Stage 526 of Writing a Book: Letting It Go

David said something to me the other night that kind of shook my world. He said, as I struggled through changes on my book and lamented how far from even decent it was, “Are you still finding any joy in this process? Because if you’re not, I think you should take a step back. The joy of writing is how you got this far, and I don’t want you to lose that. It doesn’t really matter whether you get an agent, or get published, or make any money. You’ve come this far and as long as you found it joyful, nothing else matters.”

I’m hoping you won’t be surprised when I say that the whole thing brought me to tears.

Because the truth is, I have lost the joy. I’ve been so focused on perfecting it – round after round of changes, rewriting, edits; compiling agent lists, who to query, when to query; writing the impossible query; failing to write the even more impossible synopsis – that I’ve stopped loving it. I haven’t done any other writing – it’s why I haven’t posted here in months. I haven’t even really been doing much else, because all my free time I want to devote to the book.

And I hate it.

So today, I’m letting go.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up. I’m just letting go of my book. I sent my first query letter yesterday, and I just sent another one. The book is not perfect. The query letter is not perfect. The synopsis still is not even written. But I’m letting go.

For now.

Because the truth is, I know that finding it joyful is important. But I also know that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And that every success follows at least some struggle. So I’ll give myself a break. I’ll let it go for now. And when I find the joy again, I’ll come back for more of the pain.

 

Parenting Hurts

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Parenting hurts: physically, emotionally, body and soul. I ache for my children, because of my children, on behalf of my children.

My back hurts from carrying my little five-month-old sack of potatoes around the house all day, and from carrying, almost as often, my long, gangly, heavy three-year-old, because even though I know she’s big enough to walk, I know she’s small enough to need a carry every now and then.

My head hurts from trying to figure out the right way to do things – the right way to nurse, the right way to sleep train, the right way to discipline.

And my ego hurts from realizing that I have no freaking clue about any of it. Continue reading

Four Months

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Hey there! It’s been awhile, but here I am. First of all, Archer is now four months old. (Well, actually almost 4.5 months by this time, but cut me some slack, I’m trying to get back into things.)

Four Months

He’s doing all the typical baby stuff, like chewing on everything and reaching for toys and even getting a little miffed when he drops toys or Addie takes them away. Which she really almost never does, because she honestly loves her little brother and she’s more likely to be giving him toys or covering him with hugs and kisses.

Archer is still kind of a giant. At his four month appointment he was sixteen pounds, which puts him at the 50 percentile for weight. But he’s at the 95% for height! To which everyone, of course, says: “He’ll have to play basketball!” Better that than football, is all I can say.

He’s still a chill boy and also incredibly happy. He’s ticklish and I love making him smile and giggle with little neck kisses. All of which is to say, I’m pretty over the moon. I mean, how could I not be? Look at those eyes! Continue reading

The Somersault

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“Do you want to learn how to do a somersault?”

Addie still has her ballet outfit on – leotard and tights – and she’s running around, pretending to be a gymnast. She vaults over my legs, upper body first, legs following, her body slithering down to the ground like it’s no big deal. It seems only one step removed from a somersault.

“Yes! Yes!” She squeals in excitement. It’s contagious; where a moment ago I was sunk down into the couch, exhausted from a night awake with the baby, suddenly I’m smiling and full of energy.

I clear away her toys from a spot on the rug and kneel down. “I’ll show you first,” I say. Then I plant my hands, roll my head forward onto the ground, and . . . freeze. Continue reading

Making this house a home

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We moved into our new house almost exactly three months ago. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then – unpacking, a homebirth, and life with a newborn – and I just realized that I never shared any pictures.

So I snapped a few with my phone, including some with the fun new panorama feature. These were all taken when Addie was at school, so that any given room would stay clean long enough to take a picture of it. Because when Addie is home, the entire house is basically chaos all. the. time. Continue reading

Writing a Novel: One Year In

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A little over a year ago – early October 2012 – I got the idea for a new novel. I wrote a first drat in a feverish 5 weeks and I was high on creative energy and grand ideas. Then I started revising, which I didn’t love, but I got on with it.

Six drafts later, things started to feel stalled. I didn’t think it was as good as it could be, but I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what was missing. On June 17th – four months ago – I took it to the Write by the Lake conference in Madison, Wisconsin. And my eyes were opened, forcefully and painfully, by my group leader and the other writers in the group.

I left the conference with a clear picture of what was wrong with the book, but a million messy ideas of how to fix it. Then we moved into a new house and I had a baby and the book was pushed to the back of my head.

I tried to revise at times, but I couldn’t focus and my efforts were haphazard and uncertain. Major plot changes are necessary and I couldn’t wrap my head around all that would entail. I was lost and confused.

Luckily I have my amazing writing group and they’ve kept me honest. When Archer was three weeks old, we met in my dining room, Archer alternately lying in his swing and nursing in my arms at the table, and I forced myself to recommit to my book.

