Because of my husband’s cancer fight, my writing productivity has dropped. When I try working on my book my brain freezes and it takes hours to write a page. Before, the words flew through my fingers, but now they drip like melting snow on a roof.
I’ve decided that’s okay.
Somewhere along this road of creating a publishing company and editing business I lost the joy of writing. My work had to be useful, meaningful… productive. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of sipping strong coffee in a cafe while writing bad poetry no one would read. “What are you writing?” sounded like a challenge; I’d better have an answer and several good pages to show.
I’m still working. Currently I’m writing a middle grade chapter book and a rough draft for my memoir. I’m also researching drag queen culture for a new play. Writing is in my blood. But instead of worrying about word counts and productivity, I’m relaxing into the process of writing. The outcome isn’t important right now.
My energy is needed to help my husband fight cancer and my child transition into adulthood. Therefore, I’m reclaiming the joy of writing, which includes several pages of awful poetry.
Be careful when you research your family, you might not like what you find.
I guess that’s what freaked out Ben Affleck so much.
My uncle has been researching our family for 20 years, and has traced our ancestors back to the 1600’s in the United States; we were here before the country was. We fought in the Revolutionary War (I wonder if the Daughter’s of the Revolution would let me in?), built cities and “tamed the west” (killing many natives along the way). We’re mainly Scotch-Irish with a lot of German thrown in I discovered. And my grandmother’s family were genteel plantation owning Southerners who owned slaves.
Slaves? My ancestors bought and sold black people?
I suppose it’s not all that surprising seeing as my ancestors have been here for 350 years. But I’d lived under the illusion that my family were all abolitionists. Many were. I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. But seeing the documentation stating how many slaves a particular ancestor owned when he died makes me shudder.
When I lived in San Francisco there was a hair salon near my house that was owned by a black woman with the same last name as my grandmother. “I wonder if we’re related?”, I thought. Today, I wonder if my ancestors had owned hers.
Slavery. We see the effects of it all around in the high proportion of poverty in people of color and the institutional racism that impacts everyone’s daily life. To be black in this country is to be judged. What is it like to live with the weight of that, day in and day out?
My ancestors were slave owners. Rather than turning away from that fact, I acknowledge it. I recognize it as a part of my history. Am I guilty about it? I’m not sure. Should I be? I myself have never owned slaves, but again I think about the black woman who owns the salon with the same name as my grandmother. If we go back six generations, what will we find?
If you’re an American with ancestors who’ve been here more than 200 years, there is plenty of blood in your family closet.
Happy Father’s Day to my fearless husband. The man who works every day to keep a roof over our head and food on our table (seriously, he works every frickin day). The man who chose to become to father of a severely disabled girl. He is not her biological father, but he is the one who has raised her and fought for her and has even changed her Maxi-Pad.
Yes, he has had to learn how to deal with a girl’s period and which Maxi Pad to use.
No father should have to do that. Ever.
Happy Father’s day, you wonderful man. And to all the father’s of children with disabilities: the ones who stay up all night with a sick kid; who work crazy jobs to buy their child a new walker; the fathers who sacrifice their leisure time to help their child put stickers on a drawing or play with dolls; thank you. You are the rock stars of medically fragile children everywhere.
Celebrate your day!
Andrea Lundgren, author and editor, has invited me to be a guest on her blog. She just posted my post about how a memoir needs a plot. You can read the post here:
Thank you so much Andrea for the support. Looking forward to reading more from you.
Feeling exuberant, I plunged into writing the first chapter of my memoir. My fingers ached from typing so much as the sentences flowed. After 700 words I happily read what I’d written.
It was awful.
Seriously, what the hell was I trying to say?
Who was going to read any of this?
And that was my problem. I’d forgotten who I was writing for. Instead of keeping my imaginary writer in mind, I wrote lovely prose all for myself. My memoir had turned into masterbation and I honestly thought someone would pay to watch.
I deleted every word I’d written and stared at that blank screen so long I stopped blinking.
After a few days of self pity, during which I decided I was the worst writer in the world and no one would buy any book of mine and how dare I think I had a story anyone would want to read, I thought about why I was writing a memoir. I want to help struggling parents who are raising special needs children while coping with their own complex emotions. Who were those parents? I remembered myself at age 29 with a tiny, medically fragile baby and no idea how I could save her. Slowly, I wrote to the young woman I used to be, realizing that the world was filled with terrified parents clutching fragile children. I wrote what I had longed to hear those first few weeks.
Remembering why I was writing my memoir, and who I was writing it for, put me back on track. I finished chapter one knowing my words have purpose and the book has a point. We’ll see what my editor thinks, but for now, I am grounded enough in the writing to finish this book.
When I edit, I always ask authors what the book is about and who they are writing for. It was surprising to realize I had forgotten to follow my own advice.