Parenting undid me, or at least, I undid me when I started to parent.
I have written ever since I can remember. Pen on paper, typewriter, Selectric (!), computer. My great-aunt wrote, as did a neighbor. Grade school friends wrote, and everyone in the journalism program at college did, of course. Even at the PR agency, while I was known around the office as "the writer," everyone could put together sentences, paragraphs, press releases. Every tributary of my life fed my writing.
Then I had my first child and moved out of the city. I kept working steadily, and my new friends knew I wrote. Yet parenting time expanded, not only directly with my children, but with their friends and those families. There's something about a baby on your lap and a four-year-old halfway up a ladder that bonds people who have nothing else in common. These other mothers and I explored our differences and found similarities. Opportunities to volunteer popped up more frequently, first in the community and then as the children headed off to school. "You write! We need a brochure, a release, a newsletter!" How can you turn down an opportunity to put your talents to use to help your community, your friends, your children?
I was writing all the time: paid work, volunteer work, and still, when I found the increasingly rare moment, fiction. Months passed; there were more meetings, more networking, less time to focus on the essence of writing. I started to drift, not away from writing, but I was not pushing it forward. I felt lonely, physically and emotionally unplugged, and didn't know why.
My turning point was dinner with two friends from grade school. One is a writer and the other a teacher; we talked and laughed all evening about what came of our dreams and goals, when we had turned from certain paths with purpose and where in our lives we found strength to forge ahead. In particular, we talked about how challenging it is to keep priorities in order and not let external influences shift them on you. We set new goals, and swore to check progress in a year's time. Mine was to write more, which meant I would have to back away from the community swirl. It sounded alienating; it proved completely liberating.
I did something I might not have otherwise. Thinking like a Writer, I noticed an author was to speak at my library, sponsored by a local writers' group. I called the contact listed at the bottom of the flyer. "I think I want to join a writers group. Do you have room?" They did. The group was different from the one you have come to know, but it was without doubt the seed of what would be.
The past ten years have taught me that writing may choose you, but if you choose the writing, you cannot be lonely. When writing is a life priority, karma starts to flow. You find a friend or two who believe in you. You write. Maybe you find a writers group, or you give reader friends a date by which you will send material. You write more, you find the craft of it. You join an organization like Grub Street. You take classes. You write better. The writing fills you up, and you're not lonely anymore.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007