Thursday, March 31, 2011

April showers bring new writing goals

At the beginning of January, like most writers, I established some writing goals for the year. I took a look at those goals today and am happy to be able to say that I'm doing well with most of them, like blogging every day and contributing daily to two other writing sites.

The only writing goal that I seem to be having trouble with is my current novel. Now, traditionallyI feel that I'm better at writing short pieces: character sketches, flash fiction, etc. I have written novels before, so I don't think I'm freezing because the story is longer than what I do most often. Still, I'm not entirely sure why my current project is going so slowly. Maybe I'm too close to the idea, and fear is keeping me from working on the book as diligently as I should. Or maybe it's that self-doubt that I wrote about in yesterday's post. Whatever it is, it has succeeded in frustrating me and keeping me from telling the story I want to tell.

Well, I'm through with that.

My goal for April is to shake off whatever it is that is keeping me from working on my novel. I'm going to put much more focus on that piece, devoting more of my time--especially my more productive morning writing hours (something I mentioned in a previous post)--to getting a good start on my first draft. I will tell the story.

I have to.

I'll continue writing the other pieces I love, and I'll continue blogging. But my focus, my heart for April, needs to be on my WIP.

And it will be.

That's my goal.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fighting the enemy

Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite writers. I've turned to her works--particularly her poetry--countless times in my life. I can always find something to learn from her, some truth that resonates with me in whatever situation I'm facing.

One of my favorite of Plath's quotes serves as an inspiration to me whenever I feel that, despite my desire, I'm just not good enough to be a writer--and never will be:

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

Self-doubt. I'm sure all writers go through periods when they feel as though all their hard work is for nothing, that what they have to say is uninteresting, that their creativity is nonexistent. I feel this way more often than I'd like. I've been enthused about story ideas so many times in my life, only to become stifled when the doubts creep in:

"You can't write about that. What will people think?"

"Who cares if you're a mother? You don't know enough about motherhood. How are you going to make the story realistic? You're going to look like an idiot."

"Worst. Idea. Ever."

This is my Inner Critic speaking, of course, the one who can always be depended on to tell me the worst about myself, about my writing, about my ability to do anything other than dream of being a writer. The way I see it, I have two choices when that Inner Critic comes out to play. I can take everything he says to heart and quit or I can kick butt and take names. In other words, I can fight through the self-doubt, finding inspiration from writers like Plath: everything is writable if the writer has the guts.

And I do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ripple Effect or How Not Paying Attention Threw Off My Entire Day

I'm losing my mind.

Tuesdays are storytime days at the library, and every week, I dutifully wake up my usually late-sleeping children and get them fed, dressed, brushed, and ready to go listen to Mrs. O tell her stories.

Today was no different--at first. I woke up the kids, fed them breakfast, dressed them, brushed their teeth, combed their hair, got them into their coats and shoes, took them to the car, and strapped them into their car seats. Then I got into the car, put the key in the ignition, and did what I always do: glance at the clock to see how late we were going to be this time.

The clock said 10 a.m.

We didn't need to leave for storytime until 11.

My first reaction was complete confusion and denial. The clock must be wrong, I thought, and checked my cell phone. Same time. Huh. I sat back in my seat and counted back the hours. Everything seemed right. Could both clocks be wrong?

Comprehension finally dawned when I recalled that Pinky Dinky Doo was on TV when I brought the kids downstairs. Now, I know Nick Jr.'s lineup by heart, and that program is always on at 8:30. Always. I was supposed to get my kids up at 9:30.


This may seem like a little thing, but it's just one more example of the many ways I feel like I'm losing my mind these days. It doesn't bother me so much that I got the kids up an hour early (even though I missed that extra hour of writing time), but the fact that it took me so long to figure out what was wrong makes me feel like I'm two crayons short of a box. Maybe it's Mommy Brain...

