The story of my life. I think it is for anyone who writes, published or not. It seems that when the writing bug bites you, it holds on tight and never lets go. When a day goes by and I don't write, I feel unfinished. I feel like one of the most important things on my to-do list hasn't been crossed off. It nags at me as I fall asleep at night and remains a dull ache in the morning that I shake off with coffee and my children's sounds both wonderful and irritating depending on how the morning goes. Then it's another day and I get another lucky chance to complete myself. By the way, there are many days that I don't write. So I feel like this a lot. It's a state of being I'm trying to make peace with. I just don't know if that peace will come from writing every day rain or shine, or being more okay with not writing.
If I have a deadline, then I do write on a schedule hitting a daily word count and it takes a lot of unexpected chaos for me not to write. Deadlines are magic. So the short answer to the question of making time to write is to create a deadline if one is not imposed on you. Take a class or start a writing group. Or simply tell a trusted friend what your deadline is. Be accountable to others. It's harder to procrastinate in public.
When I have a contracted deadline, the fear of knowing I'm too old to pull all-nighters keeps me going at a steady pace. But when I don't have a deadline, sometimes I give myself a hiatus to take care of other things and sometimes I just get lazy, but either doesn't feel great.
This last month was a true test of my writing resolve. We just moved from an old, charming, quirky house that cost a bundle to heat to a bigger, old, charming, quirky house in a nicer and more convenient neighborhood that will cost even more to heat. But I love it. I love connecting with a new space. As far as I'm concerned, houses are living things. I've been lucky to deeply love every space I've lived in, from a tiny one-bedroom in the city over a subway station with only enough space in the kitchen for a dorm-sized fridge and no freezer, to this one--a hundred year-old, beautiful, and slightly ridiculous house. My house and I get to know each other a little more when I find out on the first cold morning that the hundred-year old living room windows are probably as energy efficient as plastic wrap and that I can actually see the twinkling of the GW Bridge from my bedroom at night. I'm falling in love with this house, with all it's flaws and delights. The flaws are actually where the pull is, as long as it's balanced by beauty. Beauty without flaws is air-brushing. It's fake. It doesn't even exist.
Even if you only move a mile a way, packing up your whole life in boxes, and moving with two kids who are fresh out of camp, a husband who has to work late hours, and a looming book deadline is not very, how shall I say this...relaxing? I didn't understand if we just moved into our "dream-house" why I was so stressed-out and miserable? First, I wasn't writing when I needed to be because of all the moving and child-care logistics. It also felt like I had time-travelled. That we became another family in the future. How could we be us in this new space? Like we were pretending and that our real lives continued somehow in the old house where everything was still unpacked and arranged into a home. But as more boxes got unpacked and the rooms started to define themselves and I cooked my family their first meal in our new kitchen, and I wrote my first words in my new office, I started to see it, our old lives and our new lives merging.
It was really the moment though when I plunked down my laptop at 5:00a.m. so I could get in a few writing hours before my husband went to work and the kids were up, on my newly cleared desk surrounded by cardboard boxes, that my house became real to me, that I became a full person inside it. Flawed beauty. My fingers played on the keyboard in the dawn and the inspiration finally started to drip like brewing coffee. My heartbeat slowed. I felt such peace afterwards (not during, mind you).
I will probably never write every day, but the secret to making time to write for me is propelled by two things: a deadline, or misery. So create a deadline for yourself or choose peace instead of misery, and write. Don't wait for inspiration or a muse or everything to be just right. You'll never write anything good if you do. Just write through it. Allow both the flaws and the beauty to show themselves. It works. Good coffee helps too.
Wow, wow, and wow! My first reviews are in, from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, and they both gave THE WHOLE STORY OF HALF A GIRL a star! I was bracing myself for this moment and never expected anything like this. The first is from Kirkus, the second is from PW, and now I'll let them speak for themselves. They like me. They really like me...