It is, right now, 91,000 words of jumbled mess. Plot lines that don’t connect. Characters who have been changed in one part of the book but still need to be adjusted in other parts. Scenery that needs to be updated to the new feel of the book.

And revising is a struggle. Unlike last year, when I had a solid chunk of time to commit to writing while Addie was at school, I now have a newborn to contend with. I write while he’s napping (for 30 minutes – 20 once you subtract the inevitable delay on Facebook), or for five minutes while he’s content to sit on his playmat. I write between changing diapers and trips to the grocery store and trying to keep Adeline entertained.

Part of me feels like if I could only just get a few solid hours to work, I could make real progress. I want to use that as my excuse. But I’m done with excuses. I’ve been working on this book for a year now and I need to put my big girl boots on and kick the shit out of it.

Novel, consider yourself warned: I’m coming for you.

Why I Didn’t Circumcise My Son

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When I found out I was having a baby boy, my first thought was, “There’s a little penis growing inside of me. That’s weird!” My second thought was, “And I’m going to have to protect it.”

Protect it from cultural and religious traditions that would pressure me to cut off half of a perfectly normal and natural body part. I felt instinctively and from the beginning that I would never circumcise my son. But when he was born, and I saw the perfect little penis that millions of years of evolution had decided was healthy and reproductively necessary for baby boys, I felt even more protective.

And yet, I still feel like mine is a decision that needs to be defended. Or at least, defending it feels like something that I need to do. The easiest way is probably to respond to all the arguments for why I should circumcise him.

1. “If you don’t circumcise him, he won’t look like all the other boys.” I have two main responses to this criticism. First, it’s not factually true. According to the CDC, nationwide the rate of circumcision is about 54%. It varies state by state, with some states (especially on the west coast) with very low rates and some states with much higher rates. My state’s rate is about 50-50. He’ll look like about half the boys his age. Not bad.

But more importantly: really? If your baby boy had a larger nose than normal, would you get him a nose job in infancy so that he matched all the other boys? (If your answer is yes, we need to have an entirely different conversation.) People look different. Some women have larger labia than others, so much so that it’s noticeably different. No one is talking about routine female infant circumcision so that all girls look alike. (Well, some people are, but we’ll get to that later.)

And also, if the worry is that the circumcised boys will make fun of my intact son, allow me to just throw this out there: Parents of circumcised boys, can you go ahead and teach your boys to be kind and thoughtful individuals who wouldn’t tease someone just because he happens to have his entire penis?

2. “If his dad is circumcised, he needs to be too, so that he looks like daddy.” Continue reading

Two Months

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Archer was two months on Friday. Crazy!

Two Months

He’s still a very chill baby. He almost never cries, which I am so totally and completely on board with that I can’t even express it. He sleeps way more than Addie ever did, but still not all that well, actually. From about 2:00 A.M. on – until wake-up at 7:00 A.M. – he’s up every hour and I’m starting to feel like a crazy person because I need more sleep. (He also typically wakes once around 11:00 or 12:00.) I’m trying to tell myself that he’s still young and better sleep will come, but I keep hearing stories about babies that slept through the night at 6 or 8 weeks and I want to cry.

If there’s one thing I learned with Addie, though, it’s that it all goes quickly and it does get better and everything changes constantly. So maybe he’ll sleep this way until ten months (which was when Addie first slept through the night). And if so, I’ll make it, because I’ve done it before. Or maybe he’ll sleep through the night tomorrow because who f*cking knows with these babies? They change all the time. Either way, it will all be over before I know it. That’s me, trying to be Zen.

As far as milestones go, he’s still not doing much of anything during tummy time. He has managed to lift his head a little, but not very much. At least he’s not passing out during tummy time anymore, so that’s progress.

He is a little ahead on some other stuff though. First of all, he’s finding his hands, which is adorable to watch. I think he’s motivated because he really likes to suck, so he keeps trying to get his thumb or knuckles or little fingers into his mouth. I think this one might turn out to be a thumb-sucker.

He’s also talking like crazy. LOTS of ahhs and oohs, and even some ah-goos and ah-boos. We can just sit and have a conversation for ten minutes and he’s just smiling and talking and even starting to laugh a bit. And when I sing him his lullabies at bedtime, he coos the whole time. He wants to sing along! Addie was not very vocal (she was too busy moving, moving, moving. oh, and crying.), so I’m not used to this. And I love it!

Also, the boy is a giant. He’s in the 85th percentile for weight and off the charts for height! Just so we’re on the same page, this is a six-month onesie he’s wearing in this picture:

Two MonthsI’m just going to go ahead and remind you of what he looked like at one week old (in his newborn onesie):

One Week

Seriously, he’s grown so freaking much, so freaking fast. It’s insane!

