I wrote today!!!
Finally. It’s been months since I’ve even looked at my novel. Since those warm October days I spent sewing Halloween costumes, Election Day and my play’s debut, to all of my kids’ club activities that go into overdrive between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and, of course, the endless mountain of tasks and to-dos that reign supreme between the holidays and the end of the year, there’s been zero time for writing. I always think that when January 1st hits I’ll have some endless bounty of time to indulge myself in the universe I created, and am creating, but that’s not real life is it? There’s illness that decides to sink its evil clutches into your sinuses, cleaning up the mess accumulated over holiday vacation (haha that’s such a cute name for it), and that magical return to club activities for my kids…it wasn’t long before I found myself Netflix and chilling alone when I really had so much to do.
Now the skies are perpetually grey, and all of the requisite time constraints seem to be lifting while the world goes into a mutually agreed upon hibernation, I’m just feeling…blah. It’s like my get-up-and-go had been completely stolen from me. What the heck? Now that I’ve got the time, where’d my mojo go?
Enter Seasonal Depression. Between the lack of sunlight, and the weather induced cabin fever, it’s incredibly common to find yourself battling the winter blues. As a person already pre- disposed to depression, its no stranger in my life. As a person who spent almost an entire year drowning in depression, I’ve decided to fight it. Here’s how:
- Permission to rest: It might sound silly to give yourself permission for anything, but you are the only boss of you there is. I had run myself ragged during the last few weeks of the year, and as such, I did get a pretty nasty cold pretty early in the new year. Instead of playing my usual game of working myself until I was too sick to move, I decided to acknowledge that I was tired, and sick. Then I gave myself permission to rest. I turned down invitations, I ordered take-out, and I only did laundry while the kids were at school (okay I was really backed up, so there was no way around this). You know what? It was awesome. I got better more quickly, and I felt good about myself.
- Turn off the TV: Once I started feeling better, I made a commitment to myself that I wasn’t going to leave the television on as background noise like I used to. It’s amazing how much time gets sucked into watching the last few seconds of an episode, or lingering over some on-screen interaction. My teenager looked wounded when I informed him that television watching will now be reduced dramatically, in favor of other more creative, and fulfilling activities–like reading books. Guess what? I’m getting way more done with my time now, and I’m not constantly being bombarded with negative messages, whether it’s the last four words of The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, or the news, silence is better than depressing content. Who would’ve thought?
- Read: As a writer, reading is the second most important thing you should be doing. I’m ashamed at how little I’ve read in the last few years. This year I decided that I was going to do something about. Not only have I turned the TV off, but I’ve kicked the year off with some book therapy. I’m attempting to dispel my coulrophobia (fear of clowns) by reading the book that inspired my fear- Stephen King’s It. I’m halfway through, as I write these words, and while I intend to write more about the experience when I’m finished, I will tell you that this is one of the most incredible literary journeys I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve also subscribed to a book club box (onceuponabookclub.com) which promises to deliver not only a book every month, but page numbered sealed gifts you open as you read the story! It’s like reading in 3D!
- Remember Why I’m a Writer: I’m a pretty insecure person, I can readily admit that, so it might seem like being a writer is a terrible choice. It probably is. The problem is that it isn’t as much a choice as it is a vocation. Being a writer is what I do. Words are the thing I love. Entering into the literary conversation is my dream. My goal is to write a novel for young adults to find themselves in; to inspire them beyond the narrow lens of romance; and to introduce ideas to get them thinking of themselves as the dictators of their own destinies. If I don’t actually get words out on paper, I’m not actually writing, and am therefore not a writer. Not writing will never make my dreams come true.
- Get out or exercise in: This is by far the hardest thing for my newly acquired introversion. I struggle with knowing what exactly to do, or finding places to go. I’m very bad at aimless wandering. I’m very bad at extreme temperatures. Depression is a jerk who steals my energy too, but, when I’m having a moment of pure sluggery, I treat myself to a coffee with the only rule being that I have to leave the house to get it. By the time I get through the drive-thru (the ultimate in lazy coffee runs) I can usually think of at least once place I want to go, if not, I go home. Just that burst of fresh air, and the sunlight is usually enough to perk me into getting something done at home. If I can’t pull myself out of the house, I tell myself that I at least need to exercise. Lately I’ve been doing that with free yoga videos I’ve found online. Yin Yoga is a really great way to ease your way in, without needing to know all of those poses. I really love holding the poses for long periods, while getting to meditate and commune directly with my body. Guess what? I usually find that I’ve got the energy to leave the house when I’m done too!