Anyway, because of this timing mistake, my whole day was thrown off. It just didn't feel right, and consequently, nothing was done when it was supposed to be done, and I'm sitting here at just after 11 p.m. writing a post I should have written hours ago.

I've learned my lesson. You can bet I'll be checking that clock tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wherein I complain a bit, then make a plan

I write every day. In fact, I've done more writing thus far this year than I did all of last year and many of the years before. My problem? I don't feel like I'm getting much done.

Early morning is probably my best time of day to write. I love how quiet the house is after my husband leaves for work and my kids are still asleep. (I'm blessed with two late sleepers. They normally don't get up until 10 or 10:30.) I use my mornings for journaling and 100-word pieces of fiction. I consider these writings my daily warm-up. I love them because they help me to empty my mind of everything that is not my current WIP while still giving attention to those pesky plot bunnies that crowd my mind and scream for attention. Later in the afternoon, during my daughter's nap, I write some short pieces for another site and try to work on my daily blog posts. However, my concern is that every day I feel as though I'm cheating my novel-length project, which I usually get to late at night, after the kids are in bed, the house is relatively quiet once again--and I'm exhausted.

I know that no writing is wasted, but there are days when I ask myself why I bother with the early morning pieces and the other little bits of writing I do. My novel is my big project, yet I don't give it the attention it needs. There are days when I find its word count daunting, and some nights when I sit down to work on it, I feel like it's an impossible task. However, I want to write it; I love the idea, and the story is important to me. Something has to give, somewhere amid all the things I have to do and want to do during the day.

I need a plan.

I think that getting up just a few minutes earlier--even just fifteen minutes--will give me more time to work on my big project in the morning while still taking care of the small ones. Doing so will mean getting to bed earlier than my usual 1 a.m., however, and that may be a bigger problem. But more importantly, I think I really need to start treating my novel not as a novel but as a series of short pieces. Writing short seems to be my forte; I think I'm less intimidated by the smaller writings; the larger ones often loom in my mind like huge obstacles that seem too difficult to overcome.

It's time for me to change my thinking and my way of seeing my work. Today.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A recipe I love, but oh, the heartburn!

Today was a wonderful, lazy Sunday made all the more wonderful by the red beans and rice I cooked for dinner. (You can find the recipe here.) I'm suffering from a major case of heartburn right now--much like the heartburn I used to get when I was pregnant--but it's totally worth it! Let me know what you think if you decide to try the recipe.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Books, books, and more books, as far as the eye can see

I haven't mentioned it lately, but I'm still working on my Forty Days, Forty Boxes project. (You can read about it here and here.) I'm not counting boxes anymore, however. I missed a few days here and there, and trying to keep up was just stressing me out. I decided last week that as long as I continued to make progress, going through boxes whenever I was able, the number of boxes didn't matter.

I took a look at another box of books today, and I'm really starting to get overwhelmed. I have to admit something to you. I'll just get it over with now, if that's okay:

My name is Dana, and I'm addicted to books.

I feel better.

Seriously, I had no idea I have so many books--and certainly no idea that I have so many books that I haven't even read. I really thought that I'd read nearly ever book I owned, so I was flabbergasted (love that word!) to find so many that I hadn't even started.  I have no idea what to do with any of them, both the read and the unread. I mean, some of the decisions are easy, of course--I have favorites, like Little Women, that I could never bear to part with. Other decisions are harder because even though I didn't love a book (or think I won't love it, in the case of all those unread ones), I can't seem to part with it. It's like the books are my children, and I feel guilty about putting any one of them in the "Get Rid Of" pile. I feel like I'm abandoning them! So far I have a tiny, tiny pile that I plan to bring to Goodwill or to the library and several gigantic piles of books that I think I need to keep. I know I probably sound insane to non-booklovers, but I'm sure that my fellow booklovers understand just how hard it is to part with our beloved books.

Anyone else facing this dilemma? How do you decide which books to keep and which ones get axed from your collection?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just one of those things...

