Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This is my laptop. There are many like it, but this one is mine....

Some bonus, baby-free downtime came my way today, so I indulged in a little "directed surfing" (which I guess is my way of rationalizing that avoiding work by reading blogs is okay as long as they are about writing, as opposed to celebrity gossip). While wasting time, I read some really great tips about writing here then here; also here, and oddly enough, here. Lots of different perspectives on the writing process, told in many voices, but the two main themes I picked up on are that successful writing is about (1) confidence and (2) discipline.

I wrote last week about the many ideas that have churned up during the recent tumult of my life; and now it's time for me to start putting some work into those ideas and figuring out which ones will fly. And while very little of my writing/working energy is spent on fiction (most of my work is of the non-fiction, self-help variety), the creative process is still largely the same.

Whether it's the chick-lit novel I've toyed with writing in my spare time for the last five years or the new parenting seminar I thought of last week, many parts of the process are similar (or at least can wear the same labels). Brainstorming, outlining, note-taking, research, collaboration, drafts, revisions, new drafts, re-revisions, opinion-seeking, overhauling, and eventually starting over despite the outcome... You get the idea.

All these activities require risk-taking and dedication, which in turn require confidence and discipline. Whenever I sit down to write anything -- even this blog entry, which seems innocuous enough -- I'm putting something on the line. It could be my reputation as a writer or therapist, my vulnerability as a person, or even just the 47 minutes I'll spend doing this as opposed to knitting or some other activity that might eventually help keep someone warm and would therefore be less disputably useful.

I have to be really honest here, sometimes when I look at my decisions to return to graduate school, take out obscenely large student loans, become a therapist, incorporate writing into my career, and then to be a (mostly) stay-at-home mom in the middle of it... well, I sort of wonder if it's not my own head I should be examining. Who the hell do I think I am to try to choose my own path in this way? And to risk my family's financial well-being to boot? Wouldn't it just have been better to stay in marketing, quietly earning a respectable income in a way that isn't offensive or scary to anyone? Maybe.

The truth is, the voice in my head that asks those very questions is always present and often loud. (You'll be interested to know she sounds a bit like Candice Bergen). This voice tells me I'm stupid for thinking anyone would care what I have to say on any topic, and I might as well just throw in the towel now and start playing the lottery -- because I have about the same probability of winning PowerBall as I do creating the next NY Times Bestseller or becoming the next Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins? Suze Ormond? Oprah? Someone cool, anyway.

And when I look around, there are lots of people who agree with me (having made the safest possible choices themselves), and about 10,000 ways I can picture myself failing and falling flat on my psychobabble butt.

Somehow, I've got to tune out Candice Bergen and look past the 10,000 paths to failure to find the one path to success. I have to be willing to take a chance on me -- confidence -- and I have to allow that confidence to drive into lots and lots and lots of hard work. So, discipline. And it's amazing to me how intertwined the two are. If I'm really honest, about half the time I don't get any work done, it's not really for the reason I state.

I might say "I'm tired," or "I'm bored," or "I'm legally required to file an income tax return," and those things may be true... but the truth is also that when I'm not working, it's often because I don't believe that what I'm doing is worth doing at all. What sounds like a time management issue is really all about confidence.

My first e-book was a great idea that everyone loved. It was also a colossal failure. No kidding - I sold three copies, and two of them were to my friends. (Thanks, friends!). Then, due to a misunderstanding, I accidentally bounced two checks on the bank account I set up just to keep that income separate from my personal income, which means I managed to end up in the red for a project that had no hard costs. That doesn't even include the hours I spent actually writing the damn thing.

Does that experience flit through my subconscious mind when I sit down to work on one of my newer projects? You're darn-tootin' it does. Probably more than I can even acknowledge now, in my smugly self-aware blogging persona. Besides, avoidance is so..... safe.

Just as my inability to run a mile without vomiting keeps me out of the military and the danger of being killed in service to my country (aha! so that's the reference), my inability to "squeeze in" time to write between diaper changes and folding laundry keeps me out of the line of critical fire, or maybe worse, quiet and obscure failure.

So the dangerous thing to do -- at least, in my own little world -- would be be buck up, get over myself and get busy. And to hope I don't meet Vincent D'Onofrio in the bathroom.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Do Today...

