Saturday, December 31, 2011

Carrying On

In this blog experiment, I have laid down my vulnerabilities as a fledgling writer, mother, wife, and as a reluctant worker. In the six months of blogging, I have documented my sea/see change within and I hope that you have found something personal and worthwhile to take from my entries.

I invite you to look through my previous entries, if you haven't already. They still say everything I'd say about the challenges and joys of choosing to be both writer and mother/wife.

Through this process of blogging (and working on the novel), I have accepted myself as a writer, finally. (Why oh why did it take so long?) This process is what I've needed to now turn my attention--the little that I've have to devote to writing--mostly to my novel this year. If you are a writer and a mother or a mother trying to complete any goal for yourself, I know you understand.

As a writer, mama, worker bee, and wife, it's tough knowing where to put my energy at any giving point in the day. Most of the time my mind is split between the present and the future, my musts and my wants, dirty diapers and a smiling, bouncing 8-month old baby girl. You're nodding your head because you know the daily dance.

Blogging will have to take a back seat to writing my novel. Being more focused in my writing life will give me a little more piece/peace, I hope. I'll keep you updated from time to time. Drop me a line, let me know your out there.

Much progress in your passions in 2012.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When to say when

Learning when to say when, uncle, enough, however you want to say stop, is hard to do, especially in this writing game. Let me clarify what I mean by "writing game." I'm not talking about the craft of writing, but everything else that comes along with getting your work out there, published. That's the game. Surely being a successful published writer (i.e., people read your work and you generate income from your publications) is easier when you know people of influence in the industry who think your work is worthy of publishing. After five years of working on my craft and at having a few moments where I've put my work out there, I've had little success. It's a tough pill to swallow: recognizing what a lonely, hard road it's been, but it is true.

I don't know many writers and the handful I know our relationships are not strong. There's much inconsistency in these relationships and they lack synergy. Read: they are all but dead. Today, I want to acknowlege this instead of continuing to hope that these relationships will turn into sudden support. It's time to let go.

It isn't easy knowing when exactly to give up hope in something. But I'm not giving up hope in myself, just in the dead relationships. Instead of putting energy into them, now I'm free to start looking for new connections. Ones that do have consistency and synergy.

Case in point. I've been hoping for several months that one of my writer friends would review one of my piece and introduce me to some of his connections. No such luck. Everytime I ask for feedback I get a lot of verbal "yes, yes, sure, sure" but then I don't hear from the person anymore until I contact them again. And it's "yes, yes, sure, sure" then nothing. Round and round we go, where we go nobody knows. My "friend" has been so touch and go with me and my work, that I'm foolish to call him a "friend."

But I have called him a friend for the last several years, not because he was, but because I wanted him to be my writer friend.

I now must turn my attention to the slush pile. That's my reality. That's my way forward right now. The odds are stacked against me, but it's still better than being jerked around in a dead relationship hoping that things will change. I'm saying when now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I'm still here and I'm still trying, but boy is it hard! Going back to work has been a disruption to my creativity - hence, why I've been absent from this blog. My daughter has been sick so much that she still hasn't completed a full week of daycare. There have been days I've literally pulled my hair out, stuck in DC traffic, worried sick, trying to pick her up because I don't want to keep her there a moment longer than she must stay. And evenings are just nuts! By the time we get home, we've got 3 hours to pull off making dinner, eating, cleaning up, tending to the baby, trying to catch up with each other, putting out what ever fires we must, brushing our teeth, preparation for the next day, including those damn bottles! And each passing day is heavier with exhaustion. I know I'm preaching to the choir for those of you reading. So, this is my reality now. No writing, no reading, no exercise, sometimes it feels like there's no air. So far from the prolific writer I want to be.

But the good news is, I have decided that at the end of my workday, before I rush off to pick up my daughter from daycare, I will sit in my car for 10 minutes, usually my only time I'm alone, and work on my writing. With this strategy in place for the last week, I've managed to clean up one of my pieces enough to send it off to readers.

It's not romantic or sexy, this writing life of mine, but it is the way forward for now. Piece by piece, little by little, day by day. Progress.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Down for the Count

Less than a week before I return to work. And we're down. My husband and baby are sick. And I'm just tired.