As I was driving my kids to storytime today, I thought of a great opening for my current story. I'd been trying for several days to get the beginning just right, and suddenly I had it! Cue the problem: I was driving. Not knowing what else to do, I started reciting the sentences over and over, hoping the repetition would help me to remember them. My son thought I was talking to him, though, and trying to explain that Mommy was talking to herself caused me to forget the exact wording of the sentences. Traffic was too heavy for me to stop, so my only hope was to get to a red light, then use the voice notes recorder on my BlackBerry to record everything I could remember. Now, most days, especially when I'm running late, I hit every red light. Today, of course, green lights prevailed, which is the way it always goes, isn't it? When I had almost reached my destination, a red light finally caught me, and I was able to set up the recorder. I placed the phone in my lap and continued driving, reciting what I could still remember. Unfortunately, the wording I recorded wasn't the "perfect" wording that had made me so excited. The good news is that I think I have enough to work with, so maybe I'll be able to re-create the sentences--or even make them better.

This was just one of those things, I guess, but I learned my lesson: always have the voice recorder ready so that if I can't write something down, I won't lose it.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My mommy hat is all askew. Help!

My kids are driving me insane.

Surprisingly, the youngest one, who's twenty months old, is causing me the most grief. She throws fits almost every day--screaming at the top of her lungs, lying on the floor and kicking, running away from me--and almost always in public places. Today it was the library. She had a tantrum because I said it was time to go, and it felt like every eye in the place was on me, watching to see how I would handle her. I could feel the disapproval, particularly from an older lady who was standing near the new fiction and looking at me with that "Can't you control your child" face. I wanted to tell her off, believe me. She can't tell me that her children (if she has any) didn't pitch fits at the most inopportune times--unless her kids were perfect angels, which I suppose in her mind they were.

My four-year-old has his share of tantrums as well, but he's never been as willful as my daughter, even when he was her age. His fits consist mostly of screaming loudly enough to alert people within a mile radius, then sobbing like I've just told him that the Easter Bunny ran out of chocolate eggs. These tantrums are embarrassing, for sure, and really, I'm at the end of my rope.

So I'm begging you as one harried mom to another: how can I stop these tantrums--or at least regain control of my kids? Help!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do You Write Best?

Lately I've noticed some writers tweeting about writing their stories by hand, and that made me curious. I definitely like the idea of sitting down with paper and a pen, which always makes me feel so much closer to my writing and the words--much closer than I feel when typing at a computer.

That being said, I type more often than I write by hand. My problem--and I've heard others express this same issue--is that my thoughts flow much more quickly than my hand can keep up. As a result, my writing, which is normally neat, grows sloppy and difficult to read, and afterward, I find myself struggling to decipher what I had written. Using a pen and paper slows down my progress; typing does not.

Still, I do use pen and paper occasionally. I love sitting in coffee shops with my notebook, people-watching and--I admit--eavesdropping on the conversations around me. When I visited New York City for the first time, writing in Starbucks, trite as the idea may seem, was one of the first things I wanted to do, and I did it. For some reason, I felt more like a writer that day.

How do you write best?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What I'm trying not to do

When I plan a story, I tend to get bogged down in the details. I panic if I don't know things like the names and ages of all the characters, their hair and eye colors, their backgrounds, their jobs, the kinds of cars they drive, where they live, whether they like Chinese food or Italian, if they favor their right or left hands... You get the picture. Often, by the time I've sorted out the details and sat down to write the story, I discover that I'm frustrated or bored or no longer interested in pursuing the idea. I've set aside quite a few projects because I'd allowed myself to get so wrapped up in the small things that I completely lost my desire to write the story; my inner perfectionist had taken all the fun out of the process, egged on by my inner critic and my inner procrastinator, both of whom tend to work hand in hand to keep me from writing.

