I never know what my time at the coffee shop will bring. This day I had an impromptu trip and ended up journaling a little pep talk to myself.
Ranting and rage seem to be my jam of late. I mean, obvs right? Stuff is so haywire, collective nightmares and hopeless empathy, railing and angry, my mind is sad and I’m tired today.
I was thinking of love letters and how they soothe my savage soul. Writing love letters is prolly the most over the top and indulgent writing one can do.
My niece’s 8th birthday is in July and I try to write her a love letter every year. Sometimes I don’t but mostly I do.
She’s almost 8 and is easily the most brilliant, hilarious, charming, fashion forward, badass, caring, artistic, nerdy, young woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and I’m grateful that she calls me “Auntie”.
Here’s a short history of Auntie’s love letters to ASH.
I am deep into the trenches right now. The baby is eight months old, the big girl four-and-a-half. It’s winter. I don’t leave the house much. I don’t get much sleep. There is no time for reflection, considered thought, planning my writing life. But I am writing. 250 words a day. Whatever comes out. It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t add up to anything. Not yet anyway. But here’s some from last week.
The hot breath of a teething baby. That smell, what is it? Raw, iron-ish, but not bloody. Metallic, vital. It makes me want to put my face right up next to hers, kiss her repeatedly while breathing in that life force. Four new teeth at once! I tell her she is doing a really good job.
Creativity is a little shit.
Why doesn’t it show up like a food craving? When I want salty or sweet my gut instinct is always right. I know exactly when I need a hot tea with a warm chocolate chip cookie versus an iced tea with some hummus and chips. Writing should be that simple. But it’s distant and changes its mind. Creativity appears as a vague awareness, similar to nausea – the kind that makes you wonder if you need to eat or can’t eat. It’s unsettling and inconsistent.
I’m in the tail end of another 30 day writing challenge with this group I now refer to as my infrastructure. I’ve participated in these challenges in the past and enjoyed the camaraderie, focus and once had publishing success as a result. I don’t always hit my word count and sometimes miss a day, but I think about the writing in a more obsessive way, which I embrace.
The writing is not happening. Even though I try not to get caught up in the New Year’s resolution “live your best life” hoopla, every January I still secretly think maybe this is the year I will finally get my shit together. But here’s the thing about shit: it likes to spread itself around and stink up everything. And once it gets into the carpet, well, it’s never coming out. Too much? Right, too much. My point is, I will never have my shit together because life is messy and unpredictable and I have to learn to deal with it. (A zen master I am not.) However, I’m not a victim of circumstance either. I can buy some bleach and get a new carpet. What I need to do first is get real about my writing process and what I need in order to make the writing happen. So I made a list, and I’m sharing it with you here because the Internet loves lists almost as much as cat videos and trolling.
“Being a doctor is hard. It’s harder for women.”
This is objectively true. They actually did a real scientific study. Because you know it isn’t true until someone puts a p value on it and calls it a statistic.
I am not sure whether it matters if it is “true” or not, or whether it is statistically significant or not. There will always be someone who argues against this. They will say being a doctor is hard for anyone who attempts it.
This is true.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there are not gradations of this thing, “hardness.”
I recently participated in an Oprah and Deepak 21 day meditation. I almost always sign up when they’re available because it’s free, they have a theme, and are generally limited to 20 minutes. Regardless of the topic there’s something within the theme that applies to me and I welcome the opportunity to change up my solitary meditation practice.
I didn’t keep a journal when my first daughter was born four years ago. For the first week, my partner and I kept a notebook recording details of feeds, nappy changes, and the odd piece of commentary: “Day 3: a no good, terrible, horrible, very bad day”; “Day 5: first parental fight, re dates.” Dates the dried fruit, or dates on a calendar? Four years later, I have no idea, and the notebook is no help. Soon after it stops altogether.
Later, I wished I had kept that notebook for longer, or even better, an actual journal recording my thoughts and feelings. Becoming a parent was momentous and life-changing, and not entirely positive. I ended up writing a book about it, and when I did, I had only unreliable memory to go off. I think I did okay at recounting the experience, but I wished I’d kept better records.
Making time to write.
This is difficult. Some days it is impossible.
How do I find time to draft ideas, make outlines, develop characters?
Then I remember: I wrote an entire novel in 15-minute increments. I did it in the car, at the Laundromat, while the kids were in the bath. I am not a drafter. I am not an outliner. I have tried time and again to sit down and PLAN what I am going to write. But I know that the stories are all around me and they come out when I least expect it. I want to scoop them up, I want to see the ideas floating in my everyday life and use those to get better. I’ve stopped working on my novel for a bit so I can focus on smaller pieces, short stories that bring together everything I am trying to do in my giant book. They’re small, manageable slices of the larger ultimate goal.