How I Write

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My friend Missy sent me the online version of a chain letter today daring me to document my process of writing. I tried to hate her and crumple her threatening seven-year-old writer chain dare into a wad of trash but she’s so funny and awesome and we are all going country dancing in a few weeks and I need her to be my wingman for hot cowboys.  So now I feel compelled to write about writing, which is the lamest thing ever.  Blame Missy.

What dare I say about this messed-up process? It’s like asking me for the secret of how I do laundry, which is composed of very ingenious piles of generally-the-same-color-things, some of which are white and are now the opposite of white and others I confuse between those boring labels such as “clean” and “dirty” so I stick my nose in a pair of underwear to see how that turns out and then react to myself like I did something revolting when I clearly did by sticking my nose in underwear but it was next to the wadded up clean jeans so I thought maybe miracles happen (?) and I throw a wet towel into a dryer of already dried crumpled-up kids t-shirts hoping the moisture plus an extra 20 minutes will equal all things right and beautiful.  So most days I survive with lots of heaping, wrinkled, and/or moldy piles in various stages of being half-folded.  But occasionally, when the stars align and it’s a breezy beautiful Spring Saturday I lay out all the whites that are cleanly bleached and fold them so gently and put them all away in their rightful homes whilst singing Over the Rainbow in my very best soft soprano wearing a flowing lace dress with cowboy boots and this is how I imagine laundry days in my brain for all eternity DO NOT MESS WITH MY DAYDREAM, PEOPLE.

And so. My answers to the How I Write questions:

1. What are you working on?

I’m working on staying sane.  A lawyer by day, trying to battle a commute and post-divorce dating, with two small children who live in a delusional far-away land that “when momma sells her book in New York she’s gonna quit her job and we’re all gonna get a pool and eat ice pops.”  So I manage to lower their expectations and make spaghetti that no one will touch and deal with laundry (which I’m a pro at) and fall asleep in my son’s little bed with dinosaur sheets and then trudge upstairs at 11 pm to crank out an essay that I often can’t publish because it’s too personal or too awful and I’m writing in a half-dazed state of exhaustion.  I work on what’s in my head brewing, and writing it down helps me work through it and make sense of it, which is why my essays are sometimes weepy and other times flippant.  I try to not let guilt seep into my consciousness for not writing more often. It never works. You could swear I was Catholic with the guilt.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I write about funny and I write about faith and occasionally slip into cliché issues facing us mothers so basically I’m like every other blogger on the planet except that I have better hair.

3. Why do you write what you do?

If I wrote what I did I’d be dissecting the art of drafting contracts and the complicated world of healthcare regulations, which is about as interesting as a lawn chair, so I write mostly about my struggles with life and God and relationships. And I consider myself a very positive upbeat person, so I suppose I try to convince myself that life always has a sunny side.  I always and in all things try to encourage others to be bigger, bolder, and love God more fiercely.

4. How does your writing process work?

I have no freaking idea.  Something just plagues me and follows me around like a bubble cloud over my head.  I swat at it and it keeps raining down words and then I get in my car all pissed off about this idea that won’t budge so when I drive or walk or fold laundry (ha ha ha) my brain starts spitting out these words in order and I re-arrange them in my mind until they form some sort of essay and then I sigh and trudge upstairs and put all the words on paper.  That’s how it mostly works (sorry to disappoint). But regardless of whether I write during the day or at night or whenever in whatever fashion, the minute I’m done I sigh deeply, like I had all these truths bearing a hole in my soul and I finally found a release valve, and they all poured out on the page, and I want to cry and sleep and curl up in a pile on my down comforter because my work here is done.  When I finished my novel I felt like I had run a marathon, because it was like a life that I birthed, and a extrication of pain that I didn’t know I was grasping onto, and a release of joy that I didn’t know was even lingering.  And it’s a beautiful thing to find release, and feel you are living your truth, and you just have to do it in whatever sloppy way that happens.

Writing is like laundry.  Some days are wadded up piles and others are flowing silk.  Whatever you do, just don’t stick your nose in it.

 

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Photo:

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karaoke

During the week, my husband and I pass each other in the house as if we’re both servants in Downton Abbey. We give commands and trade off duties and bargain.  You give baths and I’ll read bedtime stories. You change the boy’s diaper and I’ll get a hot stone massage.  Okay, so I made that last one up.

But we’re busy folks, raising two kids and working and trying to keep our house free of small cars and doll clothes underfoot.    And we both loathe cockroaches, which means we actually have to do dishes and wipe off the crusty food from my son’s chair after dinner and take out trash.  It’s exhausting.  So this weekend, we sent the kids to grandparents.  I’m thinking great wine and late nights and crunchy tacos at 2 am and lots of rated-R movies.  I’m planning on sleeping late and catching up on laundry and taking a hot bath.

On Saturday afternoon, my husband went outside to mow the lawn and I went whistling inside to do some laundry. No snacks and naps and fits and messes.  No one to unfold my sheets and streak up the glass and whine about eating broccoli.  Freedom at last!  A clean sparkling house!

I went inside and stared at the pile of dirty clothes.  That is so extremely dull.  I walked into the kitchen and looked at a dirty pan in the sink.  Yawn.  I’ll do that later.

So I went upstairs and did what normal, healthy, well-adjusted, people-above-the-age-of-twelve do.   Watched music videos. I was having such a fabulous time downloading lyrics and memorizing songs and watching Adele belt out ballads that I stood up in front of my computer with my iphone as a microphone and busted out a great rendition of “Set Fire to the Rain” in my pajamas.   I lowered it a bit so I didn’t squeak out the high notes.  I felt strong.  Powerful.  I could so totally rock this in a bar somewhere.  Maybe I should record a CD and rat my hair up four inches.

Then I heard the back door open.   I felt like a kid caught with a sugar soda and came crashing back to reality.  I cleared my throat, minimized the screen on my computer, and went rushing downstairs to throw some clean clothes from the dryer onto the bed.  Suddenly I had a sullen look on my face as I started to fold them.  My husband walked in, crazy tired from pruning and mowing and cutting down some cedar and washing off the driveway.  I’m not sure why I felt I needed to hide the karaoke session, except for the fact that I’m a grown woman trying to memorize song lyrics in elastic-wasted yoga pants while he was out there working.

“Whatcha doin?” he asked.

“Oh, just laundry,” I said.  I rolled my eyes like I was bored to death.  I think I sighed a little bit.  Shifted my weight from one foot to the other.

“All afternoon?” he asked.

“Well, you know, that and other stuff.  Boring house stuff.”  Like singing Rolling in the Deep at the top of my lungs.  Dancing.  Eating some leftover Christmas candy.  Putting on lip gloss. Drinking a beer at 3 pm for no apparent reason.

He shrugged as he headed to the shower, probably because the dirty laundry was still piled up high.

When my kids get home, I’ll be thrown back into reality.  We’ll all eat our vegetables and read bedtime stories and change poopy diapers.  But for a moment – just a blip in time – I was young again, with no worries in the world, closing my eyes and getting lost in the music.

Here’s to you, Adele.   You totally rocked my Saturday.