Happy Holidays

Mama_boy_baby_hands

Here it is almost time for a new year to roll around and I’m finally able to join in this blog conversation. When I was scheduled to chime in early in September, one of my daughters gave birth prematurely, and then on the very day I was scheduled in November, another daughter had her baby. I don’t think my third daughter is planning to have a baby right now, so maybe I’ll actually get this posted. I’ve enjoyed reading all the previous entries of Writeatyourownrisk and seeing the comments people make, all of which are wonderful. So many good ideas; so many wise writers; so much inspiration. This writing community is really a kind of big extended family and I am so grateful for every one of you, those I know well and those I hope to meet along the way.

Family. That’s what I’m thinking about these days. My own growing family, as it expands through marriages and births, and the family life of my students as they juggle and sometimes struggle with the demands of their families as they set up new schedules of work that sometimes impinge upon the other members, as they sometimes have to persuade the other members that this writing for young people is serious business, real work, and surprisingly not easy or cute at all.

I recently had an email from a former student whose baby was still under a year old and who worried about her need to write and her need to mother and how to reconcile the two. I don’t know that I have an answer for her, but I do know that I’ve had to come to the realization that I just cannot do it all, not at the same time. There are times for writing and times when writing has had to take a back seat to life when I’ve had to just live through the events, some happy, some sad, some just darn hard work. I’ve railed against the interruptions, worried about managing everyone’s needs responsibly, argued against unreasonable demands, allowed myself to ignore important other things, allowed myself to ignore my characters’ voices, and even, once or twice, decided that I wasn’t a writer. My children got ill, they sang in concerts, danced in recitals; they married, had babies, adopted children. For me, a teaching career to begin, divorce, a parent’s major surgeries, several moves, remarriage, and house building (still going on). As Tim wrote in his recent blog:  Sometimes the well runs dry and you need to let it fill up again. Between all these things in life I’ve learned that the writing returns, the brick walls I feel like I keep bumping into fall down, the stories unveil themselves, the characters yammer away again. Sometimes the stories form up into novels, sometimes into picture books, but always, for me, there are poems. When I do as Coe urges and “commit to sit,” my meditations open up for poems. When I have the courage to love what I love, as one of Julie’s blog entries talks about, poetry is there.

For me, all along, that has meant that when I do love my life, when I take the time for my children, when I take time to grieve what grieves me, and love what loves me (and I love), then poetry is there, story is there, writing is there, waiting. Even when I’m not producing pages and pages a day, I’m still a writer. When there’s silence in the igloo, that doesn’t mean the wind isn’t still blowing up a storm outside.

Two of the many things I’ve learned from my students and my teaching is that it is rare that two of us have anything like the same writing process and that the artificiality of the schedule of an MFA program is deceptive. We have to be on an academic calendar, turn in and respond to writing on a timeline, but that is what school work is like, not real life writing work. We each have our own ups and downs, our own enervating experiences, our own dramas. We have our own places of peace and ways of meditating. We are not the same; our stories are not the same. If we can honor our differences, learn our own pathways, and allow ourselves to live our lives as they unfold, really live them, honestly and without guilt about what we “ought” to be doing, we will cut out a lot of the anxiety and stress so many of us experience. If we stop worrying about whether we are disciplined enough or dedicated enough or even whether we’ll have another story to tell, then we might see life’s interruptions and demands as a part of our own creative process.

The holidays are a time for family and story, stories we tell and read, and stories we live. I wish you all a lot of STORY in the days to come. Happy Hannukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Sharon Darrow

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Happy Holidays

  1. sharrywright

    Sharon, thank you for this; it feels like a gift, like the precise and perfect words I needed to hear right now. I want to pass this on to every writer I know. Happy Holidays, with love, Sharry

  2. Louise Hawes

    What a wonderful photo, Shar! Three different ages represented, their hands joined, and you can see that new little one is feeling the love!

  3. Uma Krishnaswami

    I love this, Sharon: “…it is rare that two of us have anything like the same writing process.” So true. And yet I think this turmoil of life, and writing threading through it, is common ground enough for those of us who need the conversations about writing to sustain us. Also it struck me that to those hands, three beautiful generations of them, we mustn’t forget to add the photographer’s invisible hands.

  4. Ann Jacobus

    Sharon, thank you for this reminder. Family has an insistent way of making itself a priority, especially-dare I say it- for women. In retrospect, for myself, I wouldn’t change that and I appreciate the reassurance that the writing does return. I enjoyed this when you posted it but it’s taken me two weeks to figure out how to comment. Congratulations on the new grandbabies!

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