And finally, Adeline is still loving being a big sister. She gives him hugs and kisses all the time, and she’s pretty good about being gentle with him. He’s starting to love her back, too. He tracks her whenever he can see her and he loves watching her do just about anything. It’s really adorable to watch them start to actually interact and I’m so excited to see it develop as he gets bigger.

Big Sister

8 Reasons I Didn’t Respond to Your Text/Voicemail/Email/Message/Etc

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I know you sent me that text/voicemail/email/facebook message/instagram comment/smoke signal last week/month/year. I know I was supposed to respond. You and I both know that I did not. Here’s why:

1. I did respond. In my head. I crafted a witty and clever response that also managed to address all of your questions/comments and add a bit more about what’s going on with me. I went over it a few times to make sure it was awesome. I promised myself I would write it down and send it as soon as I wasn’t driving/dealing with a toddler/out for dinner/whatever. And then my brain told itself I’d already responded and it checked that item off my to-do list. If you asked me, I’d tell you that I did, in fact, respond. Seriously, I have science on my side here: this is really a thing.

2. I want to write a perfect, thoughtful, lengthy response, but I just can’t seem to find the time. Your email/message was so interesting and awesome that I feel you deserve the same back from me. I’m estimating it will take me about 30 minutes to respond in the manner in which you deserve. That means I just need 30 minutes of unscheduled time when I can sit down and respond to you. At my current pace, I’m guessing that will be in 2031. Continue reading

It gets easier… Or does it?

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When Adeline was only a few weeks old and I was brand new to this parenting thing and losing my mind and feeling like I couldn’t do it, a few helpful people told me that I would get through it and they assured me, “It gets easier.” Then a few really helpful people told me all about how difficult having a toddler/preschooler is and assured me, so very helpfully, that “It just gets harder and harder and harder.” (Thanks big sister!)

Now that I have a nearly three-year-old and a seven-week-old, I’m pondering that question and weighing the pros and cons, trying to decide: does it get easier or harder?

Cute vs. Awesome

Look, babies are cute. There’s just no denying it. Those tiny toes, those chubby cheeks, those round bellies. They’re basically a pile of adorable. But that’s kind of… it. There’s not much else to them. Sure, as they get a few months older they start doing things like rolling over! scooting! putting their hands in their mouths! But come on, it’s not really that great, it just seems great compared to the lumps that they were before.

tiny bundle of adorable

tiny bundle of adorable

Toddlers/preschoolers, on the other hand, are awesome. They’re funny and spunky and adventurous. They’re learning all about the world and saying hilarious things as they go. They’re creative and imaginative and curious. They give you big hugs and even say, in their adorable toddler voices, “I love you mama.” In other words, they’re more rewarding, which goes a long way to making up for some of their other flaws (see below).

Naps vs. No Naps Continue reading

Romance in the Checkout Line

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I just bought a Nora Roberts novel.

I’ve never done that before. I’ve never bought anything remotely like it before. But the book I’m writing has some romance in it, and I’m trying to amp it up a bit. My awesome writing partners suggested that I read a romance novel, just to get some ideas. That way I can see how it’s done when it’s done to the extreme and then just tone it down for my novel.

The idea has been in the back of my head, but I’ve never been able to convince myself to actually take the step of buying one of these books.

So there I was: a quick trip to the Walgreens down the block for the usual crap that you run out to Walgreens to get. Standing in line behind that woman with too many coupons and a big burly guy buying Mountain Dew. And there it was: an entire stack of Nora Roberts novels. Continue reading

Domain Restored!

Hey loyal readers! If you tried to read my post yesterday, you may have encountered a message that my domain had expired. I encountered that same message for the first time when I attempted to proofread the post after publishing. Whoops! Not sure how that happened.

But never fear, I have successfully renewed my domain and everything is back to normal. After several hours of failed attempts, help from my husband, and lots of quality time with Google Customer Support. Just kidding, Google has no customer support. At all. But that’s another story.

So anyways, if you’re still interested in reading yesterday’s post (about Archer turning one month old – complete with pictures!), check it out HERE.

Thanks for all the messages letting me know about the problem – it’s great to know I have so many readers who want to read my posts :)

One Month!

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Archer is one month old today!

It’s kind of unbelievable that I’ve had a newborn for a month… it sure doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. On the other hand, he’s certainly letting me know about the passage of time because Holy Cats! he’s gotten so much bigger. Which, obviously, I’m heartbroken about. Continue reading

Postpartum Culture

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I just came across this amazing article about our culture of postpartum care for the mother – or lack thereof. Because I’m postpartum myself and not up to writing a huge post about it, I’m just going to quote extensively from the article. But really, you should read the whole thing.

The main gist of it is that in the United States – unlike most other parts of the world – we do not take very good care of women in the postpartum period. It’s about the healthcare system, yes, but it’s mostly about our culture. About what moms expect of themselves and what others expect of us.

She starts off by comparing the care we give pregnant women versus the care we give postpartum women. Continue reading