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Posts tagged ‘finishing’

Meme of the Week

Ryan Gosling FTW

If you’re coming to the end of NaNoWriMo or any other herculean creative work this month, a big hug and kiss to you! (From Ryan Gosling, of course.)


Molly: Honoring Your Creativity

Molly Tinsley recently posted several comments here at Studio Mothers, and I was intrigued by her creative process. I knew you’d enjoy hearing more from this Australian, home-schooling mother of three. Enjoy!


My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

I double-guessed my creative impulse for far too many years. I’ve always been “crafty”; always decorated the edges of my school notes with complex designs that were far more interesting than what I was writing down. I studied art, particularly ceramics, all the way through high school, but was told quite seriously at the age of 15 that creativity was something that I would “grow out of” and so being a good girl I shelved it away and studied to become a lawyer. (That was an absolute disaster — its own saga.)

But now, 25 years after that unhelpful advice, I find myself struggling back towards that creativity — back towards a creative life, a life in which I take my creativity seriously, in which I listen to it and honor its impulses. This is how I found Studio Mothers — looking for someone who could help me with this re-focusing while homeschooling three energetic little boys! I found the advice to do something creative every day, even if it’s just jotting down an idea on an index card, to be incredibly helpful and inspirational. I find it very hard to find and honor my creative impulse and this is a way of acknowledging this part of my life on a daily basis.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze and underglaze inks.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze, underglaze inks.

I often liken my creativity to listening for a faint sound of music on a windswept beach. I need to turn carefully to hear the thread of sound and to follow it. I’ve found that the second I try to force something — to do what I “should” — the sound dries up and I have to start at the beginning again.

Some people are born with the equivalent of full-blown marching bands: they’ve always known what they wanted to do and have never doubted their calling or their path. For the rest of us, particularly those of us who have had our creative leanings deliberately discouraged, the process is a little more tenuous. I’d like to add that that discouragement isn’t necessarily cruel. It’s simply that most people don’t understand how a living can be made from artistic pursuits, and so assume it can’t be done and try to discourage the budding artist “for their own good.”

Leonie Dawson has a wonderful, and quite different, way of describing the creative process. She calls it Riding the Wild Donkey. Actually, being Leonie, she calls it “Riding Ze Wild Donkey” and it’s a much more robust way of framing the issue than “Listening for the Windsong of the Universe.” 🙂

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

Her take is that a Wild Donkey of an idea shows up in your paddock and you jump on and ride that thing until it’s done. She has periods of intense creativity and yeehahs her way through until the project is finished, then has periods of recuperation. She calls the stuff she’s tried to do slowly “Mount Project” as it’s piled up into a heap on her desk and slowly gets bigger.

I think that the key to this approach is that you just go at it until it’s done. This may well work better with e-books and courses than with 15-foot canvases or epic photography series. In those cases, you have to find a greater depth of stamina and commitment to see the project through. Or, alternatively, you may need to find some way of chunking the project down so that you can throw yourself at each part with mad abandon.

This approach also has echoes of The Cult of Done Manifesto, which is, as it sounds, about finishing work. I don’t agree with all of it. Number 5, for example: “Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.” That wouldn’t work for me. I tend to pick things up, do them for a bit, put them down again, then pick up something else. Eventually, I work my way back around to something that I put down and finally finish it. This is where the bit about honoring my creativity comes in. The urge is to finish at all costs, but I just don’t work like that and I need to trust in my process — that I *will* circle back around to those pots and finish them; but right now I’m sticking seashells to my collage (isn’t acrylic medium AMAZING?!).

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze. ceramic inks.

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze, and ceramic inks.

I’ve also found it unbelievably annoying that the second I try to monetize my art, the creative impulse just dries up completely. I have an Etsy shop that has held the same scarves for the last year. I have a studio FULL of art that I keep putting off photographing and popping up for sale. I have a wide selection of rather cute ceramic dishes (if I do say so myself!) that have been waiting for 4 months to have their bottoms waxed and to be dipped in clear glaze and given their final firing.