- Hug: Did you know that hugs are actually good for you? I’m serious. Just twenty seconds of hugging is enough to trigger oxytocin, which is your body’s own natural anti-depressant. Give it a try. It’s guaranteed to help, even if it’s just a tiny little bit–because sometimes that tiny little bit is all you need to get to tomorrow.
Seasonal depression is no joke, and the hardest truth is that the only person who can force you to beat it, is yourself. If you can’t do all of these things, or even any of them, don’t beat yourself up. Some days are easier than others, and some nights we have to tell ourselves that tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is always another chance to start again. If you find yourself struggling harder than usual, and are having thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide, please seek help before you make a permanent decision to a temporary situation.
How do you battle seasonal depression?
It’s been years since that tingling sensation coursed through fingers, belly, and toes as the seconds of the year twinkled out of existence. There’s a moment when we hang liminally floating somewhere between today and tomorrow, this year and the next. For such a short time that moment, pregnant with possibility, envelops the entire room with love and joy and excitement. I don’t like the Christmas season, but New Year’s Eve makes it all worth it. There’s a ritual. A rite. A cleansing of time, and sin, and action. Chronology’s reset button is pushed when the clock strikes 12.
10, 9… We’re inside The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ local chapter reception facility. The building was once a church, and then a library, and now holds some of my most important people. I’m wearing a tea length, fluffy black tutu, and a loose-knit gold-platinum sweater. The air is humid with the heat of dancing. My cousin, Sean, is counting on the microphone. I’ve always made resolutions in the New Year, but this time I’m too scared, too apprehensive. I wonder if something will destroy us–if a comet will burst through stained glass windows and end the year with our lives, but the counting continues.
…8, 7…my stomach fills with butterflies, my most immediate family, my parents, my brother, my husband and children, instinctively draw up into a circle to be close in the last seconds.
The obstacles of the year flash through my mind. There was a bout of unemployment for the only income earner in our home, just weeks after I’d been rear ended picking my daughter up from her last day of school before break. We struggled with unemployment issues, health insurance, illness, and injury. We watched our bank account drain, and fought to keep from incurring insufficient fund fees which only served to hasten the inevitable. Depression’s shadowy cloak draped over us, shutting out light, and turning even the smallest tasks sisyphean. We watched a lot of Netflix. There was that time while my Grandmother was dying, I found myself squeezing 48 hours of work into five days just to afford the airfare to my Goddaughter’s Quinceanero in North Carolina, barely sleeping, barely eating, wondering if I would make it. There is the haze of June.
6,5,4…I grab for my daughter, lock eyes with my husband. It is going to happen. We are about to survive the absolute worst year I can ever remember.
In February my closest uncle died suddenly, and tragically young. My family swarmed to North Carolina, stunned and bleary-eyed. In March my 93 year-old Grandmother began a terrifying transition to the other side. Every few weeks a hospitalization stole her out of her assisted living facility, triggering impulsive cluster visits from out-of-state family members. At any moment there could be an air mattress in the living room. In June she passed, surrounded by family, and everyone let out a breath of relief and despair. In the background the election season was ramping up to its dramatic crescendo, and what I’d hoped would be a light at the end of the tunnel, a woman President to guide us into a New Year, went from Spielburg to Shyamalan in a matter of hours.
But it wasn’t all bad was it?
It was hard, but it was about to be over, which means we made it, didn’t we? There were warmer moments during our February pilgrimage to North Carolina. At the hotel there was a sleepover trio, made up of myself, an older, and a younger cousin. There was bean salad, too much wine, tears, laughter, and who can forget rolly pollie O-lllieeee? There was the decision to honor my uncle by wearing comic book characters on our clothes (I wore my awesome Avenger leggings), and an ensuing trip twenty deep to Kohls. There were tears, yes, but there was so much more wasn’t there? As unpredictable as the Spring had been, the injections of family visits were uplifting, and heartwarming weren’t they? Even when my Grandmother left us, wasn’t the gathering of us all one of the highlights of our year? Wasn’t it amazing to be together like that?
And sure, there were obstacles, but the unemployment ended, the struggles subsided, I even debuted a ten minute play at an amazing event in Harlem, NY, Colors of Community. Even the election results, while frightening, had awoken a beast inside me. I am more aware. I am more committed to getting involved, serving my readers, and using my gift to help change the world. Oh, yeah, and did I mention that I’d opened an Etsy shop? It was in that final second of 2016 that I realized that while the year was one of the worst in memory, it was one where I ++ adulted all over the place.
