Writing in April

Writing is hard.

It is especially difficult when managing the unyielding demands of a three-year old social butterfly who demands the limited emotional life-force that survived from a day of constant civil interactions that stress the introverted self.

It is notably difficult when April does not just bring rain showers, but snow, wintery mix, and icy roads that restricts any out-of-doors excursion such as shopping in crowded grocery stores where the produce is not quite seasonal and the ring of the cash register, not matter how calculated, tightens the chest.

It is extraordinarily difficult when distractions, like the children in the front yard of the apartment across the street howl “yard sale,” shift focus from the opportunity of writing mean poems and super short shorts to the present fantasy of the kind of financial security promised by degree, job, homeownership.

Writing in April is hard.

Leaves below the stoop

 

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My Reading Group Adventures

This past summer, we started visiting the local library on a regular basis. Our toddler’s reading selection seemed to be growing thin and the steady two-or-three-books-a-night made the circulation tight. With the additional expenses of homeownership, we were on a mission to find ways to save money and take advantage of the resources in our new community.

As couple of weeks ago, during our last “refuel” of children’s and adult literature, I noticed a flyer for the library’s “Reading Group.” This month, they were reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which was on my growing list of books to read this year. Eager to join a group that would discuss the books we were going to read, I grabbed a copy from the circulation desk with the plans to read it before the next meeting and check out this group of readers in this community.

The Reading Group

At 4:25, I showed up at the library, armed with my read Patchett novel and ready to discuss the complexities of story ownership that was a central theme within the book. When I walked into the room, which usually held art and photography exhibitions, there was a circle of chairs and a couple of the members already catching up with the events of their lives.

As the room began to fill, I began to wonder if I was in the right space. I was easily the youngest person within the room by at least one generation. As I listened patiently to the other members critique elements of the book and provide their own insight, I considered getting up and excusing myself. I could give myself the excuse of “at least I tried.” I could justify it by telling myself had put in a good effort and could return comfortably to my introverted life.

However, when the reading group promptly wrapped up at 5:30, I lingered for a few minutes in my chair as I tried to not look too eager to leave. At this time, a couple of the group members began to talk with me, about both the book and about the history of the reading group. They encouraged me to come back next month as they were eager to attract younger members.

Building Community

One of the many critiques of our generation is the lack of traditional community involvement. For me, the reading group–I believe it is intentionally not called a “book club”–provides an opportunity for social entrance into our new community. It also provides me with an outlet to engage outside of my work and family lives.Since completing my master’s, I’ve been looking for something to “work on” while I’m at home, in addition to the traditional mother-homeowner responsibilities.  Finally, the reading group encourages me to do something that I have neglected over the last decade–to read for the joy of reading. 

When moving to a new city or town, finding outlets like a reading group can help you connect with new people within the community. Even if your move is only one city over–like ours–each community has its own characters and story. Learning the story of your new community can help you find role within it.

People walking on a street

 

 

Setting Up For Success

Confession: Yesterday, I forgot to write.

Since June 1st, I set a challenge to write for thirty minutes every day. The purpose of this challenge was to address the time (or lack thereof) that I dedicated to an activity for me. Not for the boyfriend. Not for the child. Not for work. Not for school. I needed to dedicate time to the writer, an identity that I occasionally considered dishonest. How can I be a writer if I do not write regularly?

I wanted to set aside time to free-write, to gather fodder for bigger projects to come.  And, the exercise started off great. I wrote for thirty minutes. Sometimes, I would just put words on a page. Sometimes, I felt like I was actually getting somewhere. I wrote about my life, my feelings. I wrote about inspiration quotes and narrated the moment.

And then I started to shave that time. Maybe I would check on my bank balances or credit card statements while I set up my document. Maybe I would sneak-a-peek at my work email to see if I missed anything as I thought of something to write about. Sometimes, I would start the timer on the session and then get distracted with something else and never returned to the document.

Therefore, my dwindling commitment made it easy for me to forget to use the time I have been setting aside for writing. I got caught up with the nightly routine and was exhausted from a long week of work, school and house searching. Before I knew it, I was crawling into bed and the day was over.

When I did remember, I was a little annoyed. But I also realized that I have been cheating. I am not allowing myself the ability to fully engage with the process. I would start the timer when I’m tired. I would grumble about the additional commitment of my very limited time. I would search Pinterest, Facebook, and Zillow as I’m “thinking of ideas.” These are not effective writing sessions. I knew it then and I know it now. I have not been setting myself up to succeed.

The writer’s greatest enemy is herself. Success in writing may mean not giving into the hundred thousand different need demanding my attention at this moment. Maybe the needs wait. Maybe I find a better moment for writing.

Only twelve more days to go.

The Importance of Giving Space

I just completed Day 5 of my write everyday challenge. Here is a quick overview of my experience and early thoughts.

The Exercise

For 30 minutes (a hard 30 minutes, not a moment less, not a moment more) I free-wrote. For those who are unfamiliar with the practice, freewriting gives the writer space to just write. Sometimes, the exercise involves a topic or point of inspiration, but the most important element is to write for the entire duration of the time allocated to the activity.

At first, I intended to free-write every morning. And I did. For the first morning. After that, it fell to the late evening one night and I haven’t been able to get it done in the morning since.

I choose not to share this anyone I knew personally. Not my boyfriend, not my coworkers and definitely not on Facebook. Why? Because I didn’t know if I could do it. Lately (and what I mean is the last two year), I’ve really struggled with time management. If I couldn’t allocate time to write, would I want to write at all?

While I contemplated the exercise for the last month, I decided to commit after I was selected to facilitate a workshop at a writing conference. While I do write sporadically, I did not have any sense of commitment to it. The purpose of this exercise was to provide a sense of structure without being formulaic. Thirty minutes (and I cannot stress that it was a true 30 minute session) was enough time for me to just write.

The Lesson

Freewriting is a great exercise in and of itself. It is an excellent way to get your fingers moving over the keyboard or pen across paper.

For me, the lesson was the importance of giving myself space to write. I allowed myself one- 30 minute session every day. I allocated time in my busy schedule to write.

Now, this may seem simple. Obviously, I should have seen it from the beginning, but I have become a work-as-fast-as-you-can-because-it-was-due-yesterday kind of person. When I am busy, it is easy for me to fall into the I-just-want-to-move-on-to-the-next-thing mentality.

This exercise forced me to stop and write.

I started to think about other times where I have allowed myself space to do something. Sometimes, space means letting the toddler’s bedtime ritual unfold even if it’s nearly 9:30 p.m. Sometimes, it means giving us permission to be late to an event because getting there on time is just not going to happen. Sometimes, space means that during a rainy afternoon, I am not going to fret about homework, but that I will be present as I read books to the toddler and play with blocks.

In busy lives, it is important to give ourselves space to be present in our lives.

 

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