This week my baby girl was supposed to start daycare. This was supposed to be my week to practice before I go back to work next week (too soon, much too soon). However, my daughter got sick for the first time in her life. It's amazing how awful a little person can sound. Every time she coughs, I jump. So we won't be going to daycare this week. There will be no practice runs. I'll just have to do the best I can on Monday getting us ready in the morning, drop her off, go to work, and learn from that. I sure hope her cough/cold is better. I'll have no choice, if it isn't.

The transition is nerve-wrecking anyway you slice it. I wanted to write this week while my daughter was in daycare. But this isn't happening. Instead my daughter is coughing in my face every few minutes so I'm sure I've got her cold germ somewhere in me waiting to pop up when I'm in the office next week.

If there is any point to all of my complaining, it's that I'm frustrated. Once again. I don't see any good solutions for my situation. Staying at home with my baby is only part of the solution. I know now after 5.5 months of being a stay-at-home mom that I need more relief built into my days for just me. I need someone to watch my baby for a few hours a day so I can write and sleep. That would be the solution. But we also need money. So I must work. And as of right now, work full time. So my daughter will be in the care of people I don't know more time than she will be with me Monday thru Friday. It kills me to think about this. I'm trying to stay open that perhaps this can work, but I fundamentally disagree with this set up. My daughter is my responsibility, not some daycare's. I'm upset. I am afraid.

Needless to say, my writing isn't going very well this week. But I am managing to pump out at least one crappy page a day. I suppose that's progress.

If anyone is reading this and has been through this before, I'd love to hear from you. Any tips on surviving this transition back to work and to daycare?

I'm down for now, but I won't be for long...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Change My Life

I have a 17 days until I am back at work. I am having a hard time envisioning adding a 40 hr+ a week job into the mix. This mommyhood thing is super hard. It's intense giving your almost everything to someone else most of the day. No matter how cute she is, it is still hard. The endurance required is massive and yet nothing else in the world stops for this requirement. The laundry piles up terribly quickly, dust is so noticeable, and me and my husband still need to eat, and to eat more than just pre-packaged foods from time to time. And then to fit writing into the mix? This is the hardest job I've had, the job of really just managing my own life, the baby's life, the home, and being chief advisor to my husband. And now work. Whew!

I've learned a lot during my time at home with my baby. I've learned that I am still human with human feelings. On any given day, I am bored, exhausted, frustrated because I am limited, busy, in love with my baby, unsure, overwhelmed, alone, wanting, wishing, glad to have time to not have to work, etc.

I've learned that I have limits and the more I respect them, the better my day goes. When I try to stuff too much into a day, an hour, a minute, I am instantly frustrated. I've learned to step back and think about what must be done, do that, then stop. Rest. Breathe.

I've learned that the house is not my preferred domain. I will give myself credit for getting better at putting a decently balanced meal on the table before 9 PM most nights, but still, I'm not house wife material.

I've learned so many other lessons, but since this blog is about writing while mothering, I'll stick to my lessons in writing. My biggest lesson is perhaps the most basic lesson that makes me go duh! when I think about it. It is: this whole writing dream I have is not going to happen over night. Writing is a long, long road. And while I am glad to be finally walking down this road, instead of pretending it is not my path, I'm at the beginning. I have little to show my readers. I have an almost finished short story, a birth story, and an unfinished manuscript. Oh yes, and this blog (How could I forget!)

Hell, I don't really have any readers yet! But I am plunging away on draft 2 of my manuscript (I'm on page 156). When I began my maternity leave I really thought I could turn my entire life ship around and that I'd pull into the harbor of success (see some of my earlier entries in Aug) within these 5 and a half months. I had crazy expectations - that I'd finish my manuscript, get an agent, get a book advance, never have to return to a job I don't love, etc. - that would surely leave me disappointed and frustrated by now.

The good news is that I am not disappointed or frustrated in myself. I am glad to have gotten all that nonsense out of the way, so I can get down to the business of writing and learning to write well. Having those great expectations left me vulnerable to too much compromise in my writing. You know, writing what I think others want to read so that I could never have to work in a cube again as opposed to what's in my head and heart.