This very party is a tradition born from the desires of my Mothers (my Mom and her sisters) to seduce their young adult children to celebrate with them, instead of venturing off to night clubs or Time Square or whatever it is people do on New Year’s Eve. As one of the 23 middle children (we’re 26 altogether) my Mothers have between them, I was in my 30s before the New Year’s parties faded away out of existence. Throwing a small dinner party is no easy task; a party for upwards of 50 people is even harder, and when those teenagers began starting families of their own attendance dwindled. You never realize what you’re missing until its gone. My cousins and I had decided to take the torch lit by our parents before us, and there we were, standing in the middle of it, celebrating the way we always should…together. That’s when I realized the message 2016 had been trying to teach me all along.
1! I’m not sure I even hear the last number before I launch into my husband’s awaiting arms. Our lips lock. Our arms squeeze. “We did it!” I cry as I let the tears fall (that’s what waterproof make-up is for).
“It’s over.” He says. “Finally.”
The relief cascades from head to toe like a blanket pulled from my sweating, suffocating body. I could breathe again. Understanding sweeps through me too, like wind taking up the sails of thought. There were moments I thought I wouldn’t make it, but now, in the infancy of 2017 I can see the vast expanse of the past year not as one of hardship, but as one of learning.
This year there will be no grandiose resolutions. I don’t want a new me, this year taught me that I’m not so bad. I can withstand. I can overcome. I can grow. I’m not trying to reinvent myself from scratch. I want a better me that is still me. Instead I will focus on what I’ve learned, and work to make those lessons matter. I will focus on not wasting the pain and suffering that comes with growing up. I won’t proclaim this will be the best year ever, because the truth is, there’s no way to control the time. The only thing we can ever control is our relationship to that time, and this year the intention I’m setting is to love, act from the heart, and fight for my voice.
This year I won’t let failure derail me. I will let it educate me.
I won’t let sadness turn me to ice. I will honor it.
I will make the commitment to respect my life, and to ensure my actions do too.
Most of all, I won’t do it alone anymore. I will spend more faith and time in my family. I will share my love with my friends. I will serve my readers with my gifts.
How about you? What will you do differently with your 2017?
Dear Friends & Family who voted for Donald Trump,
I know you probably won’t read this. I know you unfollowed me on Facebook a while back. It’s okay. I’m guilty too. I unfollowed you the day after the election. It was a knee-jerk, wholly emotional reaction, I admit. I just wanted to put my fingers in my ears and sing “la-la-la” for a little while. I’m making my return though, and before I click the “follow friend” button again, I have some things that I’d like to say.
First and foremost, I don’t hate you. Yes, I’m angry, hurt, and betrayed. Yes, I’m feeling tremendous fear, but Confucius said, “It is easy to hate, and difficult to love.”, and I’m not afraid of working hard. We’ve gotten away pretty easy up until now, never having had our relationship truly tested. I want you to know, that I think we can get through this. I want you to know that I love you enough to try to make it work. I hope you love me that much too.
Those of you who know me should understand how personal this election was for me. It isn’t like the final score of a World Series, or the final game in the NFL play-offs. I don’t really care about sports much, but you know that. You’ve been watching for months, on Facebook, as I sacrificed weeks of writing to sew Suffragette costumes for my little and I. You know how we learned about the history of women’s rights in this country; how we watched Iron Jawed Angels over, and over again. You know, that for me, this wasn’t just any election. It was history. It was the chance to shatter the highest glass ceiling of all. You know that this is how I feel.
You know the colors that have been cast across my skin, too. You not only know, but some of you share the blood in my veins; have committed your own blood to it. You know about the life I’ve lived. The decisions I’ve made. The scandals. The thing is, I know yours too. I know the pitfalls, and the bad choices, the faults, and the low-times. Whether you’ve asked me to or not, I’ve been there, standing behind you, ready to help in anyway you need. That’s what it means to be in the same circle. I thought it was safe to be in the same circle with you, because you have my back, and I have yours.
That’s why I’m so upset. Because I really thought being in the same circle meant we agreed on the same fundamental things. I thought it meant I had your back, and you had mine.
But on Wednesday I woke up through the looking glass, only to discover it was all a lie.
That Wednesday I woke up not just to an election result I never in a million years could have predicted, but to you:
- telling me “you lost get over it”;
- accusing me of whining;
- mocking my fear, and that of others;
- demanding I “give him a chance”.
I woke up to hate crimes that would never have happened in a country that didn’t just elect a man who’d run a campaign of hate. I’ve heard you tell me, with the most meaningful action an American citizen has, that you didn’t think my safety, or my child’s safety, was more important than “bucking a system”.
