So, I’ve got to say, I’m getting to be pretty good about this restarting thing. Ever since Kate was born back in August, 2012, I’ve had to put the writing on hold for many, many different reasons over the years and it’s pretty much been for family reasons. The birth of our first kid, our first of many sleepless nights to teething, to toddlerhood and potty training.
Then, along came Eric (and boy, when you bring another kid into the mix life really gets interesting).
We had even more sleepless nights and discovered that Kate was a late-talker. There was a good chunk of time, of several months really, where I was living in a pretty dark, mentally, scary place. I had a lot of fear and uncertainty during that time, and ironically (or not so ironic if you, yourself, are a writer), but it was writing about that experience, first in fiction and then later in these blog posts, that helped ease away those fears and find the true joy in one, important fact:
She’s my daughter.
Wholly and completely, mine.
Words, or no words.
We got through it. Not only did we get through it we’re a closer, more connected family because of it. The trust that we needed in Kate, for her to be who she was and to find her words when she, and she alone, was ready, was huge. Huge. And probably one of the greatest gift she taught us.
Through it all, I would pick up the writing and then put it down again, as parenthood demanded. Well, I’d thought I’d gotten through all the really big hurdles of parenting small kids.
Turns out, I was wrong.
No surprise, really. Parenting is all about the twists and curves that you didn’t see coming. Not to mention I’ve got not one but two late-talkers, both who I’m their speech-play partners. Well, at least I skipped the scary, dark-part this second time around.
What I didn’t get to skip was the crazy, busyness of the holidays (and for our family, throw in a ton of birthdays and anniversary celebration), and then the bigger issue was one I really, really couldn’t control:
Like, barely at all. (Which, you all who read my blog know about).
Most of my days were me just trying to survive, and trying not to lose my temper, to not get frustrated with my kids for being a two-year-old and a four-year-old.
It wasn’t easy.
Especially when I couldn’t do the one thing that gave me more energy and more self-care than anything else:
Pretty much at the brink of me going crazy, we had to make some changes. So, we did. We put the kids in the same room (which apparently they just love) and Sean takes the first shift with Eric (meaning if he gets up Sean puts him back to bed and not me). I get the second shift and start my day when Eric decides it’s time.
And you know what?
While our sleep (and therefore Eric’s) aren’t perfect, the change has made a huge difference. I’m getting around six hours of solid sleep before Eric needs help, so I’m no longer this raving banshee I’d been for four months straight.
Now though, it’s time to get back to the writing and that in of itself has it’s own hurdles.
I mean, you’d think I’d be an old hack at this. That I could just sit on down and let the words flow and then bam, here’s this super-cool story on the page and then sending it off to magazines, right?
Yeah. Not so much.
I’ve done this a half-dozen times (or dozen, really) since Kate was born. I do know, without a doubt, that I can do this. That’s not the issue.
The real issue is fear.
Fear to start writing again. That what I write will just be this awful, uncomprehending mess (which my brain still feels like most of the time).
Fear that I won’t do whatever story I write any justice because all of my series characters and world-based series… well, they’re just to important and I’m just gonna mess them up so why bother trying?
And writing a novel?
Dear God, I can just feel my inner creative voice shrivel up at that thought. Never mind that I’ve already written several, so I know I can do it. The issue is really one of focus, and again, parenthood. I mean, there’s just no way I can stay focused enough to fall into a world and characters, and flat-out, just a story, long enough to actually write a novel.
Translation: life being a parent couldn’t possibly leave me alone long enough to start and finish one of these damn things.
Each one of these issues are fear-based, plan and simple, put there by my critical brain to stop me from writing. To take the easy way out, to not put myself out there, to not set myself up for failure, to simply just not try.
And yet… I know how to combat this.
I’ve done it, time and again. (Too bad I just couldn’t skip over this fear stuff and get to writing, huh?)
Well, this time, like all the others, I’m not gonna let it stick. Screw my fears and insecurities. I’m going to try, and then I’m going to try again. One story may not work, I may need to redraft along the way, tossing out perfectly fine words because it just doesn’t fit the story. (Stories that I’m slowly teasing out of my subconscious, creative voice.)
You see, I know how to do this restart.
