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.

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!

Best Practices: Going Analog to Get The Story

I absolutely love my Moleskines. I have three: My “home” journal that keeps all of my various notes and things regarding running life as a family of four. My “project” journal, which contains most of my major projects (including my blog organization and sometimes story outlining). I recently discovered a larger 8×10 Moleskine of mine that had been buried in a box and it is perfect for just dedicating to story writing. Super portable, it fits in my diaper bag and my purse, so now I can take it with me when I’m walking around with the boys. They play, I write. It’s perfect!

I’m currently writing a prequel for Before Her Time, and I’m having a hard time not being distracted by technology. The main character, Tori, is a fictional duchess, and I want to make sure that I get enough details regarding English peerage right so as to not take readers out of the story. Her nobility isn’t central to the story, but people will make enough assumptions that they’ll have certain expectations about behavior, language, location and so forth. Well, I don’t live in England and I’m not schooled on nobility (I actually find it distasteful), so I have to go looking for just the right detail to make it work.

Being lost in Wiki/Google doing research cane sometimes be exhausted. While I’m certainly learning, I’m not writing, and writing is the goal.

So I’ve turned to my trusty story Moleskine to help, even when I’m at home. No research, no google, no wondering…just writing. It is very satisfying to see a few pages full of my chicken scratch in this notebook. I also like having an analog record of my thoughts and inspirations.

I am by no means abandoning my computer. Writing digitally has its own satisfaction, but going old-school has a lot of perks. My Moleskine doesn’t crash….though it can get lost, or blend in with all of the other notebooks in the universe. I love the color Black, I really do, but I wish that had different and more rad colors! I also have a thing about ink stains on my fingers. I know, that’s silly.

I have 2,000 words more of this story to write. Then I have to perform a preliminary edit before I can think about submitting it for critique. I have two little boys that really need to get out and run around this week, though it’s hot at balls outside. This is the life of a woman trying to do it all.

What do you do to “get the story”? What are your favorite tools of the trade?

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.

Weekly Planner: Crawling Back From the Week From Hell

 

I live in the northern suburbs of Boston, so next week was more than a little intense. Add that to flying solo with the 2 toddlers while the husband was away on business, and you have a recipe for disaster!

So, basically, I wrote a total of 3 paragraphs last week.

But we’re back on it this week. I wrote the beginnings of a great short story on Saturday, I’m editing a short story that I wrote a few weeks ago, I have a lot more character development to do this week, and I’m doing a lot of reading on platform building. I lost a week of my writing life last week, and now I’ve got a lot of work to do.

What I’m Doing This Week: 

  1. Editing a short story that I’m polishing for submission: Never A Day Quiet
  2. Finishing a short story that I started on Saturday: Laundry on the Line (working title) 
  3. Doing intense character development (using the Holly Lisle  Create a Character Clinic) for the protagonist of my novel, A Terrible Thing to Waste.  I hope to have him fully formed this week.
  4. Reading more about website/twitter/tumblr use by authors and building a stronger platform.

That is a lot going on, and I have plenty of things to do with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor this week! Did I mention that I’m taking two classes on EdX that I’m utterly behind on? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

But it’s Monday. The week is fresh, the air is clean, the spirit is high. So we’re going to get it all done!

What’s on your plate this week?

Progress report on Wednesday!

5am–My Writing “Witching Hour”

 

 

I love the world at 5 am: Everything is new and fresh, the birds are newly chirping, the soft and tentative peeks of sun start climbing out of the eastern horizon. My boys are still sleeping, my husband is still snoring, and for a beautiful hour and a half every day, the entire apartment is mine for play.

And by play, I mean writing.

5am is my “witching hour”–the time when I can get upwards of 1000 words in if I’m really inspired and get into a groove. Right now, it’s been a great time for research and brainstorming, gearing up for character, world and plot building that I’m about to embark on. There are certainly other hours during the day when writing happens, like right now, nap time. But there is just something magical that happens in the early morning.

What I’m up to: 

Tonight is dedicated to my EdX courses–I’m taking Justice and I’m also taking Ancient Greek Heroes, which focuses on the Illiad. I’m having a lot of fun, and the Greek Heroes course has given me a lot of thought about story telling, hero building, and this idea of micro stories helping to tell macro stories. I’m going to play around with that a lot as I start plotting.

I’m also going to try to dedicate a little bit of time to the short story that I’m rewriting, Asinine Rebellion. I hope to have an excerpt up by this weekend.

Since I’ll have visitors on Saturday (non-awesome visitors. my in-laws…), Short Story Saturday might have to become Short Story Friday Night…we’ll see.

 

When is your writing witching hour? Is it consistent? Should it be?

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.