I’ve heard you cite President Obama’s failures for the last 8 years, but refuse to acknowledge his triumphs. Here’s what I’ve seen:
- racists calling for Obama to prove his citizenship, Trump, not only among them, but the loudest of the calls;
- his legalizing stem cell research is directly responsible for us being on the cusp of a cure for Alzheimer’s;
- a lack of across the aisle cooperation so great that the government literally shut down;
- a first family in the White House without scandal, without excuse, scrutinized under a microscope, and coming up with more class than any of their predecessors;
- love in the White House for the first time in my life.
I see people on my side looking within themselves, wondering what we missed, searching for some way to understand it all. What have I seen on the Trump side of the fence? Not one Trump supporter speaking up as to why it was worth it to vote for a man who
- campaigned under a promise to create Muslim registries;
- demeaned POWs, and disabled people;
- exhibited behavior we would ground our own children for;
- joked about how he would date his daughter
- This one is pretty hard for me to understand, because I can’t imagine how you could stomach such a statement from your own husband about your own daughter. Your silence about this makes me afraid. It makes me think this is acceptable to you. It makes me wonder if you would condone it. That you are willing to help a man who does think this way makes me nauseous.
- was endorsed by the KKK.
- I mean, what it is even like to vote for the same guy as David Duke voted for? Does it feel good? Does it make you feel like disinfecting your entire body? Do you realize the KKK comes after race mixing white people? Do you realize that you aren’t safe when they come to town?
Your silence about all of it, except to mock my fears, is most heartbreaking of all. It’s because I love you so much that I am so upset. I thought you’d care enough to see that this was so much more than an election. This was the shattering–not of a glass ceiling, but of the illusion that this country could ever care about me.
Here’s what I have heard from you:
- A Trump supporter told me, echoing Breitbart news rhetoric, “Systemic racism does not exist, except for in the ways it applies to white men.”;
- At Staples I overheard two women agree, after I’d passed the aisle they were in “I can’t wait until we can get rid of the Mexicans.”;
- Hate crimes have reached 701 since the election;
- The media is manipulating my perspective;
- But when I press you for your sources, you give me ones that operate on a clear bias. When I ask you what liberal news you watch, you scoff at me, as if I am suggesting something I don’t already do. I watch Fox News. I read Breitbart. I compare my answers to CNN and the BBC, and then …only then, do I form an opinion. And yet, I am the one guilty of having my perspective manipulated?
- Don’t lump me in with the racists, and the sexists.
I want to be very clear. I don’t want to lump you in with the loudest voices of Trump supporters. I don’t want to think of you as someone who thought the things he said were “no big deal”. I really don’t, but it’s not about what I want. It’s about what you want. If you don’t want to be confused with the hateful messages that were spread, you have to say that. If you don’t want to be collected with a group of people who threaten to legislate my body, you have to say that. If you don’t want to be represented by a hate group hiding behind the code name “alt-right”, then you have to say that…and it’s not enough to just say it to me. You have to say it to other supporters. You have to say it to our state representatives, because if you’re not speaking up and adding your voice to the conversation, then you are tacitly implicit in the decisions made as a consequence of your vote.
If you are one of those people who say, “I don’t really pay attention to politics, but…” and also voted for Trump, then, I’m sorry, but you have even more work to do, because what you’ve done is allowed yourself to be willfully ignorant, and then acted upon that ignorance in a way that puts me, mine, and yours in jeopardy.
I really do love you, and I want you to know that I am not going to be the first to bring this conversation up with you. I am going to respect your need for a safe space in all of this, but make no mistake– I do not intend to be quiet. I will fight for my rights, for the rights of my children, and for yours, because even if you do not understand me, or want to understand me, I still believe you are a valid, worthy, incredible human being who is entitled to feel safe and respected everywhere you go. I hope you feel the same for me.
Has it been only two weeks since America disappeared through the looking glass? Forgive me. I’m still getting my bearings. Wonderland is so surreal. I’ve been walking through Dali’s paintings, and my clocks have been melted into the 1930s.
Halloween was only three weeks ago. It feels like a lifetime. It was a Monday that my daughter and I walked the parade at her Elementary School. She did not let go of my hand one time. She was so proud to walk side by side. We were not just Mother and Daughter. We were best friend Suffragettes, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. We’d watched Iron Jawed Angels three or four times a week that month. She beamed her toothless jack’o’lantern grin as she was cheered by the parents, grandparents, and family gathered for glimpses of Iron Man and Elsa. The skirt I’d spent weeks sewing was juuuust too long, and the “Votes for Women” sash was slipping off her shoulder. She didn’t care. That day she soared on clouds of pride. Pride in being a woman. When I asked her what her favorite part of dressing like a Suffragette was, she replied without hesitation, “Inspiring other girls.”
