I’ve been having a hard time with my writing the past week, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Every morning I’ve woken up, ready to go, and all too aware that my time for spending most of my time at the computer is fast dwindling—and the deadline I told my editor fast approaching! Yet every day I find something else to divert me. There’s always a good “reason”—for example, I’m writing about the television show The Tudors so I decided I needed to “refresh” my memory by watching the entire first and second seasons again. I did notice a couple of things that I had missed the first four times around…. But probably, I would have done much better to spend an hour or so thumbing through the book digests of the series.
Finally yesterday, I called my sister, who—lucky for me—happens to be both a writer and a therapist, to whine and perhaps get some advice. We talked about a number of possibilities, including resistance to letting my book-baby go, but then, as has been happening almost all the time lately, our conversation swerved back (or more precisely, I drove it back) to my human baby—my daughter. I’ve been doing a lot of worrying about her lately. I won’t go into detail (she, like every kid of her generation knows her way around a computer and the internet better than I do, and wouldn’t appreciate being discussed here) except to say that she’s twelve going on thirteen. Perhaps that tells you enough! In fact, things have been so rocky that I even bought several books—including My Teenage Werewolf by Lauren Kessler—to help me. I am generally not a person to go the self-help or advice memoir route, but I’ve been getting desperate. However, almost in the same way that I wake up every morning ready to write but find some reason not to, I’ve also found reasons not to actually read those books—for example, that I didn’t have time to read, since I needed to finish writing my own book! Anyone notice a vicious circle here?
My brilliant sister did. “You are totally preoccupied with Cassie,” she pointed out (not for the first time) to me, noting that whenever she texted me from school, everything else stopped. I had been forcing my worries underground, in order to “concentrate on my book.” Trouble is, although my conscious mind thought this was a great plan, my heart and soul could not follow. The fact is that in my deepest being, my real child always trumps my book-children. I had to accept that, honor it, and do justice to it. She gave me my marching orders for the day: “Do not even try to write. Just read the Teenage Werewolf book.” She and I had already found a few passages that we loved—incidents that sounded just like Cassie and me—and had the sense that, if nothing else, it would make me feel like I wasn’t alone.
Hey, the woman may be my younger sister, but she is also a therapist (and a brilliant one—both my sisters are), so I obeyed. Before long, I was laughing in recognition, comforted by the fact that in her early adventures with her daughter’s teen-dom, this mom seemed to be just as clueless as me, and even having some new insights into my daughter’s behavior. But here’s the really amazing thing: I had been feeling physically lousy for days—headache-y, upset stomach, eyes tired, and really, really, weighed down in every fiber of my being. I was beginning to think something was seriously wrong with me—maybe chronic fatigue? Halfway through the book, I suddenly realized that my eyes had stopped watering, my head had cleared, and a general feeling of lightness had replaced the “unbearable weight” (inside joke) I had been carrying around. The change was truly remarkable—so much so that I called Binnie (my sister) back and told her, along with many thanks for her brilliance, which she accepted without false modesty. (The three of us sisters have an unspoken pact to allow ourselves this with each other.)
That was yesterday. Today is a new day, and once again I will sit down after Cassie is off to school, confronting that icon on my desktop that contains my current chapter. Will I click? I hope so. I think so. But one thing I know: It doesn’t work for me to “not pay attention” to something that’s troubling me, hoping that I can bury myself in my work. The effort to do so is exhausting, draining, and—for me, at least—doesn’t get me anywhere except back on the couch, compulsively watching mindless reality TV or endless MSNBC commentators (for some, those choices would be contradictory; for me, no.)
I ended my first journal with a quote from Shakespeare: “Ripeness is all.” I end this one with a quote from Arthur Miller: “Attention must be paid.” Yesterday, with my sister’s wise guidance, I stopped obsessing about my writing and paid attention to something that was more important. And if it doesn’t loosen my fingers, at least it cleared my head and lightened my being.
Oh yes, and I recommend the book highly!!!