Now, details are important, there's no doubt about that, but I don't feel they're as important in a first draft--despite what my nefarious inner mob would have me believe. So with my current project, my plan is not to plan. I mentioned in a previous post that I have the beginning of my story, know what happens through much of the middle, and have an idea where I want it to end. That's it--and that's considerably less than what I usually have at this point in the process. I'm not even entirely sure right now what my main character's name will be. I have an idea of course, and also a vague notion of what she'll look like, but I've decided not to let myself stress about having every little detail set in stone before I begin writing. I'm not even going to outline this time, which is something I normally do. This project will be an experiment in which I attempt to free my mind and write organically, to just let the story spill out as it wants to rather than force it into being what it's not. It's the first draft, and first drafts can always be fixed; telling the story is the most important part at this stage in the process. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

What's your writing process? How do you handle the details?

Monday, March 21, 2011

You're invited to my pity party. (Bring your own whine.)

This post is all about the whining. My apologies.

I had the most frustrating day. My husband is out of town for work, so the kids and I have been together all day and all night--no break. I just put them to bed, and I'm sitting here with a glass of wine and a headache and a bad attitude. I had so many plans for today, so many things I needed to get done, and every one of those plans fell through. What frustrates me the most is that I wasn't able to work on my new story, which always seems to get put at the bottom of the pile behind laundry and taking out the trash and changing sheets and cooking meals and pretty much everything else that needs to be done in this world. (So it seems.) I get so angry when things don't go the way I plan. I guess I'm being selfish and childish, but just for once, I'd like to put some of my things first. What happened to the things that are important to me? They've been crushed; everything else always comes first.

Again, I'm sorry about this rant/whine/oh-woe-is-me post. I used to be the person who got things done, and now I don't. I just can't get used to that.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's all about perspective

Often when I write, all I can see are what I perceive as flaws. I'll think that the writing doesn't flow as it should, that my dialogue sounds stilted, that my characters are two-dimensional, and, perhaps worst of all, that my idea just isn't any good--that it's boring, redundant, or unbelievable. I don't even know for sure how many stories I've started and then abandoned because my inner critic told me that my writing was just no good.

Recently, however, I was going through some boxes and unearthed a hard copy of a novel that I had started about a year ago. It was yet another in that long line of stories that my inner critic convinced me were going nowhere. I admit that I began reading it with trepidation: I wasn't sure I wanted to know just how bad it was. I read the first paragraph. To my surprise, it wasn't bad at all. In fact, I found it engaging, and aside from some sentences that I would probably structure differently had I written them now, overall, I found the story idea to be sound and--dare I say it?--interesting. Setting the story aside for all that time had give me the perspective I needed to see that, although some revisions need to be made, the idea itself is sound. Perhaps more importantly, I learned that my inner critic, while sometimes helpful, is not always right.

These may seem like simple lessons, and perhaps they are. However, every writer knows that her inner critic is powerful, and making a discovery like this one returns to the writer what she thought she had lost: her confidence.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day gone wrong

My husband has been working on a project at his office all day, and although the kids and I had a good day together, we had a horrible evening. All the ambitions I had to write are gone, and I'm sitting here at the computer with a glass of wine (actually, my second) and a plate that once held graham crackers and peanut butter. (We're out of chocolate.) I had some good things happen writing-wise earlier in the day, and I wanted to write about them here tonight, but the bad Mom evening I just had has taken my excitement away. Tomorrow will be better, right? Meanwhile, here's a bit of writing I posted at another site this morning. Although fictional, it describes how I feel about my current stage in the writing process:

The beginning was always the hardest. Oscar would spend days on it, searching for the best words to recreate the images that played in his imagination. Translating stories to paper was difficult; describing exactly what he saw in his mind did not happen easily, and characters who moved freely in his imagination would sometimes become stilted and two-dimensional on the page. For him, the beginning of the story was the story, and if he could get it just right--give those characters depth and breath and life--then he knew the rest of the story would follow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A new adventure

I started another project today, one that I'm really excited about. It's a story idea that I mentioned in a previous post, one that seemed to come out of nowhere, not just in flashes, like so often happens for me, but in its entirety. I know how the story starts, what happens in the middle, and how it ends, which is unusual because my story ideas are usually incomplete, missing one or sometimes even two of those vital components. I don't have all of the details yet, of course, but the big picture is there. The details will emerge as I write.