I’m lucky in that my family is not dependent on my ability to make money from what I love. I have the opportunity to experiment widely both within and across genres and media. In the last year I have experimented with photography, stamp carving, reduction lino printing, ceramics, acrylic and watercolor painting, needle felting, and collage. In the past I have also experimented with papier-mâché, mosaics, garden design, acid etching, dying, and sewing.

Without a supportive partner, I’d currently be working as a librarian and checking out craft books from the library on the weekends! When I was working fulltime, I had absolutely no time or energy left for my art. Homeschooling has its own set of challenges, but I can set the boys up with paints and paper and they can splosh away while I try to get some painting or glazing done.

Actually, while I have my librarian’s hat on, I can highly recommend the book “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd. It’s not a quick read, but the book is worth dipping into and out of as Lloyd covers a huge number of the issues to do with both having a creative life and paying the bills at the same time.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

She’s also a great believer in daily creativity — whatever that may mean to you. I find Morning Pages a bit daunting these days, but can always find time to do a Zentangle. I also find needle-felting in the evenings while listening to documentaries (I MUST get into podcasts!) to be both relaxing and a good way to express my creativity. It’s turning to winter here in Australia and so I suspect that I will circle back around to my knitting needles and start again on the Bolero I put down last October.

Its difficult to trust in this process — to accept that its not an efficient way to get art done, but that it’s *my* way to get art done and if I don’t honor it, the desire to make art at all just dries up completely.

I’d be very interested to hear of your approaches to honoring your creativity. Do you work slowly or do you get things done fast in a fury of inspiration? Does getting paid for your art change the way you approach it? If you get paid for your art, do you approach paid and unpaid work differently? If you are a mother, how does caring for your family impact on your ability to honor your creativity? If you work, what affect does that have? We all have so many roles to play that it can sometimes be difficult to honor our creativity and still get everything else done! I’d love to hear how you do it!

Cathy: Finito!

[Editor’s note: Cathy suggested we just add a link to her last post to point to the finished product, but I think this accomplishment merits a full display right here, don’t you?]

The quilt is finished! Phew!

And Toots is very happy.

Final ironing and pinning stage to close the open, stuffing edge:

Here it is before I threw it in the wash, so I can put it on her bed tonight.

The stitching isn’t perfect, neither is the stuffing, but you know what? I did it. It’s my first quilt. I’m proud of it.
And Toots’s toes will not be hanging out the foot of it when she sleeps for a looong time to come.

Nope. They sure won’t!
And you know what else? Look at the look on her face in both shots. I’ll wait. Go ahead.
She knows I love her, big time.
[Crossposted from Musings in Mayhem]

Cathy: The Next Big Thing

crossposting from musings in mayhem

Why is it even when I have several projects I could be working on, narrowed to two that I am working on (read procrastinating) that I generally have at least part of my writer’s eye on The Next Big Thing?

This is also true in the home improvement arena, you should see what I’ve come up with for the addition now that we are paying a mortgage and have a yard of our own rather than renting a condo.

I mean I could also be focusing on getting those wonderfully folded piles from last week into dressers before starting this week’s loads. But I’m already a day late anyway, and have no earthly idea how it is that I wash the same five outfits per family member twice a week and there are still piles of folded and sorted laundry sitting from two weeks ago.

I’m planning next spring’s gardens while the plots are currently filled and continuing to fill with weeds. I really need to buy more sand to add to my clay soil which needs to be turned and covered, with compost, too, before I start plotting next year.

I am also dreaming baby names, when I know, logistics and physicality have set in stone that C is the last of my progeny. I am thinking of new baby names instead of being present with the three kids I have now.

I can use the baby names for characters, but that is the only technical resolve I have for this dilemma I have that the next thing is better than the present. It’s sparklier, it’s as tempting as a dessert sitting on the counter while I’m preparing dinner.

Something about the new, the imagined, the dreamed is much easier because I can keep my hands clean thinking about it while the dirty work of the present is a constant.

Maybe I just have trouble with finishing, with letting go, with saying finally, for the last time, that this version of the poem, the children’s novel, the article is good enough just the way it is.

I’m sure there is a psychological disorder with a big fancy name for this. It has conveniently slipped my mind.

