Archive for March, 2006

Do you have a hobby?

Bryon posted tonight about the satisfaction he finds working in the theater. That made me realize how important it is for writers, and parents, and especially writer-parents, to have hobbies – the kind that let you realize the fruits of your labor as soon as you complete the task. Working on a novel, as a freelance writer, and as a parent can leave you among the trees, unable to see the larger forest around you: its size, shape, and most importantly its impact on your (and your children’s) lives. You get bogged down in details: what kinds of trees, the way they smell, the way the bark feels, the sameness – and how lost you can feel. Did I tie up all the loose ends in this plot? you wonder. Where is my career going? Where exactly is that fine line between picking battles with my child and giving in to his whims?

I garden as a hobby, meaning I don’t dork around with pesticides, soils, weed-killers, or other things master gardeners do. I prune, divide, and water when I have to, mulch if I can afford it, and leave the rest to nature. Meantime, I love working with dirt and even the bugs. Gardening is physical. It engages all my senses, forces me to move and to make decisions that have immediate results instead of farther-reaching repercussions. It gives me back the energy I need to face the toddler who wants to Help (or squirt me with the hose) or the short story in search of an ending. And gardening mistakes are almost always fixable. You can move something if you don’t like its location, or wait another season for the overpruned shrub to grow back. Novels and kids often don’t bounce back as quickly – or at all – from being cut back too far, or allowed to grow wild.

What’s your hobby? How do you engage your body and rejuvenate your creativity?

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Caught flashing again

Yup, I have another short story posted at Flashing in the Gutters. Read “Detachment Parenting” here.

I’m hoping this is just the beginning of my fiction career. Time (and the amount of effort I put into it) will tell. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out what that means for blogging. So far, blogging about how I reconcile parenting and writing has gone pretty well. I’ve noticed, though, that other crime writers post their observations about that specific industry: books, book reviews, conferences, and so forth. Not much having to do with kids there.

I’m loath to end this blog because I didn’t really hit a stride with fiction until after I had my son. Writing and mothering are, for me, inextricably entwined (hence the blog title). Suddenly the world took on a different dimension. Before, I’d lived outside life, not fully participating. Things didn’t matter to me as much before his birth. You could say I couldn’t quite feel. So, I really like blogging about how the two aspects of my life converge.

I’ve thought about starting a writing-only blog, but with little time to run this one as it is, I fear I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to it – or say anything particularly original – as others. Group blogging might be fun, although a friend and fellow crime writer I’ve approached thinks she has nothing to contribute because she is “only” working on her first draft. Well, we’ll see about that….

Meantime, I haven’t forgotten about my promise to include interviews with other mother-writers. I’ve been trying to time those with book launches to help fellow authors along, but with an appreciable lack of time to research such matters, I might end up just doing random monthly ones to keep things going. Have to think about that a little more. If you’re a mom who writes professionally with kids of any age living at home, drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you! (By “professionally” I mean with an eye toward publication, even if you haven’t already been published.)

I’ll be thinking meanwhile about the kind of writing talk I can accomplish that relates to parenting. For now, I’m guessing I’ll have to forego dialogue talk, considering the boy’s speech delay… though there is that post I’ve been wanting to do about how early intervention speech therapy is piquing his interest in reading, which can only serve to create a new book-lover/buyer….

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Nightmares and dreams

Most people I know talk in terms of “a mother’s worst nightmare” being something bad that happens to her child. Kidnapping, rape, murder, and serious illness top the list. There’s a fifth fear of mine personally: my son witnessing something bad happening to me.

I suspect many mothers agree, though they don’t talk about it quite as publicly – part of the maternal instinct is to want to take pain on themselves if it means their child can avoid it. Still, damage is damage. What would my son do if I fell down the stairs? If I had an aneurysm? If the freakazoid in the parking lot…? Well, you get the idea. How would it affect the boy? What kind of adult would he turn out to be?

Sure, all this sounds morbid. A bit of context: I was the kid whose mother culled all the horror stories from the news each day and used them to infuse paranoia in my little head. As an adult, I’m a lot more paranoid than many parents I know; I once woke my son up from a nap to bring him in the gas station with me for the 30 seconds it took to pay for my gas. (Mom’s mantra: You just never know. Thanks, Mom!) Paranoia has a price, though. For me it’s an overactive imagination. That’s why I write crime fiction: to dissipate some of those demons.

That’s where this story came from: the part of my head that thinks all this stuff up, and the part that needs to let it out. I’m extremely proud of the fact that my first short story has been published alongside better-known authors’ work, and very grateful to Tribe for giving me that opportunity. Please, read with caution. You may not like what you see, but it had to be written.

In the meantime, I’m off to lock my son in his padded room. ;^)

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