Now without the pressure of changing my life in a short time span, I can just focus on changing my life, little by little day by day. And enjoying the parts that I don't want to change at all, like my husband's sweet kiss before and after his workday and my baby's bright and unabashed smile.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Baby and the Manuscript

I am a storyteller. It's taken me many years to accept this, in fact, all of my adult working years. I've spent half of my working years trying to solve social ills that seemed like I should care, but really I just ended up super burnt out and feeling like a failure. The other half I've spend hiding in a comfortable, deadly corporate job. But having this maternity leave to step away from trying to fit in somewhere out there and to think about what's important to me, I've been able to affirm who I am: a storyteller.

It's an odd thing to be in this modern society, but a storyteller is what I am for better or for worse. For the last five years, I've been working my way, little by little, to accepting that I truly am a storyteller. Not just a storyteller, but a writer. Not just a writer, but a novelist. I know because besides my baby and husband, it's the thing that gets me excited about the day. Writing my novel is what gets me cooking. Even when I'm not actually writing, I'm thinking about it, wondering how I will end it, remembering what to add, how this or that character looks...

It's hard to say "I am a storyteller" at a party when people ask what I do for a living. Am I lying when I tell them I'm working on a novel? Yeah right, they must think, just like I think of other wannabe writers and artists who haven't published anything or made anything that people have heard of. What do you really do? I could tell them that I am a consultant and this would be closer to what they expect to hear. It is after all, the thing that pays me. But the trouble is, when I end up talking about my day job for more than a few minutes I end up frustrated or bored with myself. I feel like I am lying even though I am telling the facts.

Right now, I am working on changing my narrative about who I am when people ask. Yes, being a consultant pays my bills, but it isn't my profession. I don't read articles about how to become a better consultant in my industry on my time off. I never have one single daydream of climbing that professional latter. I can't help but to see it as a temporary thing to get me through until I am able to publish my novel and change my life, despite that fact that I've been working there for several years now. In my spare time, I am always thinking about writing. This is my profession.

I am a novelist. Not an essayist or freelance article writer. I could do those things and have even written a piece about my daughter's birth that could go well in an women's magazine. (I've pitched it to a pie-in-the-sky magazine and am still waiting to hear back. But for the record, I believe in pie-in-the-sky.) But really I don't have the capacity or desire right now to work on my novel and pump out pieces to be published now. If I did so, I'd only be trying to create a name for myself so I could write/publish my novels. In other words, the articles and essays would be a means to end.

It has been hard to accept that I am a novelist because it doesn't seem like the smartest thing to be in society if I want to earn a living (which I do). There is no straight path to success. May be no success at all, especially in a society where reading anything, let alone a novel, is a stretch. There are no promises, not even an income as I spend the next few years working on my manuscript. There are no short cuts. There's nothing but the work itself and my own belief that I can do this. I can write. I have a good story to tell. My readers are out there, just waiting for me to finish writing my novel.

In the meantime, my manuscript is as precious as the little life I carried in my belly when I was pregnant. Only a few people knew I was pregnant in the first trimester and only a few people know I'm writing a novel now (and only my husband has any clue what it's about). There are no promises in my work like there were no promises carrying the baby in that first trimester. With the baby and the manuscript, there's just the life force beating along with my hope.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moonlighting Maternity Leave

I must confess: I have been using my maternity leave as a way to change my life. As a chance to bolt my way out of working in a job I hate (in corporate speak: "it's not the right fit") and into the life of a full time writer.

Without ever being close to another real life writer, it seems like the kind of professional life I'd would enjoy, maybe even love.

I've never had a job I loved or liked. I was an elementary school teacher for two years in Camden NJ. I was miserable everyday. Then I went to grad school to study education. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, even though I didn't like trying to "fix" an educational system that had just beaten almost everything good out of me.

