When Mum was Write: Lessons from an OCD Parent
Written by
Helen W. Mallon
September 2013
Written by
Helen W. Mallon
September 2013


So regarding early habits: My upbringing was on the structured side.  Rigid. But about that underwear...Doesn't every former kid have an underwear story?  Mine was always white.  No flowered panties in our house! --Forget Ninja Turtles.

My Great-Grandmother at 14. No rebel she.
My Great-Grandmother at 15. No rebel she.

When I dressed, I had to take a fresh pair of neatly folded panties from the bottom of its stack of identically folded brethren.  This democratic approach to underwear use ensured even wear for all pairs. (No, they weren't starched.  To quote my mother, "Don't be silly.")

No bare feet at the dinner table, no elbows on the table.

Mum was the OCD structure muse.  She once confronted me for pilfering from her change purse because she kept track of every coin, and arranged bills in order.  EVERYTHING was scheduled.

As a young child you don't question these things, but I rebelled at puberty.  I became slovenly.  I'd eat a peach and chuck the slimy pit under my bed.  My long hair was untrimmed.  I wore combat boots, Indian cotton dresses, and I picked my nose.  "Why don't you shave your legs?" a girl in my tenth grade class asked.  I mumbled something about women's rights. Actually, I was trying to be as little like her as I possibly could.  In our family, Mummy wielded intense power, and I matched her by being the Anti-Mummy!

Spontaneity was my goddess, my dance in the moonlight.  Planning? Pshaw?  Outlines were for fearful teacher's pets.I wrote "free-verse" poetry when I damn felt like it, and I disdained structure.  I managed to graduate anyway.

Fast forward a lotta years, through an MFA Program, and consider today. I'm finishing a novel, The Conjurer's Daughters.  When I started the book, I only wrote if I felt like it.  I always felt like it. I was always writing.  I didn't have a job, and my head had a lot of room for motivation to percolate.  

Many discouraging re-writes later, the end is in sight.  It's coming together.  And I have to force myself to write.  I'm sick, sick, sick of the hard work.

But you know what?  It's getting done. I put myself on a schedule: Get up, drink coffee, meditate or exercise, then log in my two hours at the keyboard. Sometimes it's agony.  Sometimes it feels great.  

Sometimes I cheat and go on Etsy.  But I've got my mother's shadow at my side: "It's high time you finished that damn book." 



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