This story is a departure from what I usually do, and the idea of trying something a little outside of my comfort zone is very exciting!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To get rid of or not to get rid of...

my books.

I went through two boxes of books today, and I found it really difficult to decide which ones to keep and which ones to give to the library or to Goodwill. If we had room (lots of room!) for bookshelves, this wouldn't be as much of a problem. However, we have a tiny house, and I read a lot. I keep most of my books in boxes--at least the ones that aren't piled on desks and dressers and other flat surfaces. As I opened those two boxes today, I realized I had forgotten that I owned most of the books in them. It was fun to rediscover them, to reminisce about them, but after the initial excitement, I really didn't  know what to do with them. How do I know which ones to keep and which to give away? All of my books are important to me. The only one I can ever remember getting rid of was my copy of The English Patient, which I sold to one of my fellow teaching assistants in graduate school because I was starving and didn't have any cash for Taco Bell. (I didn't care for the book, so the decision to sell it was an easy one.)

Yes, I'm truly at a loss as to what to do with the hundreds of books in those boxes. I know that I'll keep the ones I absolutely love--like the Shakespeare and the Milton and the books written by my favorite modern authors. But I don't know what to do with the others. Will I read any of them again? It's unlikely. I read more than a hundred books each year, and I've realized as I've grown older that I don't have time to reread--not when there are so many good books out there. That fact should make my decision easy--get rid of all of them--but it doesn't. I just love being surrounded by books. Having them around brings me comfort, even if I never open their covers again.

So my question remains--and I'm no closer to an answer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Welcoming the unexpected

I find that the best story ideas are the ones that sneak up on me, often when I find myself unprepared and suddenly scrambling for paper and a pen. One of those wonderful ideas hit me today, and I spent some time writing notes and talking to that lovely character who had chosen that particular moment to make herself known. Did she give me a short story? A novel? I'm not sure yet, but I do know that the story has ignited a passion in me that the story I had been working on didn't. I'm excited again--about an idea, about writing, about sitting down at the computer and opening a document file. I think the difference between this new idea and my current WIP is that my WIP feels forced--I'm having to work really hard to brainstorm and outline; the ideas and words haven't come easily. My new project feels more organic. The idea flows. I'm excited to start working on it. 

Forty Days, Forty Boxes Update: Today's box (and many, many boxes in my future) was filled with books, mainly old textbooks I either used when I was teaching or had received as review copies from publishers. I decided to get rid of all but my favorite one or two. After all, I'm no longer teaching, and even if I do teach again one day, I'll need new books, of course. Two boxes down, thirty-eight to go...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Weep not for the memories"

Today was day one of what I've decided to call Forty Days, Forty Boxes. I went through my first box today, and all I can say is: Wow. The box I chose was obviously one I had intended to unpack immediately after I moved in, but somehow it got put down into the basement, where it hasn't been opened for more than six years. It contained all kinds of odds and ends, like half-used haircare products, brushes, bottles of nail polish, address books, birthday cards, an itinerary for a trip that I took with some students back when I was teaching in Nebraska... It must have been one of those last-minute, throw-everything-in-because-it's-time-to-leave-and-I'm-tired-of-packing boxes. What a mess!  I threw nearly everything away, but I found that I'm still attached to things like cards from my family and letters written by friends I rarely talk to now. I kept those.