"Four decades separate Sonia Nadhamuni and Judy Blume’s Margaret Simon, but these feisty, funny offspring of Jewish interfaith marriages are sisters under the skin. Perched on the uncertain cusp of adulthood, each grapples with perplexing cultural identity issues, but in very different worlds. While Margaret’s grandparents pressure her to label herself as they wish, it’s Sonia’s peers who expect her to define herself racially and culturally. Having a nominally Hindu, Indian-immigrant dad and Jewish-American mom wasn’t a big deal until her father lost his job. Now Sonia must leave her comfortably small private school behind and—with Dad sinking into clinical depression and Mom taking on more work—chart her own course at Maplewood Middle School. Where does she fit? With the cheerleaders like pretty, blonde Kate or the bussed-in, city kids like Alisha, who’s writing a novel? Sonia’s the only cheerleader not invited to Peter Hanson’s birthday party. Is racism the cause? As in real life, her challenges don’t come neatly compartmentalized; Sonia will have to work out her mixed-heritage identity while contending with stressed-out parents, financial woes and vexing social uncertainties. Multifaceted characters, especially Sonia—astute, observant and original—provide depth. Like Blume, Hiranandani resists simplistic, tidy solutions. Each excels in charting the fluctuating discomfort zones of adolescent identity with affectionate humor."
From Publishers Weekly:
"Just before fifth grade ends, life is sweet for Sonia. She loves the alternative private school that she attends with her best friend Sam, where her half-Jewish, half-Indian background is simply accepted. But when her father loses his job and Sonia must attend public school in the fall, life gets complicated. Sonia’s new school is more racially divided than her old one, and when her racial identity is questioned, she realizes she has never considered what the answers might be. She’s taken in by a group of girls who try out for the cheerleading team, something Sonia comes to love but that doesn’t fit with her self-image. Hardest of all is the depression her father falls into, despite finding a new job. In Hiranandani’s debut novel, Sonia’s struggles are painfully realistic, as she wrestles with how to identify herself, how to cope with her family’s problems, and how to fit in without losing herself. True to life, her problems do not wrap up neatly, but Sonia’s growth is deeply rewarding in this thoughtful and beautifully wrought novel."
I'm looking at SNOW from out my window, but thankfully it's quickly melting. I have these jars I painted on the window sill and my daughter made the tissue paper flowers shown in the picture up there. It reminds me of spring whenever I look out, even if it's over snowy covered trees.
I haven't posted in a little while. I blame it all on jury duty that took over my life for almost three weeks. But I'm serving my country, right? I could actually go on and on about this experience. Not only was I a tad stressed out trying to arrange childcare and doing all my school work and writing in the evening, it was a very difficult and eye-opening (I was the foreperson and had to read the guilty verdict to the accused) experience in itself. It drained me to the point of just wanting to leave it behind, in the courtroom, and close the door.
The day afterwards, I was straightening up my daughter's room trying to restore order in my chaotic household when I found a book my mother-in-law gave her. She works in a school and is always bringing her used books from the library. The books are either well-worn classics or random little discoveries. This book fell into the latter category:
Today I will not live up to my potential.
Today I will not relate well to my peer group.
Today I will not contribute in class.
I will not volunteer one thing.
Today I will not strive to do better.
Today I will not achieve or adjust or grow enriched or get involved.
I will not put up my hand even if the teacher is wrong and
I can prove it.
Today I might eat the eraser off my pencil.
I'll look at the clouds.
I'll be late.
I don't think I'll wash.
I need a rest.
(excerpted from Jean Little's Hey World, Here I Am!)
I love this poem because it's so truthful and it's exactly how I felt when I first read it. The entire collection of poems and stories strike a similar note as we follow fictional young teen character Kate Bloomfield while she tries to navigate her young complicated life. She's brave and honest and critical of the world she lives in with her two distracted, intellectual parents who don't bother giving her a bedtime, but will always listen if she has an opinion about something. Sometimes she longs for a more traditional household and sometimes she's happy with her life. But Little perfectly blends Kate's newly unearthed teenage angst with her keen intelligence topped with the bits of innocence still clinging to her. It's one of the most pure and refreshing pieces I've read for young adults in a long time (best for probably 8-12 year olds). It was first published in 1986 by Kids Can Press and I believe it's still in print. There are a few more books by Little based on Kate and her friend Emily as well.
Many of us work so hard striving for balance, peace, and happiness in our lives, and we should. Sometimes, though, there is just today, and we're tired, and it is what it is. I think that's okay, at least for today.