Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for writing

I can’t juggle, much less metaphorical pens

I am capable of tripping even when I’m not moving. I once managed to upend a class of spiked cider (I wasn’t even drinking it, so I can’t use that alcohol as excuse), on my neighbors dog without actually moving a muscle. I’m clumsy, and that translates to a lot of my life.

I’m not lazy by any means. But I tend to want to do All The Things, and then Things get dropped. I might be blessed with a unique mind that zips around in an unusual manner, but it challenges me as well (sigh, and you as well, if you know me, but I’m pretty loveable so we’ll call it all okay).

I’m not being self- deprecating here, I don’t think. I am who I am, and like most people the sum of my parts can result in amazing things. A few missteps are small price to pay for the cool shit I get to give the world too.

Recently, I’ve been presented with lots of fun opportunities to write in various capacities. I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. At some point in my life I did discover that there is no secret “you’re really a writer now” club, complete with a membership card that would usher me in and make me the real deal. After a brief moment of mourning, in which my broken 13 year old heart wrote an appropriately funeral themed poem mourning the loss of a dream, I rallied. Calling myself a writer would require a level of confidence, chutzpah and maybe flat out fibbing, but it’s the only thing I’ve known deep inside that I’m meant to be. Yes, it’s taken a few years to get myself to a place where I can think “I’m a writer” and only feel like I’m 25% fraud. Progress!

Regardless of what they do or don’t call themselves, writers write. Hence: writing opportunities presented to me = writing opportunities I feel I must take.

Well right now I have a lot of things I’ve tossed up in the air — those pens — and am dashing around a bit when I can between trying to raise a 6yo, a 3-teen, and go to school (while navigating this back injury). Not only am I concerned I might injure myself or you with this clumsy metaphor, but that I’m due to drop a pen or two in the process.

But my brain was in no way designed to go slowly. I’ve tried slowing it down, it’s awful, and it’s not me. So, there’s this. There’s the contributions to the Detroit Moms Blog I am working on, and pulling together creative endeavors for submission as well.

I have been making some great blogging friends recently, so if you’re feeling bloggy, check out the blog roll I have going. My twitter is still kind of dead because I can’t remember that password, but maybe I’ll add another thing to this stack of things to manage. I am just sitting here anxiously refreshing my email to see if I got accepted to grad school.

I….’ve lost my train of thought. It was cool, I had a plan that was going to tie this blog post up neatly. I guess all I’ve done is prove that I can’t juggle. But I still made progress. I’d rather congratulate myself on that than allow myself to feel bad about my own limitations.

Disappointment

I had a conversation with my sister and some friends the other night while playing euchre (pardon, while slaying her at euchre). She’d decided to pull her 2 year old from gymnastics for various reasons that made sense, and was so upset with herself for not being able to make it work. When I asked why she was so upset (Olivia is 2, she’s not going to the Olympics next year), she said it was mostly because Olivia is so disappointed when Paige (older sister) gets to go and she can’t participate too.

That is something I understand — boy do I. Every time Parker goes to school, or to summer camp, Lucas stands by the door crying  that he wants to go to school too. Every day he would watch Parker get ready to go have adventures and he’d come with me to pick him up and see the classrooms filled with exciting stuff and other kids, and want to run into those classes. Listening to your child sob because he doesn’t get to do something, day after day, is agonizing.

But the thing is that life is full of disappointments.

It’s a lesson he has to learn, and although it’s hard, and he’s so young, I don’t think that he’s too young to know what it feels like. More importantly, I think it’s vital that he learns that he can withstand disappointments. To sooth himself. So that when he’s older, he can find ways to work around those feelings; find something else to do that will make him feel better or an alternate solution to getting what he wants. Re-evaluating what he wants.

I see people all the time, including myself, going miles out of the way to avoid disappointments. No one wants to feel that sting, but more,  so often we don’t trust that we can handle some of them; that they will be too much.

I talk myself out of writing so often because it seems like too much effort for something that will end in disappointment — that negative feedback my internal voice whispers insidiously, quietly. I’ll never be published, I tell myself. It doesn’t matter in the end.

The truth is, I think I talk myself down from reaching not because it might not happen, but because I’m afraid of what more and more disappointment would feel like. It’s better to dream of being a writer, and to dabble and play, than to commit to something that might just hurt when it doesn’t happen.

There are so many stock things I could say in response to my own problems here. You’ll never succeed if you don’t try. It’s the journey that counts. No one gets to tell you what you are, you get to decide. You’re still a writer, regardless. 

All of those are true, but that’s not the point, and honestly, some words are so easy — they slip out and masquerade as a solution or a panacea but don’t really do much of anything to help.

