Sunday, June 1, 2014

Anthropomorphic noveling and other bits of crazy


Recently, I was talking to my sister Laura about families and whether or not to grow them. It seems that once you've had one kid, everyone feels it's their duty to ask when you're having the next one, and then after you have that subsequent child, everyone wonders about your interest in having a third.

I suppose it's natural for such a curious and social species to make inquiries about future plans for my uterus. And as a woman and mother I should accept this line of questioning with grace, right?

But with my 3-1/2-year-old treating her sister like an adversary in a roll-less roller derby and my 2-year-old  requesting to sit on the potty every five minutes (whether or not she has to go) in the hopes of acquiring more M&Ms, I have to say there are limitations to my grace. (What grace did she have to begin with? Many of you are no doubt wondering.)

And lately my thoughts have been so consumed by the possibility of wrapping up my work-in-perpetual-progress that the thought of a third child is as distant as the next time my kitchen floor will be clean (that is to say, a very, very distant thought). 

"Maybe your novel is your third child," Laura told me as I was confessing to her that maybe I wasn't going to be the mother of a giant wily brood -- the vision I'd always had for myself before I actually started brooding. 

Writing -- and especially writing this manuscript -- has sent me through a gamut of emotions -- from excitement to despair to joy to never-ending anxiety. 

I actually asked a couple of my writing friends last week during a panicked "why do I feel like I'm slowly going insane?" moment if my stress over the project was normal. Especially considering that there are no stakes for anyone but myself if it's never completed. 

Both immediately responded.

"Know that you are not alone," Megan* wrote. "Every single step of this journey is full of anxiety and doubt." 

Well that's reassuring.

"Breathe in, Breathe out. I'm sure it's fantastic" Beth** wrote (Which is exactly what I would've told her in the same moment. 

I've been picking away at this manuscript for so long that it this point, it really does feel like a living, breathing thing. Every day I'm curating bits of conversations I have or articles I read or songs I listen or people I see and trying to figure out how they might help round out a character or help guide the plot or back up a theme. And it's both thrilling and annoying to be constantly on duty as a writer -- you can't for one second stop watching and listening and connecting to the world at large at risk of missing that next perfect scene. Ever vigilant.

So while it doesn't demand cereal at 6 in the morning or won't ever need to be potty-trained, for now, writing is my third child. 

And in some ways, I feel selfish and superficial about saying that. I have children, so obviously I know the stakes are not nearly as high with my pet project as it is with their lives. I am devoted to them first and foremost.

But I'm devoted to this, too. And hopefully, by scraping together the time to pursue this beastly thing that brings me so much joy, I can be an example to them. Who better to show them the importance of doing what you love? 

They'll just have to look to someone else to show them the importance of home maintenance. 

* Megan's debut "Make it Count" comes out Tuesday -- so if you're looking for a saucy beach read -- go here.

** Beth's debut "Pack of Dorks" comes out Oct. 7. I think the title of the book should be on my family's crest. Pre-order it here.

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