers, neighbors…. anyone who I know who has a need.

and it is 10:30 at night all three of the men in my life are in bed, sleeping, not needing me.

So I’m sitting here, blogging, exhausted, wondering where the hell all of my creative energy went. Wondering how in the world I am going to get creative this weekend and keep on moving forward toward this dream that I’ve been dreaming for a very long time.

I’ve decided that I’m going to change the tempo of this narrative. When it comes to how I think about writing and how I write about writing, it is time to change the pace.

I love blogging. I have a mommy blog next door that I post to three times a week. I’m going to continue to blog over there regularly because I’ve built up a cool community that I don’t want to let go of. I’ve been sitting here wondering about what I want to do with this space–right now, it’s serving as a weird task list on the internet. That hasn’t garnered much of a following, and quite frankly, it’s getting depressing. I get the impression that this is how early writing careers really start: With fits of brilliance and success and longer periods of not meeting goals. If you are a regular reader, you’ve seen this. I’ve had a run of a few really good weeks of pumping out a short story and a flash fiction and getting stuff edited and feeling accomplished.

But I’ve had many more weeks of making excuses and biting off more than I can chew.  Then coming to this blog and having to write about my failures doesn’t make me want to write… that’s not true. It does make me want to write and be better, but not for positive reasons. Not for reinforcing reasons. The tempo and melody of this narrative must change if I’m going to transform myself from a stay-at-home mommy dreamer into a published author.

Essentially, this blog is a dead space. I really hate that, because I love blogging and I want to share my process with you.

So I am, but just not as frequently and not in the way that I have. The task list will look different and the posts will be reduced to once a week. I’m going to blog in this way–a narrative way, a way true to my voice and my reflections of the week rather than a bullet by bullet weekly power point.

Because when I look back, success or failure, on this blog, I want to know that my voice was shining through for the entire time. That hasn’t really been the case, but the power of this space and this larger journey is that I can change it when and how I want to.

I know that there are a few of you, (I see you, Jeff Kent!)  who read me regularly. To you, I say Thank You because it means a lot to me that this space is something to someone. I know that some of you read my mommy blog and found your way over here (or vice versa), and I’m going to admit that some of the mommy blog is going to bleed through over here. But not totally. I want this space to be about my dream and about my ideas and about my struggles and triumphs, not about my life as a stay-at-home mother. But Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are a huge part of my day-to-day life (and the two biggest excuses for why I haven’t been writing) so their development is going to come up more over here.

Because my day job (and night job) are important and they aren’t going to change. So instead of divorcing them from this dream that I am dreaming, I’m going to integrate them into the narrative.

Because my narrative is powerful, and a driving force for why I’m here and why I’m working so hard. And my narrative is going to be the reason why I’ll keep writing and I’m praying that you’ll choose to read.

So thank you for your time. And your thoughts. And I’ll see you every Friday from now on. I’ll post excerpts of work that I’ve done, I’ll post full flash fictions because I love Chuck’s challenges, I’ll tell you where I triumphed, where I failed, and why.

and if I spend less time blogging, I should have more time to write fiction. And writing fiction is what I want to do…

and if I get better and more consistent with writing fiction, well then, I’ll blog a little more. Because I really love blogging.

So see you next Friday, and every Friday here after. And thank you for reading my blog. And if you are curious about a crazy black stay-at-home mom and her two beautiful bi-racial sons, please feel free to pop over to my mommy blog.

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Writer’s Wednesday: Moving + Toddlers +Editing a short story = Pipe Dream

 

 

An Excerpt from a conversation with my muse:

 

Me: Hey.

Muse: Hey.

Me, looking down, sheepish: Want to work on that short story that we wrote a few weeks ago? Members of the group are waiting for the rework.

Muse, hands on her hips: Are you fucking high? Aren’t you moving on Saturday? Aren’t there only a million items on your task list?

Me, abashed, still not making eye contact: Yes…But I thought that we could steal away a little bit of time….you know, to stay sane?

