Pouring

Sometimes I think the only way to write is by pouring one’s heart into the story. I inject not only compassion I feel for people I know, but also very personal experiences from my own life. I pour myself into my work.

Sometimes I feel like readers can recognize these bits of my truth about pain and longing and hope. I feel like they read what I write and deeply connect to the story. These feelings are validating and make me want to continue writing from my heart.

But sometimes I feel like I have poured my heart out and people look at it and think, “What a freakin’ mess that is. Step carefully around that, dear. Don’t get any on your shoes.”

Different days bring different ways of seeing it. I try not to make major decisions about my future based on either of these ideas. But lately I just don’t want to write anymore. So I don’t. I cut fabric into tiny squares thinking I might sew some patchwork dogs to give to special education classes next December. I cut squares because they are precisely 2.25″ x 2.25″ but each varies slightly by pattern. I cut squares because it is repetitive work which requires very little thought. I cut squares because I’ve acquired so much fabric over the last two years and am ashamed to haveĀ  left it neglected so long.

I cut squares because I’m avoiding writing.

I don’t think there is a story left to be written by me which is more intimate, important, or heartfelt than Winter Seedlings and Silencer. What could I say more? At the moment, not much. I am still empty from pouring myself out into all that work in such a short period of time. The issues presented in those works were things I had rolled over in my head for ten or twenty years. It was everything poured out at once.

So, what kind of writer am I that I can’t just type up a love story, or a documentary, or a quaint tale of Appalachia? Am I a writer at all if I can’t write daily, even to type up a blog post? Successful authors should be able to do at least that much.

But, I’m not that kind of writer, I guess. I don’t want “it” bad enough. “It” = anything. I just want to be quiet until I see a space to make a difference, whether it be with a patchwork dog or a new novel. I don’t want to pour myself out for nothing, or worse, to be stepped around. There are plenty of other authors to read in the meantime.

Writers and Dreamers

Writing a novel is a huge commitment, especially for independent authors. We must write it, edit it from front to back no less than five times, and format it anywhere from 2 to 5 different ways for print and various e-book sellers. We might be able to complete a novel in a year, but it will take every second of time we have to spare. An entire year = one novel. Ask me what I did in 2014; I’ll tell you, “I wrote Winter Seedlings.” Anything else I add to that will relate to what my kids did, or the couple of weeks we spent in Tennessee. But, almost every minute of every day was dedicated to getting that two book series published.

I bring this up because I had a fantastic idea for a novel today. Just thinking of it made me cry and to me that says, “Write that thing!” But, I’m not yet halfway through writing my current novel. I have at least a couple more months of writing left to do before I can even start editing it. I can’t start something else until I finish what I’ve already started. Otherwise, I will have wasted months of work.

Yes, I could jot down the beginning. Yes, I could work on two things at once, theoretically. Some authors do. But, it isn’t ideal for me. I need to keep focused on the one thing which will be my 2015, the thing I will tell you I did this year if you ask me in 2016. Only strict dedication will get me, or any other author, through what it takes to turn an idea into a published work. I can’t look away.

Am I afraid I’ll lose the idea? No. Well, no I am not afraid. But, yes I do accept the possibility that the idea will fade. I don’t care, honestly. Ideas are the easy part. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t watched a movie or read a book and thought of ways they’d have done it differently. Every person alive has stories to tell, ideas about the past and future, dreams they dream at night. Every child grows up imagining other worlds or ways this one could be altered.

Sometimes when I tell people I am an author, they will immediately tell me their book idea. Even strangers do this.

So, no, I’m not afraid of missing out on a great new idea.

I’m afraid of not sticking with the great idea I had five months ago. I’m afraid I’ll let too much space come between me and the 30,000 words I’ve written so far, until I forget where I left off and can’t get interested again. That fear is what makes me an author and not just a dreamer of ideas.

Now, let’s get back to work.

Permission Slipped

I was on the edge, my hand pushed against the wall to keep myself from falling off the bed. My son pressed his feet against my spine in his usual rhythm: toe push-push, relax, foot-push, and repeat. His legs flopped over my waist and my hand went to his calves and squeezed, hoping the pressure would help him relax. I had already compressed all of his joints, so it was only a matter of time before he finally drifted off to sleep.

In the darkness, the room was quiet except for the Angry Birds sounds my son was making. I closed my eyes and drifted inward. My mind felt the words before I saw them peeking out of the places they hide. One by one they stepped out in hopes of being examined and validated. More and more words filled the emptiness and my heart ached for the feeling of a pen in my hand.

My son’s breathing steadied with a hint of a snore. I sat up, spoiled by the time resting in his bed. Exhaustion drew my back into a slump. I pulled the blankets over him, blankets which I am not allowed to touch if he is awake. But it is okay to touch them when he sleeps, and pile them heavily on him. I tucked them in around him so he might sleep the whole night through.

When I opened the door to leave his room, the sound of Dr. Who rushed in. I quickly stepped out and closed the door to keep the noise out. But I realized it was too distracting for me to write. I would have to wait until morning. But, sleep seemed equally appealing. I imagined I would lie in my bed, as I had just been in my son’s bed, and all the words would come to me and tell me where my story needed to go. I needed that precious moment of clarity just before sleep.

So, I passed by my husband and daughter as they watched t.v., stopped to turn on the clothes dryer, and then disappeared into the darkness of my bedroom. I could still hear the Daleks, but they simply assured me that no one would interrupt my thoughts. I settled my head onto the pillow and let my mind drift to the words I had written earlier in the day. I let the story play out a number of different ways until I crossed over into dreaming.

The alarm went off at 6:17 and automatic pilot mode was activated. I brushed my teeth, feeling the mint wake me. I walked through the house with a greeting, “Oh my goodness, the sun is already peeking in the windows! Everyone get up and look out the windows at that beautiful sunrise! The sky is pink. Wake up, wake up. It is time to wake up.”

I flipped on the usual lights, opened the usual doors, gathered up clothes for each child to wear, and doled out a few instructions. I headed back down the stairs and went straight to the laundry room to look for four pairs of matching socks. While there, I started folding the clothes from the dryer. I still needed to load the washer, get dressed, and pack a snack for the kids. I had thirty minutes, plenty of time.

That’s when I heard my daughter complain because there were no cherry Poptarts left. And that’s when I heard him reply, “Well, that’s because no one goes to the store anymore.”

Me. I don’t go to the store anymore to buy cherry Poptarts because I spend my quiet time at home writing. That is what he meant. When I explained that writing is my ‘work’, it brought a grunt of objection.

I’ll spare you the details of what transpired afterward.

But, it all comes around to this: If you wait for permission to do the work you believe in, you are only waiting for something you can already give yourself. You must give that permission to yourself before anyone else will come on board. Maybe no one else ever will. But, it doesn’t matter. It can’t matter.

I, like many women, do the necessary work to keep the house in order. I, like so many others, love my family more than anything. I am many things to many people. But, I am also something to myself. I am a writer. This is my work.

Holding Together