Thursday, March 10, 2011

This One's For The Moms

--Adrienne Miller

I’m not a big advice giver, especially when it comes to writing tips. We all know the biggies by heart anyways. Butt in chair. Hands on keyboard. Do it every day. There are great books if you need deeper help. On Writing by Stephen King is a favorite. Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird is pretty good too. I can’t pretend to do better than those two. 
But there might be one area that I can shed a little light on. You see, about three years ago, I almost quit writing. I hadn’t been at it for very long, not seriously at least, when my older son was diagnosed with autism. My life was full, too full, I figured for me to engage in dream chasing. I was already juggling a toddler, a preschooler and a full-time job, and now life was tossing a complex disability into the mix. I could have given up an no one would have faulted me. No one but me, that is.
Of course, I didn’t give up, and in the last three years I’ve learned a handful of things that have kept me going. 
1. Give up on perfect
And I’m not talking about perfectly folded towels and immaculate kitchens, though if that is your hang-up then it might be a good idea to take a step back from that too. 

No, I’m talking about something far more insidious -- the idea of perfect. The fiction that we create in our minds about the perfect tomorrow. The perfect writing conditions, the ones that, if only we had them, we could pump out six or seven bestsellers a year.
You know the story. It always starts off with One Day. One day when the kids are in school. One day when I have six solid hours of quiet to write. One day when I have my own office filled with comfy couches and potted plants.
One Day kills Today.  And there’s no guarantee that it’s coming. All of those problems that are clogging up your life right now, yeah, in five years they all may be resolved, but guess what? New ones are going to rush right in and take their place. Problems you can’t imagine yet. Problems just as complex and annoying as the ones you already have. 
One Day doesn’t exist. There is only wonderful, chaotic, annoyance-filled today with all of its lovely potential. 
2. You are tougher than you think
You’ve dealt with everything that parenthood has flung your way. The nausea,  lack of sleep, the panic you felt when the nurses first wheeled you out of the hospital with that helpless little bundle in your arms--you got through all that. You’ve coped with major and minor doctor visits, temper tantrums, and all out fights. Every time life chucked a curveball at your head, and you muttered to yourself that you couldn’t handle it, you did. 
Motherhood is a crucible. You go into it one person, and the stress, the worry, the pain and the joy changes you. Just remember, you are as strong as the fires you are forged in.
The hard work of writing and rewriting, the wear of rejection and the stress of deadlines, I’m not going to lie and say that they’re easy in comparison. I’m just guessing that if you can get through back to back sleepless nights with a squalling baby throwing up all over you, you probably have what it takes to handle a few faceless rejection letters .
3. What you’re doing is actually good for your kids
I know sometimes it’s hard to believe, especially when good ol’ guilt starts creeping its way into your head late at night, but I promise you its true.
Sure, kids need homemade cookies and somebody to snuggle them when they fall down and scrape their knee, and I’m going to go way out on a limb here and guess that you do that. But they need more than that. 
Everyday your kids are watching you and they are learning what it means to live a life, lessons that our society at large does not teach them. If their momma is a writer, they learn that passions are worth following, that dreams take hard work and dedication to come true, and that failure is just a part of the road to success. 


martha flynn said...

One day kills today is genius! Bumper sticker that baby!!!

Gigi Pandian said...

Adrienne, this is such wonderful advice. I DID get my dream office last year when we bought our house--and you know what? I still get more writing done in a loud, crowded cafe ;)

Tom Neely said...

Fabulous post sweetheart. Every parent-writer or parent-musician or parent-artist or whatever should read this. :^)

Unknown said...

Lovely. You made me cry dammit. xo

Mysti said...

I wrote seven shitty sentences today before work.

Still better than not writing any sentences and waiting for the weekend.

I now have a mental picture of the word Perfect in a red slash circle. thank you!!!!

Rachael Herron said...

GORGEOUS post. I love this. Inspiring for all, moms and non-moms alike.

Jane said...

Having a very hard day today and was so comforted by your post. My younger child also has some challenges, and yesterday was the perfect storm of all things personal and school related for each member of our family. Motherhood is a crucible-brilliant. I will quote you-