Then I joined the corporate world. Just for the money. And everyday I died. For two and a half years, I thought the dying was just because I was in the wrong job. Perhaps I needed a different job. I went back to education reform. I took a job with a well known mover and shaker in the education reform world. While my husband warned me and a friend of mine reminded me that I had recently told her I was out of the education game and just wanted to stay home and have babies, I still took the job and fell flat on my face. Failed miserably. So bad I had to come back to the corporate world to meet a modicum of sanity and humanity. Hint: When corporate saves you, then you know there's a problem. A big problem.

For most of my pregnancy I was back at my old corporate job, doing the same thing with just about the same people. Safe. Boring. Mind numbing. Soul rotting.

Every day I looked forward to maternity leave. Yes, for opportunity to be with my new baby. BUT ALSO for a chance to write my way out of this mess.

Yes, I am guilty of using my precious five and a half months of maternity leave for something other than cuddling my baby. I am a criminal. A cheater. I steal time from my baby.

This has created many frustrating days for both me and my baby. I think she doesn't like computers because so much time I'm holding her while I'm trying to write something. Like now. She is ready to be done with tummy time. I know it. But I just want to finish this post with two free hands! Urghh!

We're frustrated. But I know that if I don't write, then I'll be miserable.

As the end of my maternity leave closes (much too soon), I am less naive about the magical powers of my time "off." (It's really just been my time away; no time off.) I know that I am not a famous writer or any where near. I've tried to push and stretch myself in writing. I've entered contests. Started a blog (which I'm trying to get other writer-mamas to read, but it's a tough thing to do I've learned). I've hammered through about 40 more pages of my second draft to a manuscript that I let sit on a dusty shelf for months. I've pitched my work to magazines (and still haven't heard back). I've let writer friends read my stuff. I've read several books.

I've woken up from the dead. I know I want to write. And I want to try to write for a living. That has been as much as I've managed to know while learning to care for a little human being.

I've been moonlighting during my maternity leave and it's been tough. Tough as nails. Especially between learning to be a mother (mostly all by myself), and being a stay at home wife, which I now know I am not too fond of.

Even still, despite the daily frustrations, I still feel like it's my only chance. It's my chance to see if I can do what I really want to do in life. So I write. Everyday, in between the time that is not mine alone.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Putting It Out There

Good news first: On September 30th, WOW! Women on Writing will feature me as guest blogger on their blog, the Muffin! Small (or perhaps large) victory! I am glad that someone besides me, two or three writer-friends, and my husband will read my work. Gaining an audience is part of the goal of writing, at least professionally. I have something to say that is important to more than just me and a few. This is what I keep reminding myself as I build up the confidence to live my dream as a writer-mama-wife.

Another victory: I submitted 21 pages of my "memoir" (I'm not sure what category it fits in any longer because some of it is my experience and some of it is straight fiction) to a competition and received feedback. Not the contest results, just feedback. I paid an extra fee to learn what a far-away reader-stranger was thinking as she read my work. And the good news is that she liked it and found value in my story.

But here's my entryway into enlightenment: She didn't agree with everything I'd written, i.e., where I ended the excerpt, how I phrased something, or how I organized the work. This, I must admit, surprised me and made me little uncomfortable. I wanted her to say everything I wrote was just right. I began to wonder if she was right in her critique.

I am sensitive. As a writer that is good because I can feel the world around me enough to write about it, but this experience also woke me up to the idea that readers won't agree with what I think and write. As much as I want to get my work out there and appreciated by readers, I must also be willing to accept that I am not writing the gospel. I am just writing my truth and putting it out there. That is my single job as a writer. Once it is out there, it will take on a life of it's own. I cannot control what people think about my writing. My job is just to write what resonates with me. Good lesson. Progress.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Little Bit Done

I'll keep it short and sweet: I submitted 21 pages of my work to an online contest!

It's been about two years since I've submitted any of my work to a contest or for a fellowship. Though I can easily blame this on the nine and a half months of pregnancy, the three and a half months of being a new mom, and a 10-month stint at a job where I had the boss from hell, the real reason is that I gave up on myself. Like every writer (I hope), I believe that my writing is good and worthy, however, I never felt like I received enough validation for my writing "out there" in the real world. I was rejected from prestigious writers colonies and fellowships. We're probably talking about 10 attempts.