Was it only two weeks ago? The sun was shining so brightly. I waited on pins and needles for my 7 year old to be released from school. Filled with glee we raced home to quick change back to Alice and Lucy. We piled into the car with my parents, and my 15 year old son, for a short drive to the polling place. I did not let go of her hand one time. My fore-mothers whispered in my ear as I signed my ballot, “Go. Be counted. Your voice, and your vote matter.” We were not alone, my daughter and I, in the voting booth. We stood together with centuries of women: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Susan B. Anthony. Hand in hand we cast our ballot, for the first time in my life, for a woman President. Tears of joy and pride could not be held back, and I didn’t want to hold them back.
How could I ever anticipate the red plague that would paint my beloved country? How could I anticipate the despair?
The betrayal smiled smugly, “I told you so.” It taunted behind porcelain veneers and a comb-over.
“I thought you loved me.” I wailed. “I thought you saw what he did! I thought we were opposed to bullies, and believed a man who’d admitted to sexual assault was not Presidential material. I thought you were with me, fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry, side by side. I thought you understood how fragile our progress has been, and quickly it could all be lost.”
The betrayal only pursed its lips, and crooned. “Don’t be a sore loser. It’s going to be okay. Just give him a chance.”
I spent the day in fits of tears, reaching out to my family, my friends of color, my marginalized community to make sure they were safe, meanwhile:
“But Alice Paul and Martin Luther King Jr.! The tubes down their throats, the fire hoses turned on demonstrators? Japanese internment camps? I thought you remembered! I thought you would protect me from ever having to be afraid again?” I sobbed.
“You’re being paranoid.” The betrayal scoffed. Meanwhile:
Has it been only one week? It feels like an eternity has passed under this cloud of hatred and fear. I have not seen one safety pin in my town. Am I a danger to my children in public? Should I straighten my hair? Should I train the Spanglish out of my vocabulary?
“You just have to wait and see what he does?” Betrayal rolled its eyes at me.
A White Supremacist has been named Chief White House strategist. “David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice ‘excellent’ and said Mr. Bannon was ‘basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.'” according to the NY Times.
“But this is not where I want to go!” I cry. “This is not the ideology I thought we all agreed on. I thought we all thought racism was bad, and that David Duke and his friends are the essence of evil!”
Betrayal doesn’t listen. It only crosses it arms, sticks out its tongue, and tells me “Too late now.”
My body now faces legislation. Men will pass laws. Different ones in different states. Ones that tell me what I can and cannot do with it. Someone else will impose their beliefs on my body. I have become sub-human.
“You don’t need those rights anymore.” Betrayal sneered. “Teach your daughter about birth control and you won’t have to worry.”
“But why?” I begged. “I AM A PERSON!”
Betrayal stood up, looming tall over me, its face visible for the first time. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Faces of voters who gambled my safety on a sexual predator; of non-voters who were too busy to save us; of apathetic voters who chose to use their voice to protest; friends; strangers; family. “Because they chose not to engage. They chose to see only what they wanted. They un-followed instead of hearing the pleas from the marginalized. They looked away, because they thought bucking the system was worth your rights. They didn’t care that the push of the voting button, the tick of a box, was enough to put you in danger.” Returning to the spot Betrayal still sits in to this day, its voice came in a low raspy whisper. “Face it. The world you thought you lived in is a fantasy.”
You’ll have to forgive me, because Wonderland is a terrifying place, and I’m still hoping it is all a dream. Day by day the hate crime toll rises. At the time I’m writing this, Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting 701 since the election. I know now that the only weapon I have is my voice. My gift. The only way home is to join it with the conversation we all need to have. So forgive me for my silence, and for the fury with which my voice returns. Consider me informed and dangerous.
For now, I will leave you with what I told my daughter the day after the election,
“Yesterday we dressed as Alice Paul. It wasn’t enough. Tomorrow we have to be Alice Paul.”
I’ve been holding onto this news for almost a year. For the first time anywhere I, T.R. Patmore, will debut a ten minute excerpt of my play, Sisters Fight, at the third series of Colors of Community on November 11, 2016 at the Harlem School of Arts!
Colors of Community is a socially conscious non-profit, sponsored, organization that “produces events which feature short plays that consider diverse viewpoints on current issues and their impact within communities.” Previous events include themes of Civil Rights, Classism, Education, Gender equality, and The Residue of Imperialism, and the intensifying climate of distrust between law enforcement and community. Each event includes a post-performance open discussion led by a panel of representatives for each panel.
