Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Days

Exploring (former) igloos other kids built

Snow days once meant snuggles, hot soup and catching up on reading, writing and work.

Snow days are considerably less romantic and less literary with a toddler. There are the 4:30 am wake-up screams, struggling to get boots and snow pants on an apparent octopus and inventing indoor activities that will result in a nap.

Sure, we had a lot of fun sledding, making pizza, playing with stickers, watching movies and playing a game he calls, "luggage," which means he takes all of his toys (all. of. his. toys.) and scatters them around the apartment. There have been many highs and lows these last few days, sometimes only ten minutes apart.

That is all to say, toddler life.

Cabin fever hit early. Even our son said, "when do I see my friends again," asking about his return to daycare.

Daycare had a delayed opening on Thursday, early closing on Friday and today, Tuesday, we still don't know when we'll be back to what was once normal. Yes, I'm thankful to Pepco that we have electricity, RCN that we have internet, my husband for digging out our car so we can leave when we have somewhere to go, and my (previously) flexible schedule that we still have lots of food to eat. We are alternating between family time and parenting separately so we can do our best to get some more emergency work done.

I do miss my work. I am lucky to do something I chose to do because I really, really like doing it. I like writing and talking about writing (i.e. teaching.) I like a day off like everyone else, but when online classes don't know about the day off, not working is simply stressful.

The other day I received a link to an article from a former student. She sent me Ada Limon's To What Do We Owen this Pleasure: On the Value of Not Writing from Richard Blanco's blog. It ends, "What I mean is, there are times poems do not come and life is too heavy to be placed on the page, or life is so deliciously light and joyful you must suck it down before anyone notices. That is okay. You are still the writer watching that train, doing laundry, getting lost in this massive mess of minutes. There is value in this silent observing."

Thank you, student, for encouraging me to pay attention to life, sharing this beautiful article, and reminding me why I love teaching: connecting to people like you who continue to teach me about life and writing.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Let Your Writing Live: Show Your Writing

Last week on my writing coach blog, I wrote about if and when to share your writing, particularly memoir-related work. I'm writing to encourage you to share your work in 2016. For real. Just a few kind words from (not particularly close) friends have gotten me moving again.

I've been submitting my poetry manuscript about early motherhood and it has been rejected. More than once, as rejections often go. I've been feeling discouraged and annoyed by the process on so many levels.

But then I started to share the poems, poems I once felt confident about, with some new readers. One, a new mom-friend-visual artist, shared that she had similar feelings about a miscarriage and early parenthood. Another, a poet who is a colleague, noticed the timeline in a way that I hadn't looked at it.

Those discussions really invigorated me. I've been wondering if the poems were self-indulgent or no longer relevant, since that time in my life has passed. But by talking about the poems and listening to reader's reactions, I am reminded by what motivated me to write them and share them in the first place.

Sure, a reader could easily say something superficial or mean, but we'll just ignore that possibility for now and try to keep that writing high.

No, this doesn't mean that I will take the praise and stop examining and editing the poems. It means that I will do that even better this time around, in an effort to honor the poems.

We write to connect with readers. Writing is worthless if it doesn't interact with a reader and participate in that conversation. If you feel your work is ready to be submitted for publication, why not look around you for readers? Let your work live.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Brand of Optimism in 2016

Spotted at Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon

Here's my brand of optimism: F*ck it. One day we'll be dead. So we must do what we want to do before that day comes. 

My adult memoir writing workshop students laugh when I say that, but I mean it. We only have so much time and that should motivate us to meet our goals.

With that in mind: Welcome to 2016! Cheers to writing, reading, spending time with people we love and resting. Yes, resting, too. We must honor our minds and bodies so we are capable of meeting our goals.

For more specifics on creating writing goals and how to meet them, here's a recent post on my writing coach blog.