I know the tricks, I know what works for me, I know how to succeed. So I’m just going to jump, with both feet in, and see where (and how) I land.
If, at all.
I know, without a doubt, the greatest power I could give my writing is two-fold:
First, as Dean Wesley Smith likes to say, “Dare to be Bad.”
I can do that. I shrug off all those negative words from my critical voice. So what if a story doesn’t make sense? So what if they all feel (to me) like this rambling mess as I slowly figure out what the story I’m writing even is?
The point is I’m writing. Period.
Some readers may like it, some may love it, or maybe it will never get touched at all because I still haven’t gotten around to the publishing part of my business, but hey, baby steps here.
The second is much easier: write every day.
Write something. Five minutes, five sentences, whatever, just write. (Fiction only, though; these blogs don’t count.) I discovered last year that a writing streak is the single most powerful motivator in my arsenal for writing. I could manage the sick days. I could manage the days where I’d barely slept at all because that five minutes was a goal I could hit.
My ultimate goal is writing an hour per day.
I know I can’t hit that every single day, but I can try. (In truth, when I wrote out my goals list for 2017, I had scheduled this hour for only five days a week, instead of seven.) And even if I don’t hit it, even if I “fail” to write for an hour, I will still have succeeded because I will have written.
The other part of this, one that I’m not so great at because there’s just so much I want to do, so much I want to listen to or watch or read even for the moments of quiet I get from the kids… is quiet time for myself. Quieting my mind. Stop thinking about my to-do list or what needs to happen before we can possibly leave for park day or Disneyland or adventures out in nature.
The quiet time where I let my subconscious peak out and think about stories… about characters… about worlds. Stepping back and thinking, what if…
For me, this is hard.
If I’m doing dishes or cutting vegetables I might prop up my laptop on the counter and watch NCIS or turn on my phone and listen to one of the many podcasts I follow. Those are all important to me, they fill my need for stories (watching TV shows) or learning (listening to podcasts), but I’ve just got to make the quiet in my mind a priority.
When I do, the act of writing itself is much, much easier because my subconscious has already tapped into my stories. At that point it’s just a matter of quiet time alone, just me and my laptop, to put those stories onto the page, word by word. Instead of struggling to find my way to the stories, to leave parenthood and all its worries and the constant needs behind, I can simply step from one to the other. Like changing coats or putting on a different pair of pants. It makes the writing process easier, and truthfully, more enjoyable, even.
I have a long ways to go towards my yearly goals, but I’m not going to worry about them. The only goal I have, right now, on this day, is to restart my writing.
I’ve done it before, and most likely in the future, I’ll need to do it again. That’s just part of parenthood. It’s how us parent-writers make it work.
And you’ll notice, I always put the “parent” part first.
My first and primarily responsibility is being a parent. My kids won’t be this young forever. Eric won’t always be a nightmare when it comes to sleeping (which, as I said, is finally getting better — ya to the kids sharing a room!!). And as I’ve said in previous posts, I won’t be shipping my kids off to school when they finally hit school age. I’ll be homeschooling, following their leads and their interests, so really, I’ve got to find a way to make the two work: parenting and writing.
Every day, every month, what this process looks like will be different.
For the past few months it meant putting the writing on hold as we dealt with potty training and sleeping and the final bits of teething (woohoo!!).
Now though, I’m ready to get started again and that means conquering my fears. To let my creative voice come out, play, and simply tell stories.
Good or bad, all I need to do is sit, write, and tell stories.
That I can do… even if I’m still cleaning up poop off the floor or the constant vacuum-fight between me and ants because toddlers are notoriously bad at keeping food in their mouths.
I can still write, though.
One day at a time, one word at a time.
I wrote this blog post two weeks ago, and just let out everything I was feeling, everything I was struggling with. I’m happy to say that for two weeks straight, I haven’t missed a day writing.
I finished one short story and started another.
Some days are crazy, like me writing a 1,000 words in just under an hour. Other days were only five minutes or eight. But I get the writing in.
I’m also tuning in more to my creative voice. The quiet time to let the stories and characters come to me. This, turns out, is the bigger struggle. It’s hard to put life (and all its distractions and needs and worries) on hold long enough to think about story, to get in touch with my characters, to figure out where the writing is going next…
But somehow I do.
Each and every time.