Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There and Back

by Hannah

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.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Hannah, this is so true, the idea that in order to feel like a writer you need to see yourself as a writer. I vividly remember the summer I wrote my first draft. I was out with friends and one woman introudced me to someoen else as "a novelist". I started to say, no, I'm a teacher, I haven't published anything but my friend interrupted me and said, "No, you've written a novel. You're a novelist. It doesn't matter that it hasn't been published yet." It was a groundbreaking, liberating moment for me and it allowed me to start seeing myself as a novelist. And I've never looked back.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


I still remember talking to you that first time when you asked about joining out then writers' group. I'm so thrilled you made the call.


Lisa Marnell said...


Striking a cord here!

Loved the post.


Larramie said...

Hannah, what's playing in my mind right now are the song lyrics: "People, people who need people..." How "lucky" you are to realize everything that a writing life needs and then find it.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

So much comes at us that it's hard to prioritize with purpose. With that first "aha" moment, I was able to see the doors that were in front of me. They aren't wide open; we have to knock and push. The luck certainly came, though, in finding the door to this group!


abbagirl said...

i've been a lurker on this blog for, like, ever

the line you wrote in this post that has made me emerge from the darkness is this one:

if you choose the writing, you cannot be lonely.

a wonderful, succinct line that is true for me. :) although probably not in the way you intended it to mean.

people think i'm anti-social. and i am, in a way. i often just like being alone.

but "alone" is different from being "lonely."

when i'm alone, i'm always busy with writing or thinking about what i want to write. i write all the time -- and it's fun for me. i write about what happens to me, the people i know, the people in my family, the people i like, the people i hate. as a result, even if i'm alone, i am not lonely because those people are still with me, in my thoughts, and often compelling me to get them out of my head by putting them on paper where they can stay forever.

thanks for your post today and helping me to get clarity on this aspect of myself.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Welcome, and glad to have you out of the shadows! We writers and actors and other creative people, without doubt, live in our heads. It is simple fact, as far as I am concerned, that one can be lonely around people and not lonely alone, no matter how much some people insist otherwise.


Michelle Zink said...

Hannah, I really needed to read this today.

Now I know for certain why I've felt so adrift these past few weeks while I wait for my revisions.

Writing DOES fill you up. And without it i think we'd all be a little lost.

Thank you.