Sunday, 27 March 2016

for all the mom-writers out there


I know there are a good many of you who have managed to follow your passion for writing, even with a house full of kids and varying responsibilities. This is not for you.

Hey you. Who, like me, has juggled until your fingers feel like bruised nubs.

You, who wrote as a kid and knew you would always write.

You, who had high school teachers and college professors telling you, "you've got something– you must write."

You, who took the journey of many women before you and, try as you might to sit down and write your biggest project, let everything and everyone come first.

You, honey. This is for you.

I am a writer and I've been a writer all my life. 

Screw the rhetoric that makes me feel "less than" when I read off writers' credentials, the awards, the honours, the degrees and list of literary appointments. 

That will never be me.

Me–obtaining a nursing degree I was not so interested in, but thankfully allowed vast experience in mental health, and enabled me to work and support myself, paying my own way through university.

Me–choosing a career of helping others because I'd always been intrigued by people's complex stories. Yes, maybe I should have put the full-time effort into writing people's complex stories, but instead I made a career of helping people rewrite their stories so that their lives brought less pain to themselves and others. (crucify me)

Me–with my mate at 23, married by 25 and a mother to three by the age of 33, living a complex existence while working my socks off in mental health-- always squeezing writing in when I could-- but unfortunately most of that writing was to finish my BA and MA, each were completed (with honours) while nursing my first baby . . . and my last.

Me–divorced and remarried and now co-parenting a family of nine children as my little straggler boy was born when I was 43. Yes, 43. Throughout all of that I wrote. I wrote poetry sign-posting my journey, I wrote articles, I journaled, I blogged . . .  and then, finally, I started the book.  And finished it.

Let's talk about you, because I know most of you are like me.

Part of you feels guilty or "less than" because you know you are a writer, but you don't feel your portfolio says that you are a writer.

You hesitate to embrace the creative in yourself because everyone and everything else in this world seems to demand to come first.

I feel you honey.  I am you.

I am working hard to take care of myself and part of that is to take care of my writing, which is a marriage of sorts. A commitment.

I'm working at letting go of thinking I'm too old to be putting out queries for my first book– look at how prolifically these other ladies have written, who am I . . .– comparing myself to others' accomplishments that were simply not meant to happen in my lifetime.

After letting my book sit and be just for me, I've decided to uncage it to fly and see if anyone welcomes its wayward self into their window– while trying to ignore the inevitable comparisons to other writers that creep into my consciousness.

My life has taken difficult, varied and innumerable twists and turns; a fact I cannot change.  I bet yours has too.

But we can do this.

We can write. 

We can call ourselves writers.

We can put our words out into the world.

Sister, let go of the "shoulds" and "what ifs" and embrace the "why not," letting that tension go and getting to the work at hand.

Write.

Write for yourself.

Write for others.

And when you are too busy to write in the moment, make note of the brilliant idea that flickers in your mind or comes in a dream and sets you alight. 

And come back to it; she'll be waiting for you. 


Saturday, 26 March 2016

My Reward

Walking out to my little zen writing hut/office this morning, predawn, I was rewarded for the effort. The near full moon was still high in the dark sky. Besides the dogs that had gotten an early release from their kennels, and the bull frogs singing their morning song, it was silent. 

For moms especially, there is a sweetness to the still solitude that sweetly envelopes you on very early mornings– a reward for reluctantly bidding the soft caresses of your bed a fond adieu.  Admittedly, it can be a long reach for me to take the step into that space of self-care rather than rolling over for more sleep. 

I lit candles and incense.  Beckoned some centering energy and began writing. I tweeted a couple photos as the sun was rising over our rolling hills and the mist was hanging on for a tardy farewell. 

But this shot was my reward.  This shot is why returning tomorrow, flinging back the covers and hopping out of bed, will be easier than it was today. This, and the flow writing I was able to do as I work on my new book. 

Yes, I #amwriting.  

#amliving

#amlookingforlight




Friday, 25 March 2016

an unfinished story: after the book is written + before it is published

For over three years I have sat with a "finished" novel.

Meeting new writers in a new land, away from my nest of the woo-woo women writing group I called home, I was struck by how much focus seemed to be on getting published rather than writing a quality book/piece or the simple awe and hallelujah of the experience.

Running into people who had self-published, which involved having to spend thousands of dollars to buy hundreds of their own books, and go pedal them . . . something wasn't sitting quite write, er, right.  Authors sentenced to carrying a huge book crate shaped ball and chain, constantly feeling the pressure to recoup their investment.  Where was the love?

That bucket list book finished, I then went introspective. Who was I doing this for?  Why was I doing it? Fine, I wrote it and rode a big trippy high off the experience. Maybe that's enough. Maybe the true love of the art is about fully embracing that experience. It's ego wanting to put it out in the world, right? And how much feeding of ego do I really want to engage in?

The artistic drive for this project was fed by having spent a lifetime working with people dealing with various degrees of trauma, slaves to an unpredictable mind and having a topic that I couldn't get out of my head and was compelled to write about. I always knew I would. Someday.

But it wasn't pleasant.

Through the magic of using my professional experience and immersing myself in this person's world, riding bareback on their narrative, a horribly unpalatable topic rather magically flowed into a palatable (or bittersweet) understanding of how a very "nice" person could consider committing an unthinkable violent act toward her own child-- with an ending full of exhales and redemption-- involving layers of characters and stories such as those that follow us all through life.

While writing had been my escape and my therapy since childhood, this lengthier project was such a pleasant experience of getting lost in the process, I couldn't get enough of it. I had a vague direction– a question I wanted to answer– but wrote being carried by flow and the development of characters, feeling as if I was channeling the story.  It was a rush; a high. I loved every minute of it.

Then the beta-readers (who stated they loved it), the editing, the re-editing– all not as exciting as the writing but full of honouring the work– and that felt good. I wrote in first person which comes very natural to me, but from a literary context can provide its own challenge: will the reader (read agent or editor) find the writing compelling or unique or descriptive enough, while still being a believable first person narrative.

Enter Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic talk that she recently gave in Auckland. I had read in her book how she believes that there are only so many ideas to go around and if you sit on one too long, don't worry, someone else will snatch it up (as she described had eerily happened to her in the past). And how it is really Mr. Fear that is what stands in the way of moving forward with your creativity.

So the next day, I researched a list of agents. And the next week I started sending queries out. These queries were so much better than the drafts I had put together four years ago because I didn't just ask Mr. Fear to sit in the back seat, I asked him to get out of the car.

Yes, it is no small feat to put yourself out there with a challenging topic.  I've already heard from one great agent, "honestly, I don't want to read about this topic, but I'm sure someone else will."  And yes, thus far one very reputable agent has asked for a full manuscript with requests from two publishing houses as well, which I will hold on until I'm sure no agents will represent me.

For now? I'm chuffed that a reputable agent has asked to read my manuscript. Full stop. I hope to hear from more– or from her again.  But what if I don't?

As Elizabeth Gilbert says, much more eloquently than this: you write.  You write because it is your first love. You write because you are a writer.  You write because it is your art and your creative outlet and it would be cruel to withhold that from yourself.

I write because that is when the answers come.  Answers to "who am I?" "What am I really doing here?" And sometimes more pertinent and timely answers to what is going on in my life.

I write because as a mom to many and wearer of many hats– writing is when I feel most me.

I write because I can't not.

My job now is to further honour the place writing has in my life and make more consistent structured time to do so: foster the flow, gifting writing with more space.  And to let go of self-judgment and allow the process of putting myself out there manifest the outcome that is meant to be.