Muse, not impressed, stepping forward menacingly: Girl, I can hear your boys in the nursery not sleeping right this second. How much time did you really think you were going to steal?

Me, looking up with doe eyes: 30 minutes, maybe?

Muse: [maniacal laughter] You really are high!

Me: [Turns and walks away, defeated]

 

I am moving on Saturday and I can tell you, my apartment is in shambles. It is very difficult to think under these circumstances, let alone create. And when I’m doing doing the packing on this side, I have to do all of the unpacking on that side. So, you know, my life is awesome.

So don’t expect to hear from me. I’ll check in on Monday or so to let you know that I’m alive. But at the moment, I’m going on a bit of hiatus so as to lighten this stressful load.

I’m sorry to disappoint, but I promise that I’ll write on the other side of this!

Writer.Mama: Every Minute Counts

 

My eldest son has been boycotting the daily nap all week, and I gotta tell you, it took all the wind out of my sails.

That twoish hours every day is so crucial to my life. It’s a time to engage in adult stuff–like writing, or reading, and evacuating my bowels without company. Usually, my golden two hours starts with a shower and ends with a blog post (and a few paragraphs of fiction, if I can muster). But not this week. This week, it’s been about chasing, and chatting, and changing diapers. This boy, literally, had three poopie diapers in a 2 hour span during what was supposed to be his nap time. I was like, you’re killing me!!!!

Today is the first day this week that he’s taken a nap, and oh my God, it’s such a wonderful day.

And do you know how I’ve spent my time (other than watching closing arguments of the Zimmerman trial)? I washed my hair.

I’ve been locking my hair for a little over a year now. I’ve been natural for almost 5 years now, but I didn’t start contemplating locking until after Ursa Major was born. I was trying to grow out my hair, I didn’t really want to deal with it all the time, so I started with two strand twists that I would take out every two to three weeks. My hair grew like gangbusters… and when I became pregnant with Ursa Minor a whole 7 months after I’d give birth to Ursa Major, well, I just decided to keep it up.

But two babies and trying to do major hair projects every three weeks was not sustainable. It was time to come up with something else. I liked the way my hair looked when I had it in twists, so why not make it permanent? Here we are thirteen months later and it was the best decision that I’ve ever made. I make my own mixes of organic creams to put in my hair, I put it up in pretty twists when I’m going out, I keep it wrapped in beautiful fabric when I’m at home…I feel beautiful and powerful all the time now. My hard work has brought me shoulder-length hair… a freaking big deal!

But washing the hair is a weekly/bi-weekly treat, and I had to keep postponing because someone wouldn’t nap. So today was the day, and damn was it energizing!

That time with the steam and the sound and the smell of my organic lavender conditioner…that time with no little questions and no slamming of toys… that little tiny bit of time unburdened is absolutely essential to life. It’s liberating and wondrous. It’s uplifting for the soul. Comfort food for the skin and hair and mind.

It’s the little things that can burden the mind or set it free. Two little extra hours of my toddler can actually zap all of my energy for the  rest of the day. The taking away of the renewal periods, the breathing periods, the relaxing periods… it can take away any and all hope of clear thinking and creative energy.

I love motherhood, and what I’ve found is that motherhood has given an extra urgency to my day. Every single minute of my day counts: Toward their needs, my dreams for them, my personal goals, and the daily obligations running a household. But that last 30 minutes of my life that I dedicated, selfishly, to only me was just as important as the time I’m spending writing this post, or the time I’ll spend preparing tonight’s dinner, or even the many minutes I’ll spend wiping dirty fannies.

So cheers to every single minute. The selfish ones, the productive ones, the ones in devotion to those who you love. I hope that you, too, will find a serene moment today. I’m off to add shea butter, jojoba oil, castor oil, and monoi oil (all organic) to my hair and wrap it in beautiful fabrics. It’s the things that make us feel powerful that bring out the best of our creativity. It’s not vanity.  It’s honoring the temple where our mind and muse reside.