Cathy: And now for something completely different

I’ve been so wrapped up in the idea that I need to finish my manuscript, that the feeling has resulted in much the same as shooting one’s self in the foot, can’t win for trying, or a hundred other clichés. So when I saw the opportunity from Elizabeth Beck to be a part of Do Not Leave Unattended! by Judy Beckett of, I jumped at it.

It reminded me of last spring to summer when I discovered Kerri Smith’s Wreck this Journal. I was so stuck, I hadn’t worked on the manuscript since about three to four years prior, even though it had never left my mind. I had let life get in the way of art, and I needed to find a way back. I discovered the way back to art through Wreck. It has everything to do with being able to be free about it, make it messy, have fun with it and play. Because of that little tome and my use of it, I was able to return to the manuscript with a renewed sense of fun and inspiration about it. It didn’t matter if I made it work, what mattered was that I was writing about kids and what they go through in sixth grade, and that even if some of it is hard, it’s also fun to be a kid, have a family who loves you, even when they’re a pain, have friends who stick by you, even if you’re not exactly sure why, and that no matter who you are, you can do something great, maybe even change the world a little.

So, now that I really am right at the end of the ‘first’ draft (which has already been through practically word-by-word edits), like two to three scenes from the end, I find myself trying to make it work, or avoiding doing so, or whatever so that I won’t finish. I took a moment to breath, to get messy, to create something completely different and let it go out into the universe, especially not perfect. Here is the result:springjournal2


I wanted to feel like a kid, so I played with markers, I wanted the sense of youth and fun and something new and had been thinking a lot about spring because it’s spring. On my dog walks and in my gardening, I’ve been noticing lots of itty bitty wildflowers, like confetti all over my lawn and around the public areas in my subdivision. I thought about them being fairy footprints left behind after a night of dancing. I wrote a haiku. Then I free wrote in the journal about spring, how it’s about change and new and color…

So it looks like a kid did it, and I’m glad. I needed to feel more like a kid to finish writing about one. And I put a lot more productive hours into my manuscript the week i did this page. Letting go and playing in creativity really can set you free.

Who wants to be next?

Cathy: Weekends were built for excavations

Good news! Friday, I worked out a kink of a catalyst in an earlier chapter of the manuscript that I had conveniently skipped in my attempt to write the book chronologically. I had prior plans that day that had been cancelled, so as I showered, the ideas actually flowed with the water. My self-imposed pressure to write was off. It felt good to not just get that part out of the way, but to really feel inspired and write an idea into it I wanted to get across, besides get from point M to point Q. I’m really enjoying third-tier characters’ personalities these days, and truly believe I only have about 3-5 more good sit-downs to complete the plot line.

In the meantime, S’s room is slowly coming together. It had to come apart further before it could come together. I am staying away from it by weekdays, so I am not thoroughly frustrated with the one-step-forward-half-a step-back progress. This Saturday morning, my hope was to finish it so that I can move the monster of his bed and the mess of the bookcase to opposite walls. Pulling ye olde switcheroo. But I didn’t. I lounged. I enjoyed my coffee, my kids, and some low-pressure time. Then I drove out in the beautiful weather and went to my salon appointment. How much shorter that excursion is without the coloring time! Snip-snippity-snip, and a fifth of the previous visits’ price, then out the door. We took a family excursion to the giant home store and bought a ladder that was on sale.

In the afternoon, we gathered all but the teen, already off doing his own thing with his friends, and MIL was ready for a rest. We had a leisurely dog stroll through the neighborhood. S was in fine form with his very interesting questions, very loud. We walked by our neighbor who taught me how to make authentic Chinese fried rice, and he asked, after our chat, “Um, I forget. Are you Japanese or Chinese?” He has an obsession with Japan because of his obsession with Godzilla. We walked by his brother K’s best friend’s house, whose parents were also outside doing yard work, and he said as we walked away, “I always wondered why K2 wasn’t like African Black. Then I saw his father was married to a white woman. Since African-Americans got their Civil Rights in the sixties, is it legal?” I reminded him of the Supreme Court case of Loving v Virginia, which federally stopped states from prohibiting intermarriages between blacks and whites. Another obsession of his is the Civil Rights Movement. I think it’s hard for him to believe that any one group of people had that much power over another group. He’s been trying to wrap his brain around the concept since it was first pointed out to him in school while studying Martin Luther King, Jr., in kindergarten. I believe he’s asking perfectly innocent questions but my husband and older son think he sounds racist when he’s asking the things he asks. To me, I think he’s just trying to figure out the world in a concrete manner. Human relations are not a very concrete concept. This boy is just doing some digging.

