Tucked away in the woods on dial- up for the last three years with three kids, I drank so much caffeine in town during school hours at Starbucks for free Wifi that my adrenals have yet to forgive me. Crazy, in retrospect, trying to teach on-line while the kids were in school and by night, college English, pushing the kids’ bedtimes out of orbit and leaning on extended family for childcare. My husband too, is recovering from his own version of adrenal wear from the two, sometimes three flight weekly commute to another city for work, home on the weekends. As it was we usually lost one of the weekend days to his second job.
This January we consolidated cities, gave up the homestead to renters in order to shrug off the “house poor” focus we'd allowed ourselves to fight to overcome and moved to southern California. I’m relieved to share the helm again with my husband. And blessed for the first time with high speed internet now that redwoods no longer block our southern exposure. I told my home city friends I have an internet hangover, I’m positively drunk on fast connection, trying to catch up on all I’ve missed in the world of blogging, publishing, and online platforms while trying to create new content for this year’s project at Transformative Blogging with its focus on women bloggers (and maintain some semblance of presence at Feral Mom, Feral Writer.
For writers, the hats on the hat tree are multiplying faster than rabbits due to the changing publishing landscape—thrilling and daunting. I already suffer from a bad habit of holding my breath too much but find I’m doing it even more. How do you stay true to your vision for your writing life and not feel that life is passing you by? One of my journals sports the saying, “You can fly when you want to…” But in all reality, getting aerial requires tremendous lift. I am suffering a bit of the “you can’t have it all blues”…like the letdown following the hard-sell of the exuberant “Super Mom” myth, only this would be the “Super Writer” myth…or in my case, the “Super Mother Writer” myth.
Or is that just fear talking? There’s a layer of hype and frenetic pull to constantly be aware of one’s public image and reach. But we have to remember we have control over how much we engage, and especially, how much we stress out about whether we are participating in social media enough, marketing enough, and approaching it all in the most original, brilliant, and human fashion that doesn’t gut one’s soul in order to garner “likes” or “friends.” Which is not to say those “likes” and “friendings” can’t be genuine. But there’s subterranean as well as overt pressures to use those personal relationships to prove worth, publishing worth, and more. How do you navigate? By mermaid, if you are a poet like me. One breath, one connection, both deep and genuine, at a time.
Underneath it all today, I realized, panicking in the wide open freedom of my mornings to keep creating the writing life I so love—which involves blogging, editing, teaching, marketing, writing—that I was suffering from a lack of the very thing for which I first fell in love with creative pursuits: joy. The burst of fun that courses through your heart when you “lose time” creating, and revel in the reveal, the bit of soul you glimpse when you forget about outcomes. Can that joy and creativity translate over to the braid of social networks (another gaggle of hungry children to feed from the point of view of a mother writer) calling to us? How do you do it?
This I do know: I am happiest when I write. At some point in the day. A few paragraphs in my journal, recording the night’s dreams, drafting half of a collaborative poem and batting it over to my poetry partner (Liz Brennan, always on the lookout for more players at Perhaps, Maybe). And I’m happiest out of isolation, ironically—if only for a few moments of shared communion (made available often by online social networks) talking to members of my tribe here at She Writes, over email, Face-Time, or the old fashioned landline. Companions like my co-collaborator at Mother Writer Mentor, Jessica; this morning we brainstorm for ways to keep our sites afloat and trade the day’s laments about the kids. I can hear her negotiating with a babysitter on the way out the door for time later this week and in the next breath I’m telling her I have to curtail the session, get to the doctor, one child home with a cold, another with pink eye.
The underlying question seems to be how to write and or blog at a pace you can sustain, a question Barbara Ann Yoder (another indispensable member of my tribe I met through A Room of Her Own Foundation) tackles in her post Instant Results. In Cultivating Your Writing Seeds she advocates for planting your garden of writing seeds one at a time in keeping with the rhythms of nature, revisiting the wise metaphor (and reality) of seasons, with reminders that fallow periods and harvests have their purposes.
During the fallow writing season of early motherhood, I kept a journal; admittedly some days a full entry meant two sentences: “Baby sleeping. Oops, no, not quite.” As my oldest turns twelve, I’m overcome with a flood of nostalgia for those nursing days (enough to blog up a postcard for the nursing and the brand new partner/father at Mother Writer Mentor). I feel blessed to have left behind a trail of words from that lovely, sleep-deprived but sweet time of drifting from nap to nap in a haze of endless nursing.
As I prepare to teach The Poetry of Motherhood, I am well aware that many a mother may not even have ten minutes to herself, while on the other hand, others may suddenly face an empty house within which to ponder the maelstrom of years of childrearing. I am looking for mothers across the spectrum to join me for four weeks of shared inquiry. We write what we write—poetry not required—but we will use example poems from The Fertile Source for inspiration. Our opening exercise takes us through a timeline of motherhood and its ups and downs and gives us the chance to look deeply and honestly at the multi-faceted truth of being a mother…
…which for me today, means the joy of getting to this blog post to talk to you despite the sick children, the phone calls on behalf of the third child who will need to be picked up from school, the unsolved riddle of tonight’s dinner, and one peevish Husky wondering what happened to her morning walk.
How do you find, and then sustain, your (joyful) pace of blogging, writing and marketing? Who (and what) keeps you sane? How do you inject joy into your marketing and writing processes?