Prior to my two-year hiatus from putting my work out there, I was also taking writers classes and got positive responses to my work. But because I was not selected for these classes, I just had to pay the fee, I just didn't see the responses as legit enough.

I continued to write, but I gave up looking for places to publish my work. I didn't allow people to see my work in draft form. I never finished anything. Only two 500+ page first draft manuscripts stuffed on an abandoned bookshelf in my office-turned-junkroom to show for it.

This year, when I turned 30 (yes the proverbial 30) I decided it was time to put my work out there. Again. Whether it be through writing this blog, finishing small chunks of work and asking for writer-friends to read it and give me feedback, or submitting to contests, I need to do it - regularly - to build my confidence and to begin moving in my dream as a writer.

The submission to this contest marks an accomplishment for me. As a writer. A real-life writer. Progress.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stoten Moments

I'm writing again and I said I wouldn't do it: write on this blog. Considering that I have no readers, or at least no one who is willing to admit they are interested in what I'm writing, it just doesn't make sense to expend more energy here when I barely have time to make dinner. But I am writing anyway, despite reason. This will be short and sweet.

I worked on my manuscript today while the baby slept so I won't feel bad writing this post. It's a little break for me. I'd been thinking about writing all day yesterday but couldn't get to it until the baby was finally sleep at 10:30 PM. I wrote for 20 minutes until my eyelids just closed, went out of business. That was progress. I woke up this morning and got in another surprise 20 minutes.

I've realized that the way forward is to steal moments of my day to write. The moments now come as a pleasant surprise to me. I never know when they come, but they do come. If I don't steal them, then I'll never write because there will always be someone or something pulling at my time. The baby would always like another kiss (and I want to give her those kisses. I'm a sucker for her.) My husband would love more time with us just sitting on the couch staring at some dumb TV show when he comes home from work, the clothes always need to be washed and folded (I am the worst at this), and the tub always could use another scrub.

That's just life.

I've had the most unrealistic escape plan for awhile now and it goes like this: I will quit my job to write full time (How will we make up for the lost income?). We will hire a nanny, a cook, and a housekeeper (With what money?). I will finish my work and it will be published, meeting full acclaim (this is the not so crazy part). I will never have to work in a cube doing mind-numbing work again (one day, one day...). Ha! Sounds crazy, right? But that's what swirls around in my head all day as I trudge around the house only dealing with the surfaces of things, feeling not good enough wearing any of my hats: mother, wife, homemaker (for sure), writer. Sad, but true.

But recently, like in the last week, I've realized that this is no way to live. The more I continue to have such unrealistic desires the worse I feel about the life I have, the more I long for the unreal escape. I have an imperfect, outstanding husband who makes me laugh everyday. A daughter who is so cute and addictive. And a beautiful with lots of windows.

So I've decided not to long for a completely different life and to just steal moments to write. Page by page. Word by word.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Makes Me Wanna Holler

Today makes me want to holler. Today is not how I imagined my maternity leave. I imagined peaceful days smiling at and kissing my baby, making involved dinners for my husband, and taking long breaks to work on my memoir.

But no such luck, especially today. I am more than half way (!) through my 6-month (well really 24 weeks) maternity leave and the panic has set in on childcare. I am not the only new mother who cannot imagine putting her little baby in daycare, leaving her with some stranger for more than 40 hours a week. But I feel like it. What insane society do we live in where giving the best thing you have over to strangers is considered normal? Some parents have even suggested that this is a better thing to do than taking care of your own child full-time. This is nonsense and wishful thinking. If God gave me this baby, sent her through my body, than I want to be the one to take care of her. I feel like this is my birthright. But this is not the case.

Most of what I want today isn't.

So I spent today, every waking minute so far writing (readying a piece for contest submission), cuddling with my baby, visiting an in-home daycare provider for the first time, editing my husband's work, checking email, and taking bites in between all that stuff (still not able to get enough water). It's been a blur. I'm tired even though I haven't exercised or moved much. It's all mental.