I did find one thing that I can't get out of my mind. It was a note from Rob, a guy I dated when I was working on my master's degree. It wasn't a love note or a note of any real significance, at least on the surface. It simply said that he would meet me at my place at 6:15. That's it. But I had saved it because, although I'd had boyfriends before him, I considered him my first real love, and the breakup was very hard. I think it gave me comfort to have that note, those words that were written for me, by him. At the time, the note made me feel like there was still a thread of connection between us, and I needed to feel that then. I thought about him for a long time after we graduated and went our separate ways, and I Googled him from time to time, trying to find out what happened to him. I just wanted to know. I did have some contact with him about six years after graduation, soon after I had married my second husband (the man I'm married to now). He found me on MySpace and sent me a message, and we talked off and on for a few weeks--and then nothing. I was busy; I'm sure he was too. I had just had a baby, and he took up all of my time, as babies do, and I didn't pay a lot of attention to keeping up with friends on MySpace. When I did go back to check his page a few months later, it was gone. He had deleted it. I haven't heard from him in about four years.

After I found the note today, I Googled him once again. I didn't do it because I want some kind of relationship with him but because now, as before, I just want to know. I learned that his mother had died about a year after we talked on MySpace, and I learned where he had last lived and taught. But I can't find anything current, and I haven't been able to get him out of my mind all day. I'd like to find him again, contact him, see if he's okay. I want to know if he's happy. I want to tell him that I'm happy. I have two beautiful children and a husband who loves me. But Rob was a big part of my life once upon a time, and finding that note today--that simple note--reminded me just how important he was.

I kept the note. I couldn't throw it away.

I probably never will.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Forty days, forty bags

Last week a friend of mine told me that for the forty days of Lent, she's working on eliminating forty bags of clutter from her home. I love this idea! I have a hard time getting rid of things. Much of my clutter is sentimental; parting with things like pictures my children have drawn and items that were given to me by family members is heartbreakingly difficult for me. The rest of my "junk" consists of things that I've accumulated during the moves I've made throughout my life--from Michigan to Nebraska to Wisconsin to New York. In addition, my parents are in the process of cleaning out their house so they can sell it, and they've given me all of the stuff they've been storing for me for years: old school papers and projects, books, toys, even clothes. I don't know what to do with it all.

When I came to New York, I moved into my then-boyfriend-now-husband's house, which is tiny and already filled with things belonging to him and his two older sons. Much of my stuff went directly from the moving van to the basement, where it's stayed since late 2004. I can never seem to find the time or the inclination to go through all of the boxes. Just the thought of having to sort through years of memories and the detritus of my life makes me feel helpless, and the few times I've gone downstairs to survey my piles of boxes, I haven't even known where to begin.

The forty days, forty bags idea seems like a great place to start (even though I'm already a few days behind). I still feel overwhelmed at the prospect of going through all of my things, so I think I will modify the idea a bit. Instead of trying to rid myself of forty bags worth of stuff, I want to go through one box a day, which seems like a reasonable, attainable goal.

I intend to start this project tomorrow. I know it probably seems weird, but I'm a little nervous about what I'll find when I excavate my past. I've kept so much that I really don't know what I own anymore, and I'm crossing my fingers that my sentimental nature will allow me to part with the things that I truly don't need. It's the memories that get me. It's so hard to let go.

I'll update as I go through the process. Wish me luck! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just sleepwalking through...

I wanted to write a post tonight--a meaningful post, not one like this--but the time change has me beat. I probably shouldn't have written anything at all, but I've been posting here every day since I began this blog, so missing a night just because I'm tired would be sad. So...this is my post. I hope to be more interesting--and more awake!--tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Power of Words

Yesterday's post about having no words got me thinking about words and the effect they have on our relationships with others. I posted this at another site this morning:

Life is all about the words. The words we say; the words we don't say. The words we don't think to say until it's too late; the words that seem to fly out of our mouths unbidden, causing hurt and ruining relationships. The words we wish we would have said, had we not been afraid of reactions, of consequences. Words that wound and heal. Our relationships are built on words. They have life and power. They reveal us more than our actions; they peer into our hearts; they, more than anything, show who we really are inside. Who are we?

