Time to smoulder

So close.
I am so close to finishing my second novel.
The first draft is complete.
The second is underway.
But writing will have to wait.
A line has formed in recent months that includes painting the newly re-walled living room, painting our oldest son’s room, baking a tent-shaped cake for the Cub Scouts cake auction and tilling a garden plot. All things that have to be worked around kids, kids and kids.
Something is always waiting.
But, when it comes to writing, waiting can be a good thing.
The longer writing waits, the more it smoulders.
As it smoulders, it builds strength.
Plot inconsistencies become clearer with each stroke of the paint brush. Characterization problems are resolved with a few dozen turns of the soil. Novels restructure themselves in a bowl full of cocoa powder, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla.
When I return to the keyboard, I will have plenty of creative energy to burn.
And the novel won’t have to wait long.
I’ve decided to take a break for a few months from freelance work with the exception of one book editing job that I am excited to tackle. That will give me a few extra hours a week to devote to the novel. I should also be able to sneak some time in at night when all the kids are asleep after the painting is done.
I’m still hoping to be finished, really finished by summer,and the time spent thinking without the distraction of writing might just enable that.
Fewer wasted keystrokes.
Fewer wasted words.
More intense focus.
It’s so hard to be patient.
But it’s so important to wait.

Writing and rocks

My husband knew better than to ask “whether.”
Instead, he simply asked me “when.”
When could I teach my son’s Cub Scout den about geology?
Then he gave me a list of possible dates.
I was leery.
It’d been a long time since I’d buried my nose in rocks, 25 years to be precise.
I had always had a passion for earth science, but I loved books and writing more. Still, when it came time to declare a college major, I couldn’t bring myself to choose English.
I had moved out on my own at 17, during my senior year of high school. I had worked full time most of my junior year and all of my senior year while juggling sports and school work. I didn’t want to work that hard anymore.
An English major, I thought, wasn’t practical.
I wouldn’t make any money.
Too much stress.
So I choose my second love: rocks.
Or, more formally, geochemistry.
That lasted one semester.
Remember when I said I wasn’t willing to work that hard anymore?
Geochemistry is a lot of work.
So I drifted about as “undeclared,” taking courses in English and in interpersonal communications here and there simply because they were fun. Next thing I knew, my “fun” courses became my dual major and I was working full time as a journalist.
I had made the writing thing work.
And I forgot about rocks.
Until our oldest son became a toddler.
He was fascinated by rocks and fossils, and still is.
As I helped him hunt fossils and identify a few minerals, I realized just how rusty I’d become. My knowledge was old. I was busy. I didn’t have time to rekindle old passions, I thought.
But then this opportunity came along.
These kids, these Webelos Ones, are counting on me.
They want their badges.
I knew I couldn’t just wing it.
So I dove back in.
It took me about 30 minutes of review to realize why I loved earth science so much. As a hobby, it’s easy. No physics involved. No need to memorize world history. No calculus. Just me and a bunch of minerals. Minerals that might have been touched, walked on or looked upon by anyone from cavemen to Cleopatra to JFK.
My love for writing and my love for rocks are not separate passions. They stem from the same sense of curiosity, the same craving to imagine and create, the same appreciation for beauty and art. Rocks are, for me, a muse.
So next Tuesday, I’ll hand three Webelos Ones paper plates full of clay. I’ll watch as they smash chunks of clay together to create mountains. I’ll pay special attention to their eyes as they discover the beauty of creation and evolution.
I might even smile as order them to clean up the mess (because they are sure to throw the clay at something or someone when we’re done. How could they possibly resist?). I’ll smile because I’ll be thinking, thanks Tom.
Thanks for asking me “when.”

Big Purple Mommy

For the past few months, I struggled to breathe.
I was under water and I’d lost my focus.
I couldn’t find the surface and I was running out of air.
I was dying.
As a writer.
Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic.
But that’s how it felt.
Like the daily duties of life, the needs of everyone in my life, the needs of the household, mine own less glamorous needs (dental visits and doctor visits and a glass of red wine at the end of the night) were closing in around me.
Confusing me.
I had lost my focus.
I couldn’t find my laptop.
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t figure out how or when to write.
I thought maybe I was getting too old, wearing down, losing my creativity, losing my mind.
Then I saw it.
Sitting right there on the bookshelf in the basement across from my desk.
Big Purple Mommy by Coleen Hubbard.
And I remembered the last time Coleen Hubbard saved me from drowning.
We were living in Arizona.
My older kids were 18 months old and almost three.
I had written a few chapters of my novel, but not much.
I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to write any more.
Somehow, I stumbled upon her book.
I read it and, a few days later, hired a sitter.
Two actually.
They were sisters (Thank you Andrea and Amanda!) and they insisted on coming together.
Two days a week for four hours a day, I sat in a study room in the local l library and wrote, finally completing the first draft within a few months.
I went back to teaching as an adjunct when I finished, something else I enjoyed, and I didn’t worry about my writing. I knew it needed a rest, I knew I need some distance from my novel and I knew my creativity would come back.
We moved, we settled into our home in Cincinnati and I picked up the novel again a few years ago and revised it.
It felt good.
And it was all because of Coleen Hubbard’s book.
Big Purple Mommy is all about balancing creativity and motherhood. She helped me realize, with lots of testimony from other creative moms, that I needed to, first, give myself a break when my kids were young, and second, make a huge effort to carve out time for creative work without guilt.
I did that and I was happy.
I began rereading the book again the other day.
And I found myself in its pages.
I’d lost my focus because the twins have stopped napping and because the twins are 2.5 years old. But time will pass, they will get older and they will be less demanding on a minute-by-minute basis. I will not lose my creativity during that time because stuff is always swirling in my head.
If anything, I might just mature as a writer because of it.
The twins will start going to a sitter three days a week for three hours each time next week.
I’ll need some of that time to do ordinary things I can’t do when they are around–clean, doctor appointments, run errands–but at least one of those days will be mine, all mine.
And I will write.
Thank you Coleen.
Thank you Big Purple Mommy.
For rescuing me again.