Archive for January, 2006

Blog maintenance

Please note: I finally got around to updating the list of blogs I read (including resolving two woefully out-of-date links). If you are not on there and would like to be, let me know. If you are on one of the three lists, but in the wrong place, let me know. Thanks!

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The past few weeks have been an exercise in faith. Only in the last few days did I realize what it all meant, though.

This month’s exercise started last fall, when I emailed the editors at the two magazines I worked for to tell them I was interested in working for them again this year (if they would have me back). Not at the previous volume of production, but enough to stay visible. Sure, they both said. Within a few weeks I had assignments. Two due February 1. One due March 1.

I resolved to start working on them that very day, but the Autumn of Surprises was not yet over, and before long the holidays were finished with nary a website culled to start research. I got to work two days before my husband returned to teaching. At that point I was facing two articles due in 30 days, an editing project I had backlogged since August, and my normal volume of PR. Fear kicked in. What if I started missing deadlines again? To what extent would that jeopardize my credibility?

Fear and overwork have paralyzed me in the past, but this time, I was more afraid that I’d be out of a job if I didn’t get moving. So I sat the kid on my lap, sharing pens and paper, and jumped feet first into the research. Okay, there were moments of pen-trading. Many, many moments. And other moments of pushing Mommy’s arms away from the keyboard because they were taking up valuable scribbling space. But work was accomplished. Although I can’t say for sure I won’t miss a deadline, I haven’t procrastinated either. And it shows enough for me to say I’m in good shape.

I realized recently that the fear was only part of why I got going on these articles. The other part was faith. Obviously, despite my burnout last summer, my editor kept faith in me enough to assign these articles. If she, a mom of five who has done the freelance mother dance, had faith in me, why shouldn’t I?

This was put in greater relief a few days ago, when Joe Konrath blogged about acting professional and “knowing,” not just hoping, that you’d one day be published. At first the comment struck me as arrogant. How can you know something like that, especially in an industry where the odds are stacked against you? The truth is, it’s not about “knowing” – it’s about believing. Having faith. Most of all, getting past the old ways of thinking that kept you working inefficiently – or not working at all.

I believed I could successfully juggle all those projects and my toddler this month, and so far, I’ve done it. The boy hasn’t been any clingier or more demanding than usual, which tells me I’m doing right by him; the work is progressing. I can’t really ask for any more than that.

There’s a broader lesson here, too: faith isn’t just about the day-to-day stuff or the month-to-month stuff, it’s also about the long-term picture. In recent months I’ve come close to quitting, or at least cutting back, for one reason or another: cash shortages, confidence crises. Those things worked themselves out, though, which gives me faith that I am on the right career path – even if its dual nature conflicts. I think that most of all gives me faith to keep going from day to day.

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The non-resolution entry

Is it a resolution never to make any more resolutions – at least of the New Year’s variety? Oh, crap.

Seriously. I think part of it has to do with having declared 2005 “my” year (I think this had to do mostly with turning 30) and then having a burnout and a miscarriage and a bunch of other things go wrong. Otherwise, I can’t think of a single thing I can resolve that I wasn’t already planning to do: get back in shape/down to my ideal weight (or, if I can manage a successful pregnancy, not gain 60lbs. again). Market my novel no matter how much blood is shed. (Mine, I mean. I think.) And quit beating myself up for not getting my dual job right, and just do it.

The last one is probably the most important, but I didn’t realize its importance until a few days before the new year (so it’s not really a resolution. Ha!) as the husband and I talked childcare. I forget how it came up, or what else we discussed. The only thing that sticks out at me was the realization that it is perfectly OK not to be adept at toddler floor-play. I think it was a confluence of recent revelations that led to this:

  • Another mother who told me she much prefers working with toddlers and preschoolers. No particular reason; she just “fits” best with them. She has a son who’s 8, and she cares for him and sometimes his friends, but she wouldn’t want to be a third-grade teacher (for instance).
  • Realizing that my son and I are in a groove. He expects me to be on the computer for at least part of the day. Even if he tries frequently to drag me away from it, it’s OK with him that I work – as long as I’m there for him whenever he needs me: to show interest in his activities, to comfort him when he falls, to fix his toys when they break.
  • Thinking about the things I do enjoy very much with him? sitting in a coffee shop sharing a cookie, talking about the things we see in the supermarket or outdoors, reading books together. So we don’t bond on the floor. In fact, I think, it’s the only place we part ways. And that’s good for both of us.

All this time, I’d been beating myself up thinking of course I should be good at this – I’m a mother now; doesn’t that make you automatically adaptable to every stage of your child’s life? No. Just more patient, more willing to stretch your own limits – but not something you aren’t. So I’m not interested in playing on the floor. I’m not interested in writing poetry or articles for audiences outside of public safety, either.

What do you beat yourself up about? Think about that thing. What are your expectations? What’s your reality? Does it turn out that you’re better at it than you thought? If not, do you think by focusing on reality instead of expectations, that you really can improve?

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