Here is the "To Do" list I made for myself for today:

- check office vm (every 2 hrs)
- reflection journal for class
- bank
- lunch w/ ----
- finish marketing flier & e-mail to group for approval
- make baby food?
- f/u w/ potential client

But here's my "hidden agenda," the one that isn't written on my day planner:
- Step out into sunshine and take a deep, cold breath
- Enjoy catching up with old friend over lunch
- Turn up the radio and sing (badly) on the way to bank
- Pause after completing a work project to feel proud and relax before moving on to the next list item
- Dance in the kitchen while the cranberry applesauce cooks
- OR..... Run out of time to make cranberry applesauce, forgive self, be content in knowledge that child will neither starve nor die instantly from eating preservative-laden pre-packaged baby food.
- Express gratitude for my life, family and health.
- When hubby gets home, kiss him like I mean it! ;)

Have a great day, everyone....whatever may be on your list!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Churn, Baby, Churn

I don't know about you guys, but it's a month-plus in, and I am sick of 2010 already. It's been a wild six weeks for our family: the hacker fiasco, a busted water heater, craziness at work (for both of us -- and I'm not referring to my clients!), a death in the family, resuming graduate classes after two semesters off with the baby, drama in both our families and with a couple of important friendships..... And in the middle of that, teething, crawling, baby-proofing, growth spurts, crazy cold weather, etc. And there's more snow coming this weekend.

It's all leaving me with that "stop this thing, I want to get off" feeling. You know that feeling? Like the fun roller-coaster ride that you waited in line for three hours for, is actually just going to jostle you around and leave you with an upset stomach and a sore neck? [Or some far better, more articulate analogy.]

What's amazing is, all this turmoil seems to be churning up the old creative juices. In the last few weeks, I haven't had more than two complete nights' sleep, but I have started three major creative projects (one with my best friend -- a long-awaited opportunity for us to work together); and I've sketched out thoughts on two or three more. It seems that the best ideas come to me when I'm busy putting out fires in my life; maybe because I lose my tightly controlled grip over everything and all those dormant ideas see their opportunity to escape through the gaping holes in my consciousness.

So be on the lookout for my crazy ideas in the next few months, running around with pants on their heads like escapees from a mental institution. And in the meantime, note to the Universe: Thanks for the jolt of stimulation. I'm good now. Really.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sometimes it takes a crying baby to tell you about the leaky water heater

When it comes to my night last night, the title pretty much says it all.

Our little monkey has been more or less sleeping through the night for the last six to seven weeks (so my brain is JUUUUST starting to recover from chronic sleep deprivation -- apologies for stupid things I've said during that time period coming soon...). It's that happy period of time every parent looks forward to from, oh, about the seventh month of pregnancy.

And unlike some miracle children, apparently, our little man did not get to this status "naturally." It took some agonizing on our part, waiting for his digestive system to develop to the point where we felt comfortable letting him go all night without nursing. And then there were those really painful nights at the end where we endured two-plus hours of screaming (typically from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.), broken by one of us periodically going in to soothe -- but not feed -- our insistent and noisy little boy.

All the while, I could hear the stories of moms who had it easier echoing in my head "Oh, yes, it was HORRIBLE. He cried for thirty minutes straight one night!" Ha. Thirty minutes. I scoff at your thirty minutes. My kid is PERSISTENT (anyone surprised? no? really?).

That was all in December, all in the past.... until teething took over last week. Now, this, as any parent can tell you, is a special brand of late-night torture. It's actually worse when the old sleep disruption pattern re-emerges after you think you're finally done with it. Plus, your sweet little kiddo is not just fussy, he's in pain, and that hurts your heart as much as it does your sleep-deprived head.

So, last night, when we heard the insistent cries at 2:30, we started doing our parental dance: try a bit of teething pain gel, then the pacifier, and wait 5 minutes. Try the belly rub and soothing words, wait 10 minutes. Then, as we were tossing and turning, debating whether to go back in and stop the tears with a feeding (which would be a setback, and potentially lead to more nights just like this one), I convinced MDH to try one more time with the pacifier. On his way back from the nursery, amidst the tears and screaming, he heard an unexpected sound: drip, drip, drip.

Oh, dear. And oh, yes. Busted hot water heater, crazy leak, potentially ruined Turkish rug. The one I actually bought in Turkey. All bad news at 3:00 a.m. But the good news is, the news could've been worse. If it weren't for a teething baby, instead of two sleep-deprived people buying a new water heater, we'd be two well-rested people buying a water heater, a floor, new hallway carpet, and maybe replacing some sheet rock and/or doors.

So I guess little man actually helped us out last night. We'll take this into consideration when setting the amount of his first allowance.