Who am I? What do my words reveal?

I think that sometimes my words show that I'm a loving mom and wife and daughter and friend, someone who genuinely cares about others and wants to do everything possible to help them. On other days, my words are harsh; they show the stress I feel inside, the anger and frustration that tend to come to the surface inexplicably and at the worst times. I'm guilty of letting my words fly without really thinking about them, letting them go like bullets aiming to take down anything in their path. It's easy to forget that words can wound. When I was in elementary school and the kids would pick on me, my mom taught me to say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Well, words do hurt; they can hurt a lot. I've felt that hurt, and I know that I've caused that hurt as well, too many times.

So who am I?

I'm a woman who tries (and often fails) to choose words that reflect the person I feel I am deep in my heart--to show the goodness that I know is there, even though it's sometimes hidden by stress and anxiety and worry. And, like everyone else, I'm just doing the best I can.

Friday, March 11, 2011

No words

I started several posts tonight, but, after all of the devastation that has occurred in Japan, I'm finding it difficult to come up with words about my own little corner of this planet. Instead, I want to say that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by these terrible events.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Keep reaching

I watched American Idol tonight, and I have so much admiration for those young people who are striving to realize their dreams. Seeing their drive and determination inspires me and makes me realize that if I want to achieve my goals, I need to find a way to make them happen. Having children is a full-time job, and my life is busier now than ever before. But nothing should--can--stand in the way of something I really want. I think of all the people, especially the mothers, who are far busier than I am, who have full-time jobs outside the home, then return each night to their full-time job as mom, and so many of them are pursuing their dreams and finding success. If they can do it, surely I can too. If writing is important to me--and it is--then I need to work harder to make it a priority--not someday but now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Another long day means...

popcorn, TV, and bed.

Hoping for a more productive day--writing and otherwise--tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Losing control

I reread yesterday's post about my bad day, and I realize that what I described might not seem like such an ordeal to others. However, I merely scratched the surface of everything that went wrong; the missing DVD was the kindling that set fire to a rage that's been simmering within me for quite some time. It put me over the edge.

Lately I've felt like I'm spinning out of control. I don't know if it's my age or the fact that mothering is a tough job or the inadequacy I feel over not being able to work harder toward my writing goals... Whatever it is, it's making me feel helpless, and some days, when there are so many things hitting me at once, vying for my attention, worrying me, nagging me, making me feel less than human, less than sane, I just want to lie down and sleep and forget about it all. I want all those feelings to go away until I feel like I'm in control of my life again, like I'm the main character. Like I'm Dana.

I haven't felt like Dana in a long time.

That missing enraged me. I was angry that the kids had misplaced it. It was just one more thing--a little thing, certainly--but it was the proverbial last straw, one more thing that was trying to gain control over my life, and I couldn't stand  it. I was so angry--about the DVD and about everything else, all those things I felt were trying to take my life away from me.

Ozzy Osbourne is my favorite singer. I think he's a remarkable songwriter whose lyrics are truly thought-provoking. In Ghost Behind My Eyes, Ozzy sings: "I hate that feeling when I'm losing control." That's how I feel now, how I've felt for months. I'm losing control--maybe losing my mind--and I hate it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dana's Very Bad Day

It started off nicely enough.

I'd had my coffee; the kids weren't fighting. Everything was...well, cool.

Then the library's Max and Ruby DVD went missing, and all hell broke loose. The three of us searched high; we searched low. We searched what we'd already searched, then searched it all again.

The DVD was gone, AWOL, missing in action, and we feared we would never see it again. The kids were sad. I was sad too; I didn't want to pay a fine.

As the search went on, the kids grew bored and restless. I grew angry. I ranted and raved. "Why can't you remember to put things back where they belong?" I shouted.