Starting the Week Positive: Shout Out Monday!

 

I want to take this opportunity to send a great big shout out to my writing friend, Rochelle, who has a wonderful blog called The Notebook Blogairy and today is her bloggy anniversary! So Happy Bloggin’ Birthday! Please check out her blog! She’s doing an awesome giveaway to celebrate!

I met Rochelle through NaNoWriMo ’12. Though she is the published writer, I ended up mentoring her through the crazy month of literary abandon. I have fun mentoring other moms through the crazy month (because NaNo is a challenge. Mothering is a challenge. NaNoing and Mothering is another world of challenge), and she was one of my 8 newbies  for the month. She was one of the 6 who “won” NaNo under my watch last year, and we’ve been corresponding ever since!

In fact, without her, I wouldn’t have started this blog and I wouldn’t be working so hard to come up with my own platform and start publishing my own stuff.

So this is a Happy Birthday and also a Thank You. Inspiration comes in many forms, and we should be grateful when we realize what has happened. Turning points are awesome things.

What I’m up to this week: 

I wrote a short story on Saturday that I like but don’t love. So I’m tabling it while I think of a better ending.

I’m rewriting a story that I love and hope to polish and submit. Rewrite will hopefully be done by Friday.

I’m doing more world building for my novel this week. Hope to start character building next week so I can really start plotting.

 

What are you up to this week?

There are so many things that I should be doing, but I’m french kissing Helios instead…

 

Spring is a creature that wants to be wanted. She doesn’t always know how much we love and appreciate her, especially because Winter is so much larger, older, and more powerful than she is.

So when he finally uses up all of his energy, when his tendrils recede back to places far from here, Spring sometimes still takes a long time emerging from her hiding. She wonders if we will miss the snow, and the ice, and the cozy fires and the heavy slow-cooked meals.

And people like me have to get outside and declare our love for her. Because everyone needs reassurance that they are loved, appreciated, and missed when they aren’t there.

So I had maintenance come by this morning and put the screen in my balcony door. It was 40 degrees out this morning, but I had him do it anyway.

And I am blogging outside on my balcony, allowing the sun to warm me, allowing my skin to absorb all of the vitamin D that he has to offer.

And I took the time to notice the crane who flew by my window and decided to stay for a few wonderful moments. My sons didn’t understand why I halted the well oiled breakfast machine to stare out my window and gape like a fool. But I did, because Spring needs that. Spring needs to know that we will stop and notice her, that her gifts, fleeting and yet hauntingly beautiful, don’t go unnoticed.

When I came outside to start blogging, I was wearing a T shirt and a skirt, but they have long been exchanged for the camisole (the skirt does, indeed, remain). It is probably some 55 degrees out here. But to a New Englander like me (……I type that with a heavy heart. I was a life-long Marylander, and I’ve now survived my 7th Massachusetts winter…) , 55 degrees might as well be 90. I totally get it now, why some people end up walking outside in shorts when it’s 40 degrees out.

Because anything is warmer than what we just lived through.

Because everything is warmer than what we just lived through.

And so we reward Spring with a look at our pale skin, begging her to color us alongside the trees and the grass and the flowers. Everything needs color after the long, slow pale of winter.

And–though naturally colored I may be–I, too, require some shading. And I gladly take it. Instead of writing, which is what I really should be doing.

But tomorrow is Short Story Saturday, and it will be fueled by some extra Vitamin D. Because every writer–good, bad and in between–should take the time to power up.

So happy “power up” time to each of you. And happy writing there after.

Thinking about the Canon…

 

Though I bleary-eyed and zombie-like due to the boundary-pushing of my two year-old and the teething of my one year-old, I have been thinking a lot about the current Western canon and what my sons will be reading and thinking about as they grow older. I feel really privileged to be well read.

I’m actually going to pause on that thought.