The November 11th series of Colors of the Community will discuss women’s issues, female empowerment, the role women play, and are struggling to play within our society. The featured plays were all written by women, and will be directed by women! They include: Jazelle the Gazelle, by Dominque Morisseau; The Orphan Classifieds, by Ninan Tan; and Sisters Fight, by yours truly, T.R. Patmore! Doors open at 7:00 PM. Seating is limited. Tickets : $15 Follow Colors of the Community on Facebook, or Twitter @ColorsofUnity for more information, or my Facebook page @TRPatmore for updates and news.
I’m super humbled by the response Sisters Fight has already received. That I will get to witness the transformation of the words I put on paper into a real life production is beyond thrilling. To think, in a few weeks I’ll get to meet the characters I dreamed up leaves me marveling. That I get to do this in a forum that so precisely speaks to my very mission as a writer–women’s empowerment and diversity–feels like the universe is hugging me.
Is this my life?
More details to come, so stay tuned!
A woman’s curse
is not her period
(Although they really can suck, but we all have gotten excited to see it at least once),
it’s that we have trouble remembering
who we were
before we got promoted
The time I borrow
is to show you
being a woman
you have to choose.
My creative journey has been really taking off lately. I’m about to reach a milestone in my draft. A ten-minute version of a play I wrote, Sisters Fight, is about to get staged in New York City! (more details forthcoming. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter @TRPatmore for the most up to date info). I’m really feeling connected to my craft in a way I haven’t felt in years.
What’s the change? So many things! The biggest one, however, is going to sound oh-so-familiar, but here it is–I’m making time to write, and developing a habit. I’m setting goals. More importantly– I’m achieving them!
None of it is easy. Balancing domestic responsibilities, with the needs of my kids, the support role we wives play in our husband’s careers, along with writing is a tricky thing. You know what kind of thing it isn’t? An impossible one. Here are a few hacks I’ve discovered that are really helping me succeed. Hopefully, you might find a couple that help you too!
- Be desperate to write. Charles Bukowski said, “writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.” I saw this while mindless scrolling through Instagram, and it hit me like a punch in the chest. I admit, I lost my desperation at some point along the way. I approached becoming a writer with too much skepticism in the past. I’m not sure I was convinced that I could actually do this thing. It was when I stopped to consider what would happen if I had to stop writing that I discovered how desperate I really was. What if all I could do was wait until my children went to bed and squeeze whatever words I had in? What would I do if I only had one hour to write? This one idea changed everything.
- Acknowledge weaknesses. There is this group of people in my life whose biggest criticism of me is that I’m “too perfect”. It’s probably one of the most ridiculous statements that I’d ever heard, but they’ve never seen the laundry area of my basement. The fact of the matter is that I am nowhere near perfect. I stink at repetitious tasks; I hate having to make creative decisions on the spot (like what to make for dinner); and I’m also dealing with depression–which makes having the energy to begin tasks damn near impossible. These are the things that make me who I am. Ignoring them doesn’t help me. Acknowledging my weaknesses, however, allows me to work with and around them.
- Find a writing partner, group, or creative tribe. I understand if this sounds insurmountable. It can sometimes be tricky to discover like minds. Just try to be open, and take a chance. NaNoWriMo is coming up, and they have great groups which meet-up both virtually, and locally. Reach out to your artist friend. I am extremely lucky to have a writing soulmate, fellow writer, Erica Deel. We do our best to see each other whenever life allows, but we make sure to take advantage of phone calls, and even have our very own personal writing support group page on Facebook just for the two of us. It helps to have someone to be accountable to, but even more than that, it helps to have a person understand your plight. My creative tribe also includes my cousin, an actress (just one of a million other talents she has) and fellow creative. Together we have been able to create a support structure for our creative passions that is almost spiritual. It’s hard to describe. The point is that when my creative energy is lagging, or when I’m feeling stuck, the women in my tribe help to lift me up and get me back on track, as well as motivate me to succeed so I can return the favor in my own way.
- Take control of time. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s true. There’s nothing you can change about that. Find a way to make a visual representation of the time you spend on various tasks throughout the day. All it takes is a two day commitment to catalogue your activities to see that there is a lot of time wasted (I’m looking at you social media) that could be used to write. Trying to decide what to make for dinner each night, was a huge struggle. Trips to the grocery store were horrendous time sucks. I tried making lists, but even that took forever, because I wasn’t really sure what I needed to buy. The same held true for tedious repetitive tasks, which I have serious issues accomplishing. I wasted all kinds of time just trying to get up the energy to clean something, fold something, dust or vacuum something. Laundry is the absolute worst for me. Usually it takes one of the kids running out of socks to get it going, and I’m not going to pretend that has really been solved totally. I’m getting there.
