Gut Check

There are some mornings where I just miss writing fiction. Miss the constant learning and growth. Miss seeing the potential of my stories and my career literally coming together, piece by piece. Catching a glimpse of what this means in five year, ten years.

I feel this all the more after I’ve finished a story, designed a book cover, or held a finished paper book in my hands. I feel this even more keenly because I’m working this long, slooow tail of writing….

And then my morning enjoyment of coffee and reading of the writing biz screeches to a halt.

Like this morning, literally as my pen was a handbreadth from the paper, Kate ran over and grabbed said hand. She was hungry and I needed to supply the correct kind of food from the refrigerator (the non-correct kind resulted in a tragic, frustrated meltdown).

So, I sat down again. Picked up my pen, got a whole paragraph down.

And then, it was Eric’s turn.

He was up from his morning nap and he was hungry too (and in need of a diaper change).

That’s how quickly my day can veer off the writing path and into parenthood. Most days, I’m okay with that. Heck, most days that’s about the last individual, Chrissy-only thought I have before the epic to-do list wraps around me or before one kid starts crying because he bonked his nose while attempting to crawl, which coincides precisely at the exact same time Kate spills her glass of cream all over the table, the floor, herself….

But on some days, the urge and desire to write holds on. Strong. Some days I’ll glance over my work, the stories and novels and publishing bits practically frozen over in a glacier-created time capsule, waiting so patiently for me to return to it, and, well, I miss it.

I miss feeding my writing.

Miss the learning.

Miss the storytelling.

And like my previous post about feeling hurt when I hear about other kids and their language accomplishments and exceptional moments… these feelings about writing and about my career are valid too.

I miss my writing.

And the feelings that come with that are real and I shouldn’t try to deny them.

And just as importantly, having those feelings doesn’t make me a bad mom either.

I’m allowed to feel this way and I think it’s important to step back, see and evaluate these feelings, but then continue on with all the daily and emotional demands of parenthood, and all the extra bits that come too with having a late-talking child.

Maybe it’s because of the world we live in, our particular American culture, and I’m sure my own upbringing too, but I’ve needed to remind myself that it’s okay to feel this way. Okay to want more for my writing and myself, while at the same time acknowledging that the time just isn’t now.

It’s like I have this really weird inner struggle.

To be a successful, long-term writer, I need to write a lot. I need to publish and sell what I write. I also need to keep learning.

But….

I can’t do that now. I mean, I can, but in little tiny bits that truly, I can sometimes barely see.

Heck, I can barely switch my brain over to read a book for simple enjoyment, to get lost in a story and its characters. And that’s only the writing side.

The parent side is just as conflicted… that to want this for myself means I’m being selfish. That I’m not ‘enjoying every moment I have with my kids’ (because, seriously, as if I need to be reminded by every stranger I come across about how precious this time is and they grow up so fast… because watching Eric already in the first phase of figuring out crawling isn’t a cold enough bucket of water in my face).

All this judgment.

It just keeps swinging around me like a vortex and I’m doing my best to push through, to figure out how I feel and not what everyone claims I should be feeling.

And I’m catching some moments of clarity and they still leave me feeling conflicted!

Accepting and sad. Joyful and sorrowful.

All at the same stickin’ time.

Just this week I received an email about a 2-day workshop put on by Writers of the Future, including amazing instructors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta (who I attempted to sell stories to at the WMG Anthology Workshop last year). And this workshop? Yeah, it’s right here. In Los Angeles.

That’s pretty darn cool. Exciting too.

And I can’t go.

I can’t go, because I’m a breastfeeding mom.

Sure, there’s a way around that like pumping and teaching Eric the bottle, but that’s extra work and stress (for us, as a family – no judgment from me on anyone else and their choices). And maybe I could have brought Eric, though who knows how the workshop moderators or other attendees would feel about that.

But I knew that wasn’t an option either.

I’d learned firsthand at the California Homeschool Network Conference, walking around with Eric strapped to my front, just how difficult learning with a baby is. Which means, I only learn when he lets me. Which means, when he’s quiet and still so I can soak in the full depth of information.

Meaning: The baby’s asleep and I’m on my feet rocking back and forth regardless of how my poor back feels.

Actually, it’s a pretty smart quirk of our evolution. When the baby is up and making noise, any noise, Mom’s aware. Any baby. Any noise. Coo or cry. Laugh or the distinct warning of ‘I’m-going-to-lose-it-if-you-don’t-help-me-out-here’ sounds.

Either way, I’m tuned into the baby.

So the learning I do is piece-meal at best. And you know? I accept it.

Sure, I miss it and I’m sad that I have to delete this email about the workshop, but, I can’t do it. Not at this time in my life.

The same was true for one of my favorite anthology magazines when a notice went out that a bunch of invited authors didn’t turn in their stories, providing an opening for those of us in the know. I read the call for submissions, and then, deleted the email.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

Not now.

Not with all the stress and pressure and just plain’ol being a parent of two young kids.

I call this process my ‘gut check.’

I take a look at my life and my sleep (or lack of), my calendar and the upcoming commitments and outings, and most importantly, how I feel.

Overwhelmed.

Exhausted to where I can’t work out.

The dialed-up craving for chocolate needed just to survive the day.

(If you couldn’t tell, Eric’s in the middle of a teething episode, and no exaggeration, we haven’t had a half-decent night’s sleep in a month.)

All this makes up my gut check, and lately, I finish with this check, shake my head and say, “No.”

No.

I can’t sign up for the newest, oh-so-needed WMG Online Workshop regardless of how much I want to or how it’d speed my writing light-years ahead….

No.

Not right now.

Not today. This week.

But maybe next month.

That’s even where my fiction writing stands for this whole week. Every morning I check in with myself, do my gut check, and every morning the answer has been no.

(See my reference to the ‘not sleeping in a month.’)

This saddens me, to say no, and honestly it’s frustrating too… but I know it’s the right call.

You need to work with the opportunities your children give you, because really, you can’t control them. You can’t control the natural ups and downs in your family life, or their feelings, or if they’re late-talking children like Kate and all the emotional stress and fears that come with this extra challenge.

But, you also need to be accountable for your writing. Not just be lazy and say, “Well, I’m busy today. I’ll give it a go tomorrow.”

You need to give your writing, and your role as a parent, an honest assessment.

Hence, the gut check.

But part of it (which, I’m still clearly learning), is accepting what you find. Yes, you can write. Or, no, life’s got you by the balls and it’s best just to get through it, day by day.

There’s only so much my brain, body, and heart can handle and I think part of this process, part of being a successful parent-writer, is understanding this.

Accepting this.

As much as I can, anyway. And I guess that too, is part of being a parent.

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