After hours of searching, we were overcome by exhaustion. The littlest one took a nap. The bigger one played. I, the old and cranky one, made dinner and stewed.

Our soup tasted of rage. Daddy returned from work and heard the story. He vowed to continue the search. I vowed to continue to rant. The kids ate...remarkably.

After dinner (no dessert), I did the dishes, then went through the trash, still searching, still fuming. Nothing. I sat at the table, racked my brain, was at a loss.! The bigger one raced into the room, DVD in hand--and peace reigned once again.

**Ihis is the greatly sanitized version; our day was much, much worse. We're hoping for a better one tomorrow.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday roundup -- or -- A very brief update

Recently, I resolved to make some changes in my life. Some of them have gone well, and the rest...

Diet:  Not good. I haven't changed my eating habits much, and I haven't been exercising as I should. I'm starting to feel bad about myself, and I know I need to work harder.

Chocolate Consumption: See "Diet." I'm eating the same or maybe even more chocolate than I had been. I've got to get out of the mind-set that chocolate is easing my stress levels. I'm getting so I can find any excuse to consume it, from calming myself after a rough day to celebrating an accomplishment.

Writing Output: Needs to be better. I'm starting to second-guess my novel's opening scene, which is never good at this early part in the writing process. On the positive side, I've been posting here every day, and I also post daily at two other sites. My new goal is to work harder at finding time for my novel--and to stop revising as I go.

Tomorrow is another day, right?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My children's love amazes me

I'm humbled by my children's unconditional love for me. Their unexpected hugs and kisses, their small voices saying "I love you" with complete sincerity and truth, their pride when they point at me and tell the people we sit next to at story time that "That's my mommy"--it's a love I often feel I don't deserve. There are so many days when I'm not lovable: I'm cranky, I yell out of frustration, I think my head will explode if I have to play just one more game... I carry a lot of guilt about these feelings, and I feel ashamed of myself when sticky fingers grab hold of mine or little arms throw themselves around my neck for a hug. They love me so much. I love them too, more than words can describe. They are my world. But I know how fallible I am; I know that I would never win the title of World's Best Mother--or even come close. And so when the kids look at me and see their world, sometimes I do feel sad--sad because I know that they deserve so much more than the mother I am. And it always amazes me that they're mine, that I'm the one they look for in a crowded room, that I'm the one they call for when they need more milk or a blanket or a hug. I'm awed that I'm the one they love.

Friday, March 4, 2011

After a long day...

Tonight is wine and Sex and the City and chocolate, then reading and sleep and dreams.

Good night.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Reach out and touch faith"

I made salmon loaf for dinner tonight. As I was removing the skin and bones from the canned salmon, I noticed the round bones of the backbone--really noticed them. I saw their absolute perfection--how they're all flawlessly round, nearly identical in size--and to me, at that moment--and as strange as it may seem to someone else--those little bones were just one more proof of the existence of God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And all is (finally) well

Yesterday I finally got over whatever it was that was preventing me from starting my WIP. Now that I'm over that hurdle, I think the rest of the story will follow much more easily.

It's funny... One of the courses I taught as a college instructor was composition. Students would often come to me with complaints about how much difficulty they were having starting their essays. My advice was always the same: start somewhere else in the essay and go back to the beginning later. For some, this method worked. The rest insisted that they couldn't write anything unless they had a good beginning, and they would struggle until they finally hit upon an idea. I, as evidenced by many of these blog posts, fall into this second category. This is one case where I just can't practice what I preach.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've been having strange dreams for the past two nights, dreams about things like missing hams (I know!) and people I haven't thought about in years and friends who might not know how to use a hammer in real life suddenly flipping houses. For a long time, I either didn't dream or couldn't recall the ones I was having, so even though these dreams are strange, it's nice to know I'm dreaming again. And all writers know that sometimes story ideas lurk in dreams...