- Find and commit to a method. There’s all kinds of organization methods out there just a Pinterest away. Pick one you like. Commit to it for two months. I chose Bullet Journeling (check out the post I wrote about it here), and I find that it is a really effective way to help me focus all of my thoughts, tasks, and to-dos in one place.
- Plan Ahead. The BuJo method is great for helping you to plan your time. The biggest change I made was weekly meal planning, and marathon meal prepping. Because deciding what to cook for dinner often lead to take-out, I decided that the only way to ensure I was providing a healthier lifestyle for my kids was to decide what to cook ahead of time. This is where BuJo comes in handy. I have a few different notebooks with different functions that I’ve put into regular use in my life. My daily BuJo is the size of a pocket-sized Moleskine (it actually is one, right now), and is where I put both monthly and weekly calendars. I have a creative journal where more permanent things go, like my master meal list, and recipe cards, along with notes about my novel, and other creative expressions about my life. BuJo’s indexing makes it easy to find what I need, pretty quickly. I use them both every Sunday to plan the meals I’ll cook for the week, and create a grocery list. I also tend to prepare double batches of things like lasagna, or meatloaf, that I freeze for use in upcoming weeks. This Fall I decided to stop letting my kids buy lunch at school, which was made so much easier since I’d already developed the meal planning habit. It just gets added onto prep day.
- Play to strengths. Since I’m much better at getting tasks I hate completing done in bursts I’ll buy all the groceries I need from the list I’ve made in one day, and then I meal prep all at once. What that means is that I do all the chopping, dicing, and spicing done at once. I separate things into ziplocks, and plastic containers (I’ve amassed quite the collection from the take-out days), and store according to when I’ll need them. Having everything pre-portioned, and prepped makes it super easy to throw dinner together, and cuts actual cooking time. By the time I’m finished I’ve got ready-to-eat breakfasts for my son (he gets up earlier in the morning than the rest of us), four days worth of lunches for both kids, and snacks for the little one too. Every dinner I’ll make that week will be broken down into easy to cook parts. This leaves me with more time in the school day to complete other difficult domestic tasks that would get pushed aside in favor of grocery store trips, and figuring out what to make for dinner.
- Set goals. This is another thing BuJo is great for. Creating trackers to help you meet your goals is an easy thing to do, and something you can get pretty creative with (yet another Pinterest away). My life can be unpredictable, between religious holidays, and whether or not my hubby is working from home, so instead of scheduling the bathroom to be cleaned on Wednesday, I’ll write it on a to-do list: bathroom, and floors; or dusting, and de-cluttering. I haven’t really found a way to make laundry work this way, but I’ll keep you posted when I do. This is where your writing life can get a chance to make your to-do list. With the domestic stuff scheduled, you’re free to put the writing time back into your life. Set goals. Some writers like to set word count goals, others prefer to track the time they spend. I like to set two scenes per week: one that I’ll definitely finish, the other that I will start if I finish the first one quickly. This gives me a way to structure my thinking ahead of time, the same way I make a grocery list for the meals I’m prepping for the week. To keep myself focused I use this adorable iOS app called Forest, which lets me time 20 minute bursts of writing, and lets me earn adorable plants and trees for my daily focus forests. Don’t forget to set time to read! This is just as important as your writing habit.
- Reward yourself. In every other job you get rewarded for your work on a regular basis, in the form of a paycheck. Mom doesn’t come with that kind of validation, nor does domestic engineer, and guess what, writing doesn’t do it with any kind of regularity either. BuJo makes it easy to see the accomplishments you’re achieving from week to week, and crossing things off a list feels great! It’s important to acknowledge this success too. Reward yourself for your wins. Didn’t order take-out the entire week? Sweet, order a pizza on Saturday! Met your writing goals for the week? Get some ice cream, take a bath, paint your nails. You know what your weaknesses are, indulge them when you’ve had a good run.
- Don’t give up. There’s going to be bad days. You’re going to catch colds. For me there is an acceptance that some days I’ll beat my depression back, and some days when I’m too paralyzed to move. I have accepted this, and know that the pile of laundry in my living room doesn’t make me a bad person, or a bad mom. Life obstacles are going to occur. You’ve got to roll with them, get through them, and get back to what is important. The habit that has been developed is going to be there when you’re ready for it. And when all else fails, remember number 1.
I see you there, hovering by the door, uncertain if this letter is for you. If you heard your name, even if it’s only in the smallest corner of your secrets; come in, make yourself comfortable. You are welcome here.