The things we dream about mostly don’t turn out quite the way we fantasized they would. Maybe they’re better or richer or not quite in realization.  Sometimes the things we dream about or want don’t turn out at all, and we have to figure out a different way.

I think that’s my key, really. It will only happen if I try. If I want it badly enough — enough to put myself on the line — then it might very well hurt if it doesn’t happen. But I think that the disappointment of knowing I didn’t try, or that I gave up before I really began — would hurt so much more.

With my children, I know I have to withstand the pain of watching them be disappointed sometimes, because I know it will help make them more capable and strong and well rounded as adults. Lucas will get to go to school one day; he’ll have the adventures and friends. For now, I hope he learns to cheer himself up or distract himself. Lately, he turns from the door and cheers up instantly with the phrase Play-Doh please Mommy?

Maybe it will happen, and maybe it won’t. But maybe for now, rather than breaking out tea leaves to read a future filled with disappointment, I should keep trying, and stock up on some Play-Doh.

 

Promises

I make promises all the time.

I’ll read the 10 books on my year of reading resolution list.

I’ll write poetry everyday, or at least spend 10 minutes a day writing.

I’ll buy chapbooks for poets I’ve never heard of.

I’ll parent without frustration.

My kids won’t watch too much tv.

I promise I’ll clean according to this schedule I’ve made.

Exercise.

Blog.

Make something of this life I know in my heart was meant to include words. This gift I first felt as a little girl, a hot little burning of promise and potential and the need, need, need to let it expand and find it’s way onto paper and into words and the world.

It’s so easy as a parent and adult to let go of little promises we’ve made. I’ll do it tomorrow, right?

Future is so fragile, but somehow, another promise we count on stubbornly and foolishly.

So it’s not much, but this is a single blog that’s my dedication to the promises I’ve made, pulled out and thrown here, without as much thought or ceremony as I’d maybe like.

Reflecting, reliving, relearning.

Well it is a new year again, and here I am again, wondering what the heck happened. You may or may not know (or care) but I have never been a particular fan of New Years, or of resolutions. In fact, New Years Eve found me in bed by 9:45, wishing I’d gone to bed an hour earlier.

Ok, so that was probably 78% baby and 22% Tania, but still. I have never really cared for the whole, new start, ball dropping, counting down fiasco that is New Years Eve. I do enjoy a nice get together, when I have a baby sitter and am not pregnant. Next year…yeah!

Since I am not a fan, it would follow that I have no resolutions, and I don’t.

I’d like to resolve to blog more, but with a baby coming in April, this doesn’t seem realistic.  No new baby this year and I didn’t even do that.

I’d like to resolve to lose weight, but again, that won’t be a possibility until April. And even then, I know I’ll do it. I always do. I may not have lost all 70 Parker pounds, but I lost a good 65 of them…it just took two years 😉

I’d like to be more organized, more scheduled, to conquer the constant struggle that is getting my toddler to eat…but those are daily desires; they don’t change just because one day marks the end of an arbitrary time period and another starts.

And, I’ll be honest, I could go on and on. But I am so hungry, it is hard to concentrate. So I’ll move on. Both to a snack and a new topic.

I once read that Stephanie Meyers got the idea for her Twilight novels from a dream- she dreamt (is that even a word?) of the meadow scene from the first book (I believe). I was a bit irked when I read this, as I’d already had my own amazing vampire dream years before- honest, it was an incredible dream, the kind that stays with you for days and really resonates with you. Unfortunately for me, Stephanie Meyers proved to be more motivated than I. This is why I am freaking out about a $500 plumbing bill and she is probably counting her cashes and laughing.

Good news, kids! I had another dream. And no it was not about vampires. I doubt I would have what it takes to write a good vampire story anyway, and who would want to? Everyone and their mother are jumping on that one already. I’ll stick to what I know…nice middle of the road women’s fiction. Thrill a minute people.

Sorry, self deprecating moment has passed…I think….ok.

Anyway, I had the most amazing dream…in fact my sister woke me from it (Thanks Pilar). I can’t begin to describe it- I think I need to write it first on my own privately, so that I can remember it more clearly.  The really great news is that I believe this is my NaNo story for this year. It’s only January, so I might be jumping the gun, but I’m pretty psyched. I’m not the kind of person who is flooded with novel ideas…I generally only get about one a year, and use NaNo as an excuse to make it happen. Mostly cause I love a deadline, and my husband respects the one month time limit and is very supportive during that time (Well he is anyway, but during NaNo he helps me out with the house and the baby quite a bit so I can get it done).

