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2011 Half Year Review: Bottles, then Books

I just went back and read this interview with Tobias Wolff, which is old news but probably one of the best author interviews/articles I've ever read. (Another is this new one by old favorite Sherman Alexie.) It is good to remind myself often that good writing takes time. Most writers get better with age. Novel writing is a slow process that draws upon life experience and knowledge, our stores of which are built up by living our lives and reading--and living and reading are impeded by the act of writing.

When I start to get down on myself because I'm looking at 30 years old and haven't completed a manuscript, I need to remind myself of what I know and what I have chosen. I know that spending my youth reading and living will make me a better writer at 40, 50, 60, or 90 than I could possibly be at 30. I know that I can write at any age, but other things must be done within a magical window of time.

Not long ago, I went to a wedding with a bunch of people from college. All of them are sparkling, intelligent, fascinating, fun, lovely people with exciting lives and mostly fabulous careers. But none of them except me have children--though most of them want families "someday."

One of the great things about a solitary, artistic career like writing is that writers don't need to break into the field in their twenties to find success. Women writers don't have to choose between using our best childbearing years to either have babies or achieve career goals. I see my colleagues traveling the world and climbing ladders while I'm at home, sleep deprived and spattered with boogers and spit-up, with all my brains (or at least all the nutrients that make brains work right) spurting out of my boobs, and sometimes I panic. But then I remember what I chose: to enjoy family life now and enjoy a writing career later. It seemed the healthiest and most logical use of my years at the time, and it still does. But the urge to create is nearly as strong as the urge to procreate, so my breast pump bag and nursery cubbies are stuffed with research materials and good, meaty fiction.

 Nom nom research!

And I have this trusty blog to record my annual goals and reassure myself that the things that matter are moving right along. My 2011 resolutions were:

1. Save $200/month, in addition to automatic contributions to retirement and the baby's college fund. We're on track. Having a baby cost us more than we expected, but money is being hoarded a few bucks at a time. Also, I notice that 0-interest-for-18-months credit cards are easy to get again. Mmm, credit. I'm not worried--I'll pay it off with my first advance check. Pffffhahaha!

2. Plant and nurture 300 square feet of garden. People like my husband and mother thought this was a ridiculous goal for a new mom, and they were right. I tearfully agreed to quit the garden this year after having a breakdown because I hadn't found time to vacuum the floor in three weeks. Then I snuck outside and squirrelled a few pepper and tomato seeds into the rose bed by the front door. But the Mosquitopocalypse going on in Michigan this year is preventing me from taking Nux Gallica outside, and I can't leave her inside while I dig in the dirt. So resolution #2 is canceled.

3. Resume belly dance as a postpartum fitness program as soon as my body has healed enough from childbirth. Last month, I did a lot of shimmying and chest circle/hip circle drills for Nux Gallica's entertainment. They made her laugh and toned my shoulders, legs, and belly. This month, she is having a growth spurt and a cold and an ear infection, which means Mommy gets no sleep or energy for dancing. But technically, I accomplished resolution #3. I look forward to doing more when I'm feeling better.

4. Complete a first readable draft of my fantasy novel Briars and Black Hellebore and send it to beta readers by the end of the year. Call me crazy, but I still think this is possible. Before Nux Gallica got sick, I was able to revise the first page (one small step for an author, one giant step for a mommy author). I had hoped to start working on it again in the summer, so I have a teeny head start. I requested reduced work hours at one of my jobs so that I have more time for the baby, and once she feels better, I might just be able to squeak in a few hours each week to finish my manuscript. If I can just finish the first 1/3 of my book and send it to beta readers this year, I'll be satisfied.

My biggest priority this year, though it wasn't included in my list of resolutions, is to keep Nux Gallica growing and healthy and happy. So if I can accomplish any other goals during her infancy, I suppose I should feel pretty super. Producing 40 ounces of milk a day is a big undertaking; I still have plenty of time to produce fiction later.


  1. Your unlisted priority sounds like a handful at the moment. Well done on getting any way towards any of your others!

  2. Thanks, Al. It is a handful at the moment, particularly because Nux Gallica had a growth spurt followed by a cold, and I haven't had more than 4 consecutive hours of sleep in a month. It's healthy for me to acknowledge that all my "resolutions" are just bonus goals.

  3. I wasn't as ambitious when my son was a baby (but then, he was a a premie with medicial issues and needed a lot of care.) However I've always felt that that period of not writing was valuable for me. Living through things helps you grow as a writer as well. Neat blog!

  4. Thanks, Laura. The sleep deprivation has me anxious and forgetful, but I'm full of joy when I remember that it's okay to just be a mom right now. I love my baby, and her little smiles are the best thing in the world. It's so hard to have an "easy" baby that I'm in awe of parents who care for babies who need extra care. I hope this part of my life does help me grow as a person and a writer--as I'm sure it will.


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