Also on the schedule for the weekend was weeding and tilling the rest of the garden plots, doing something about the sprouts of crabgrass that have cropped up everywhere all winter. But Sunday was spent pruning instead. S’s room was put somewhat on hold for outside work, but I motivated him to do some of it on his own with the bribe of a new Calvin and Hobbes collection. I guess we have week five to complete the excavation of his room next week. The weather is supposed to chill down again, so I might actually return to the excavation site.

Cathy: Stopping the analysis

The February Finish-a-thon has been a great tool for all of us to realize where we fit in setting ourselves deadlines, what project we’re working on, how far we have to go, and whether can we finish it in a certain time frame.

For me, it turned my otherwise small penchant for analysis of why I’m not writing as much as I set out to into a life’s purpose in a public forum. I spent more energy on thinking about not writing than I spent on writing my manuscript. In the meantime, and it took 21 days of this, to realize that I was actually keeping the same pace I had been keeping on the manuscript since I re-opened it last spring: exactly the same pace. The six weeks around the holidays were taken up with the holidays and everyone in the house being very ill in long phases, including me. Otherwise, I have written a small burst of between three to six pages on one day per week, while Baby C naps in the morning, since the beginning. Those naps are rare these days.

There are reasons for this, not excuses. I am incredibly sleep deprived, and can barely function on normal household stuff, let alone have a clear thought for continuity in a novel. I am now on the older baby chase besides her usual kicking keyboard cuteness. She motors everywhere and I follow. We don’t have baby gates up or cabinet locks on, etc. I am all for letting her learn her world. The rest of the world doesn’t have baby gates, why should I here, except it would make my life easier in getting basics done. I am vigilant, and how will she learn to cope on her own, if she doesn’t understand how to get around safely. She needs to learn the stairs, so we teach her, when she wants. She wants to now, so there I am, following the climber up, and keeping her from repelling to her doom. I hold her hand while she scoots down on her butt. We do this over and over, and she laughs and learns a little more each time. The dog and cat enjoy it, too. We’re having a blast.

In the meantime, the little nagging voice in the back of my head tells me I’m making excuses to go fly kites, tend the baby, and bake cookies to avoid the writing. Once, it was a huge voice in the front of my head that told me who the hell do I think I am to write? Who wants to hear what I have to say? The voice shrinks and fades into the background, because, yes I am almost done with this novel. Now it’s just the voice that still wants a voice as I gain my own. During Feb-Fin, I let it out and let it inhale deeply in order to spout through my all my public analysis of not writing. Well, it’s time to show that voice the back door. I won’t give it anymore fanfare.

I will escort it back to where it belongs, as the distant echo in the back of my head. I will get on with writing, my little bit as I can. I will tend the baby, bake cookies, and fly kites. I will enjoy my kids, my husband and dare I say, the housework. I will do so without the dread that the time I am doing something else, or better yet, nothing at all, is time not writing. If my ideas percolate away from the keyboard, so be it. They will form better in the single two to three hours I really have to hobble all those ideas together.

As for the writing itself, I have blogged before that I can’t set a schedule for it. That’s just an axe at the throat of my writing. I can set a maybe schedule, but have to be realistic that if I “set aside” three mornings a week, really only one will serve for the possibility. John Updike may have written six days a week, but that’s just not how my muse works. Mine sprints and recoups. She’s always been like that to an extent. She’s never been a marathoner. Since motherhood, it’s her modus operandi. Regardless of my whining online about not writing, I really have been pretty good about recognizing this pace and letting the writing happen in its own time, and Baby C’s.

Open Call to Creative Action: February Finish-a-thon!

Need a little kick in the pants in order to move your creative project a few notches higher on the to-do list?

Cathy Coley writes: “In my blog post of Tuesday, January 27, 2009, a challenge was proffered by Liz Hum, a Creative Construction contributor. So much for whining about deadlock, writer’s block, not being able to finish, or even getting a project off the ground. The writers here have challenged each other to a project duel of sorts for the month of February. We are two days from the beginning of the shortest month of the year, so let’s get busy! This is hopefully a variation of nanowhatchacallit for November.”