“Well read” is such an interesting thought and concept. And so terribly subjective, isn’t it? Who decides who is well read, and why? I feel very confident that I am well read in some subjects, not so much in others. While I was not trained in classical literature, I was privileged enough to go to a great public school system that exposed me to many of them, and more importantly, instilled in my a love of reading so that I could go out and find the ones that I did not read.

While I had a liberal arts education in college, featuring many thinkers and thoughts and words, there are certainly whole swaths of the canon that I have missed. Some swaths I want nothing to do with. Others, I’m too intimidated to dare.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what the toddlers of today will be reading in high school tomorrow? While they are reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear like so many before them, my boys are also reading The Skin You Live In and I Stink. Will they read these books to their children? Should they? Will Brown Bear still be relevant? While I hope that they will take the time to read the “classics” like The Count of Monte Cristo or the Three Musketeers, or even the Lord of the Rings series, I wonder if there are others that will simply be irrelevant to them. Do my boys need to read A Separate Piece? The Catcher in the Rye? As much as I loved it, should they read East of Eden? Who chooses? Why? Is Black Boy more relevant to them? Their Eyes were Watching God?  HomeShogunLord of the Flies?

You get the picture.

More importantly, I’m thinking about the lessons and messages that I want my boys to get when they read. I want them to learn about humanity in relation to themselves and the words on the pages that they choose to read. I want them to carry characters with them the way that I do. I want them to think about the power of passages and pages, of worlds and the events that happen in them.

And I want them to see themselves in the books that they read. That is the hardest desire of all. What books are out there with bi-racial boys like mine changing the world or slaying the dragon or reversing the spell?

This is why I write. Not because I want to write stories featuring bi-racial children, but because I want to write the books that I think my sons could learn from and grow from. Not children’s books or YA books, but books for them when they are ready. When they are men facing the world, making decisions, making ripples in their lives with their thoughts, words and deeds. I want to write tomorrow’s canon today.

What makes you write? What makes you put the proverbial pen to paper?

Of Reading, Writing, and Mothering…

 

You know what they say about those best made plans…

This is most certainly one of those weeks. My days have been filled to busting with the obligations of family and my commitments to learning or creating.

I am the mother to two very active young gentlemen. Ursa Major, who is 2, and Ursa Minor, who will be 1 in a week. As you can imagine, when my life only centers around those two boys, my life is plenty busy. Add in the two EdX courses that I decided to take (because they are awesome and free and they are going to help me with my writing), the house I’m trying to buy (the process of which is decidedly less awesome), and the fact that I’m trying to actually start a writing career through writing and submitting short stories while simultaneously writing a real, publishable novel, and well, you’ve pretty much got the schedule of a crazy person.

Being a stay-at-home mother has actually made me a significantly better writer. I have a significantly heightened appreciation for time: Little pockets of quiet time have meaning, and those pockets can create paragraphs. Those paragraphs become pages and chapters! My boys also make me appreciate the power of carrying a journal with me (as I cannot keep a creative though in my head, as my head full of the logistics of keeping our lives running smoothly). They have also given me an acute sense of urgency. I’m a woman who wants to contribute to the well being of my family. We are blessed in that my husband works a job that can afford us the luxury of me staying home–but if I could write and contribute even modestly to our monthly budget, I’d be so grateful. If I want to contribute by writing, that means that I need to actually write.

No. Time. To. Be. Distracted.

It is certainly not easy, and I have had a lot of frustrating moments (even within the last 48 hours). But I am sitting here feeling accomplished. I have completed the first phase of my planning–the super preliminary skeleton of my book. I am also contemplating submitting a short story to a literary magazine later this month, and I have begun the process of editing and polishing a short story for submission.

It has also meant that I haven’t been a very good reader, which is very unfortunate. There are a lot of books out there that I would really like to read. Indeed, I’ll be posting more about that tomorrow.

All in all, I’m feeling accomplished. We are 2 days in to Camp Nano, or what I’m calling Camp Plano, and I feel like I’m on course. Because on August 1st, I’m starting with a blank page one.

and I can’t wait.