There, now. That’s better. Take a load off. You don’t have to carry all the baggage here.
I know you may not feel like it right now, but I want to tell you something very important, and I need you to pay very close attention. Are you ready?
I believe in you.
You are divine.
You are worthy.
If there is something inside you. A story. A script. A poem. A novel. Please share it. I so want to read it. If it is your soul on a page– it is everything I’ve ever wanted.
I know this journey is hard. I know it is confusing. I know that you battle your self-doubt and the doubt of those around you. It isn’t easy when the people you love the most dismiss your goals as pipe dreams, delusions, fantasies. It isn’t easy getting rejection after rejection. It isn’t easy when you’re curled on the bathroom floor wondering who you would be without your pen. I know.
Don’t give up.
If you have to come back here, every time you doubt yourself, so you can be reminded of how amazing you are–do that. If you have to stand in the mirror and repeat “I am divine. I am worthy. I am a writer.”–do that. If you have to cry, or yell, or scream–do that. Do whatever it takes.
But do not give up.
Because you are a creator. A world depends on you. A universe of your imagination is waiting to be shared, and I am waiting to discover it.
At the end of the day, you are the one who decides whether or not you are a writer…and I think you’ve already chosen.
So, write, dear Writer. Answer the call of your soul.
I will be waiting to discover you.
This has been a tumultuous year, despite how optimistic I was when 2015 ended. I’ve experienced the shock, and sudden punch in the soul that is an unexpected death of a person too young to leave; and the long drawn out anxious, prolonged pain that taught me the cruelty of a society who treats animals with more compassion than the elderly. The loss of my Grandmother was a tremendous blow, and despite the months of hurry up and wait (in the midst of a bout of unemployment), I could never have anticipated the depression that would follow.
There have been beautiful things too; moments that could have only been born from tragedy; validations of love after long separations; revisiting the joys of my childhood in the visions of the future generations embracing life the way only children can do. In the aftermath of the sadness, in the still quiet times that followed, there was a particular moment of beauty–a blessing of inspiration.
My Grandmother was a writer–a poetess–a lyricist. When I was little I could hear one of her songs play on the Spanish radio stations. For one of her birthdays, her eleven children published her collected works, and even held a book signing for all of her loved ones (and there are so many: at last count 11 children living, 26 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and there is one on the way!). Looking for ideas on a tattoo to commemorate her, I searched through this book. The poems are all in Spanish, so I hadn’t really paid them much attention before. I’m glad I waited, because that day I could feel her in the pages, hear her love in the words. There were so many things she never said to us, she was a stoic woman, not given easily to emotion, but there on the pages were the tender adorations, admirations, and wishes of a Mother, a Grandmother, a lover, a friend. That’s when I realized that these were the gifts she’d left me.
My creativity, my comfort with words, these are things that come from her. The ability to craft words, and craft with words, these are as much her legacy as they are my gifts. I remembered in those moments that my Grandmother did these things in age before a computer processor. She poured her emotions into a typewriter–an unforgiving machine. She had to combat technology in order to share her love. So I did something crazy. I bought a typewriter!
This is Audrey. She is a 1940’s Royal De Luxe manual, portable typewriter with authentic glass keys (except for the “s” it was factory replaced by Audrey’s original owner).
Another beautiful moment that came throughout the ordeal of this year was during the moments of familial bonding that occur when a matriarch is claimed by the universe. Some of us hadn’t seen one another in years, and we had certainly never been together en masse in several decades. As we caught up with one another’s lives we discovered passions and talents. My family began to echo the calls of some of my friends– “Use your talents.” They said. “Share your gifts with the world.”
Maybe it’s because when Audrey arrived I realized that words are the things we leave behind, and are the method we can fearlessly use to share our emotions; maybe because there is a romance in the written word; or because the mystery of a typed note seems to be a fleeting whisper of memory; there are a million reasons I heeded this call.
I am proud to announce to my wonderful readers, that I have officially opened an Etsy shop where I can share my love of words with the world.
Words. Words craft. Wordcraft. Word crafts.
That is to say I plan to manipulate words in their physical form. Starting with beautiful hand typed quotes in various colors of ink: black, purple, pink have already been added. Green and blue are coming soon! Just click the link to see what I have in stock.
I’m also releasing limited runs of word manipulated art. The first of which are a series of frames layered in actual book pages from books I’ve rescued from the library garbage box.
I’m so grateful to everyone who has encouraged this endeavor. I’m already feeling the energies of the universe changing. I’m already feeling the beauty of my dreams manifesting. The creative spirit in me is inspiring me to return to my novel, and finally get that draft written. This above all I owe to all of you.