My only tiny, insignificant little caveat here is the story of what happened to me during NaNo this year. I’d come up with my story in July, and for the entire month I was obsessed with it. I ate, breathed, dreamed that story. But I refused to write it, saving it for November. Of course, by the time November finally rolled around, the fervor had passed. I got it done, but I don’t know that the story is as good or the same as it would have been, had I written it when I was really in it. I don’t want a repeat of that this year, but at the same time, I have to trust that I can do this, and that I need more than the frenzy of sudden inspiration to create. I have a kid, and another on the way. I have a house to care for and my niece (for now) to watch.  I’m not always going to have the luxury of time whenever I want to write.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I need to trust my skill as a writer and know that I can craft a good story, even in the moments when I don’t feel absolutely struck by inspiration. If I can’t, then there isn’t really a point is there? Because editing is so much slower, more precise, and so much less about the initial lighting strike moment in which the story comes out. And this is the skill I am trying to hone and to strengthen; I am great at banging it out during NaNo, not so great at working on it consistently. And all that mumbo jumbo about trusting my skill as a writer…that’s all talk. But I am working on it. Right now I am at the stage where I am still to embarrassed to tell people that I consider myself a writer, or to tell people what my books are about. Not a great way to sell yourself. If I should ever get to the query stage (which I hope to, but that means I have to get back on the editing wagon), I’ll probably want to do it will a little more confidence than….well it’s a story about a girl…it’s dumb really, you won’t like it…

So, at the end of the day, what I’d really like to see from the New Year is this. A little more confidence, a new book in november, and the will to keep editing. And I need to find a crit group. Anyone know how I can do that?

I fall off the wagon, I get on…

Oh the circle of life. How it turns.

Ok so that makes no sense, but hey, Parker and I watched the Lion King (again) this morning, so I have it on the brain. Now we are watching Finding Nemo. Poor guy inherited my immune system. Which is to say he got nothing good. Thank goodness he got the de Sostoa hair, or I’d be feeling pretty guilt, especially as he’s coughing up a little lung right now.

So, I am back. Morning sickness is over, NaNo has been defeated yet again. I made it in the nick of time- I was only 4,000 words short at about November 21st, and then for some reason I stopped writing and just…stopped. It might have had something to do with the death cold I’d contracted, but details, shetails. Finally, November 29th, I camped on Maura’s couch, cementing my bony butt into her cushions,  and declared I would not leave until I was done. Unfortunately, her family expired before I got to the goal, and at 9pm, I left, with only 500 words to go. Motivation being my middle name by this point, I settled on my own couch and made it work (A la Tim Gunn, of course).

I won’t pretend this book is anything as good as I’d hoped, or even really somewhat like my vision going in, but that is what NaNo does to you. It makes a mockery of all your carefully laid plans, spits on your hopes and dreams; and just at the moment when you are curled in the fetal position, quivering and crying for your mother, shows you the light. Did that make any sense?

Ok, it is obvious NaNo has sucked the life and intelligence out of me at this point. I am mostly here to update you all, get back into the swing of blogging, and talk about the future.

I’d intended to keep track of all the books I read this year…which I did for about half the year. I have no idea when I stopped really, so I can’t even guess what I am missing. Which is a good thing, actually, since I haven’t read a single thing of substance in months. I don’t know why, but I guess I just decided to read easy stuff and skate along for a while. I never read Dangerous Liasons, and now I really would like to get that done, if only that, by the end of the year.

I’d like to set a timetable for editing and querying for the first book, and get back to reading SRP books with Maura. I think those will be on my mind for next year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, as a rule, but I would like to start the year with a plan. Of course, several things will be getting in the way of that plan….Relay for Life, having a baby. You know, the usual.  For now, other than reading Dangerous Liasons, my number one task is to pick a name for little baby boy. Any suggestions?

In which she’s embarassed that she writes Chick Lit.

The other day, I read an interesting article outlining the debate over the Chick Lit Label. While the article itself was interesting, the best part, in my humble opinion, were the comments by readers. After browsing through them all, I found that I agreed with some things, and that a whole lot of it made me feel defensive and insulted.

But maybe that is because I am writing a Chick Lit novel. At least I think it is. And I’m embarrassed to admit it.

And herein lies my problem with this label. Aside from the insulting name (I don’t call other women Chicks, and don’t want to be called one),  defining just what is or isn’t Chick Lit is rather murky. Some of the readers seemed to think bodice rippers fit the bill. Others commented that Chick Lit follows a fromula- 20 something woman living in New York who’s shopping/Diet Coke/ manwhore addiction leads her astray. But she’s really funny,  and has great shoes. Even more readers felt that Chick Lit consists of bad writing, written by women, for women (ouch). Light, fluffy, nonsense- all words I’ve seen ascribed to Chick Lit.