Today is our 4th year anniversary of marriage, and as of right now, I feel no romance. I still need to pack our bags for Richmond (where grandma will happily keep the baby while me and husband go out for a celebratory dinner tomorrow night) and decide what we will have for dinner. Whew! A frozen pizza.

I say all of this to say: Writing is hard, especially on days like this in which every hat you're wearing is pulling on you, needs you for something. And not answering only makes tomorrow harder.

But to my credit, I've lifted A LOT today. As for my writing, I was able to get 21 pages of my memoir draft in good enough shape for someone to read it. It's only taken a year and a half. Hoorah! We must celebrate each writing victory. (Along with the anniversaries of a good marriage. So I must go get my mind right for that.)

Okay, if you are reading this still, leave me a note so I know you're here. It's lonely out here. Ciao.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Between the Reality and the Dream

I must share this passage from the memoir Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within by the Turkish writer Elif Shafak. It says everything I want to say on the elusiveness of the Dream and the clutch of Reality, but with such splendid imagination.

Dream is a rosy-cheeked lass, as charming as a water nymph, and just as playful. If you attempt to hold her in your arms, she will slip out of your grip, lithe and nimble, like a fish, like the mirage she is. Those who crave her touch only wear themselves out.

Reality is a crone with hair as gray as stormy skies, a toothless mouth and a chilling cackle. She is not ugly, not really, but there is something disturbing about her that makes it difficult to look her in the eye.

Yes, in my spare time (ha!) I'm reading Black Milk (on my Kindle!). It's a good read thus far for those of us living somewhere in between our reality and our dreams. There's an incredible amount of jumble going on in my head at any given point in the day, even when I sleep, about how to move forward with my writing and create the reality I want. It goes a little something like this:

What should I write about next? "A Good Nanny is Hard to Find"? Or work on my cleaning up my submission to Memoir magazine? Oh no! The deadline is in a few weeks!!
Who wants to read my work? Who wants to read my stuff? I need more writer friends.
I need to research magazines to pitch ideas to. O Magazine? Good Housekeeping? Where do I find the time?
What should I blog about next?
Oh wait, I don't have any readers? How do I get readers??
When do I have the chance to write next? Oh wait, the baby's crying, she needs her diaper changed, she's hungry. Spit up. My little Cutie Patootie.
Is that pitch letter ready to send off yet? Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Well let me read it one more time.
I need to journal, I need to release...

So on and so forth. It's the Frenzy. I've just officially named it: The Frenzy. That's what's going on in my head as it relates to writing. There are other frenzies on other important things too such as my daughter, my husband, our home, my estranged family, my health - mental and physical. These frenzies are fierce in their own right and they just knock around in my head all day long. This is what it's like to be in between the Reality and the Dream. It's exhausting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reality and the Dream

Okay, I'm brave. I'm going to do this. Finally. Start a blog. Hello? Is there anybody out there?? Anybody at all who wants to follow the life of a new mother who badly wants to become a known author who never has to go to work in a cube again? If I had my druthers, I would stay at home, take care of my three month old baby girl and get paid big bucks to write my heart out. I wouldn't have to worry about finding good childcare for near slave wages (my biggest worry right now). And yes, I'd hire help around the house. Lots of it. Someone else to cook, clean, and do laundry. I'd just go around writing magazine articles and books and giving talks at quirky little bookstores around the country. And maybe in other countries. Then I'd come home and kiss my husband.

This is my dream.

My dream is no where near my reality. That's what what I hope this blog will be about: my attempt to merge the two.

The reality of my life is that I will soon be going back to work, after being on maternity leave for six months. I'll be going back to a job that regularly sucks the life out of me. But this time, I'll have my cutie-patootie daughter somewhere I haven't been with someone I have yet to meet. I am terrified. Terrified of that. Terrified of going back to work and having less time to write, to pitch my writing, to finish my manuscript, to change my life. Terrified I'll be come the tired, sexless nagging wife.

I have a lot of fears, dreams, and frustrations just like the next woman. And this blog is my attempt to move through all that. It's my attempt to get something done for myself while I learn how to be a new mom, work because I must, write by my lonesome, and love my husband.

I welcome you to the blog and to my new mama wannabe writer worker bee wife life.