Well, the truth is that none of these describe my book. No bodices get ripped. My heroine lives in Michigan, doesn’t particularly care for shoes or shopping.  She’s not funny, at least not intentionally.  Is this book light, fluffy, mind numbing drivel? God, I really hope not.

This is the a struggle I’ve had since I began this book. I didn’t write the story with the intention of writing Chick Lit. I honestly just wanted to write a fiction book; and this happened to be the story that came out of me. I don’t mind that is is written by a woman (wouldn’t that be hilarious), for women.  And I can’t help if the closest genre I can find to fit it into is Chick Lit. I do, however, resent the idea because it is Chick Lit  it must be crap.

I’ll admit, I will read anything. I’ve been known to read the labels on bath products when bored enough. And I’ve read my share of terrible books, badly written or with just terrible plots, unlikeable characters. Books that make you cringe with embarrassment, or, very rarely (for me that is), put them down, unable to finish.

But in that little hodgepodge of reading licentiousness, there are some true gems. I might read a lot of Nora Roberts, and as yet, this hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for Steinbeck (let me just say that I’m not lumping her into the above mentioned group. I named her only because she was one of the names thrown out by a commenter in response to the article).  Am I aspiring to high fiction? No. Not because I wouldn’t love that- but it’s just not what came out. Do I think there are probably hundreds, thousands of better written, more beautifully executed books than mine? Of course.

Ok, lets take a little break so I can stop feeling defensive

The truth is, that I read  a lot of the authors named by the readers of this article. Weiner, Giffin, Weisberger– I’ve read and loved their books.  Even amongst those three, there are huge differences. Weiner’s books may be funny, but when I read  Certain Girls , I cried so hard, my  husband actually took it away from me. I would never call that book “light” or “fluffy”.

I resent the idea that just because something isn’t Hemingway, or Woolf, it must be rubbish; that it must contain juvenile or lazy writing, crappy story telling. I like to think of them as different. And maybe one is better than another, but at the end of the day, I bet you that Nora Roberts is laughing her way to the bank. Nora Roberts is hugely successful for a reason.  Easily accessible stories people can relate to, or want to relate too, that help us escape our own lives for just a bit aren’t a crime. I might have a personal book spectrum, a way that I internally evaluate the books that I read. While I might put Nora on one end, and Hemingway at the other, with some Weiner thrown in the middle, you won’t find me calling any of it crap. They all are serving a purpose and a function in a reading world.

Yeah, my book isn’t even in the same solar system as The God of Small Things.  Sometimes, you want to read something that beautifully written, that moving. But that book is also dark, at times painful, and in my case, life changing. But I can’t always take that. Sometimes, I just want a happy ending. I don’t mind putting a little more love and positivity into the world.

Maybe I just have a low tolerance for snobbery. Do I need to know that you are so much smarter than us peons who think that romance novels are enjoyable?  Than the thousands of women who laughed out loud when reading the Devil Wears Prada? I’ve never understood people who need to build themselves up by proving how much smarter they are, how much better or just more deserving.  I know I’m smart, I don’t need to prove it to anyone else to know it. It has never bothered me that there are plenty of people in the world, in my life, who are smarter.  Hence, I’ve never felt the need to join the elitist ranks of readers who will look at you with a knowing, mocking grin as you thumb your way through the newest Julie Garwood.

I don’t know if my book is funny, or fluffy, badly written, or just crap. It just is. It came out of me this way, and I would never, ever wish that it hadn’t.  It would have been nice to write the next great American novel. But writing something that may potentially bring a smile to another persons face, help them get through a rough time, or just give them a little vacation from the real world? Pretty awesome. And if it never does any of that for anyone else, at least it did for me.

Coming to grips with BoringLifeItis

Would this be an epic blog fail, or just a minor blog fail? I think I suffer from boringlifeitis. Which isn’t meant to imply that my life is actually boring. More, it is meant to imply that whenever I contemplate blogging again, I talk myself out of it, thinking I have nothing of interest to say.

Regardless, I think it is important to write, and write often.  I’ve been blogging for years (if you haven’t been, here is my old blog), and most of it has happened when absolutely nothing of vital interest was going on in my life.  And to be honest, I love my old blogs- I find them funny and insightful. Or, at least, an interesting chronicle of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and how I felt about things at various times in my life.

That sounded kind of self centered.  Oh well, I’ll go with it.

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