Fabulous idea, ladies. And everyone can participate, not just writers. If you would like to join us, please post a comment to this blog post. Tell us what you’re going to finish in February. Maybe it’s your novel, or maybe it’s a short story, 10 poems, 5 prints in the dark room, 8 canvases, 48 pinch pots, 15 pairs of earrings, or whatever you’d like to quantify. You might also identify what your primary work opportunities will be: daytime while kids are at school; during baby’s naptime; at night when everyone is in bed; early in the morning when everyone is in bed; your lunch hour at the office; three hours at the coffee shop on Sunday afternoons; etc.

Before submitting your comment, check off the box below the comment field, which reads “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” That way you’ll stay in the loop on everyone’s progress and we can keep in touch as the month progresses.

Firing gun goes off on February 1, 2009! Get ready, get set…..

Cathy: Facing things

I’ve really appreciated being a part of this community. I’ve gained confidence in areas I neglected for a long time. I got back in touch with my own creativity in a variety of ways, the biggest of which was returning to a long ago manuscript that I had back-burnered along with many other projects. I’m great at starting things.

However, I think I’m at a point where I’ve hit a freeze. I wasn’t sure why for quite some time, but I think I finally figured it out. I’m near the end. I’m not great at finishing things. I don’t really understand why I have this historic block on finishing things, but I do. I’ve worked in education for many years, but without a degree in it. I started my MEd, but barely, many years ago now. K was a toddler, now he’s a teen. I can say this or that got in the way, but then I think about writing papers in college, or even my thesis, or art projects, or that silly modeling stint I wasted 600 bucks getting together a portfolio then dropped just as suddenly. And I realize, I really have an issue with sticking it out to the end. I rarely stay in one employ for more than a few years at a time, even if I’ve stayed in the same field. I seem to keep starting over.

Now, I’m at the end of my novel, and I still have some research, etc to do for the middle, but I’m really at the point where I’m tying up the loose ends, and I’ve hit a wall. A big wall made of concrete with a tangle of rebar throughout. I have all the advice I can give to anyone else, however, all my advice isn’t doing a darn bit of good for me. I keep hearing myself repeat that I know where I’m going, I know how to get there, but the writing just isn’t happening.

I don’t think pushing my self-imposed deadline out a little farther is going to help me. That just tells me, I still am not writing whether I give myself another couple of weeks or a month to do it. I’m. Not. Writing. The. Manuscript. Now. I wasn’t writing it yesterday. Or, well, you get the idea.

I really hope as in 12 step groups, that the first step toward solving a problem is admitting I have one. OK, I’ve covered that, now where’s my 12 step group for writers who can’t finish?

Hi, my name is Cathy…

Brittany: A Christmas Miracle

I don’t know how I get anything accomplished.

Part of that is, of course, being mom to a two-year-old and a six-month-old. It’s hard enough to balance motherhood with novel writing. You expect the constant interruptions, the neediness, the asynchronous nap times. But then, sometimes, things happen that you don’t expect.

For me, it all began in October and the SC Writer’s Workshop Writer’s Conference. I had a finished manuscript (or so I thought) and was intent on getting it published. The conference was a tremendous success. Three agents expressed interest in my novel, I won 2nd place in the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award for playwriting, and I received valuable feedback on the shortcomings of my novel. I came home feeling empowered, motivated, and ready to plunge into a final re-write.

And then I got the rug pulled out from under me.

Sam scaled the bathroom counter and played with a bottle of Tylenol. I couldn’t be sure he’d ingested any, and it would only take four and a half to cause major liver damage, so Tom and I took both boys to the emergency room where we sat for four hours. A blood test revealed that Sam was fine. His acetaminophen level was zero. But it was there, at the hospital, that I’m pretty sure I contracted the whooping cough that stopped all work on my book in its tracks. And then the whooping cough became pneumonia. I missed Halloween and was still sick at Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, Sam, my two-year-old, developed his first ear infection. A double ear infection. So in between coughing, vomiting, night sweats, and fever, I took turns staying up nights with him, nursing him back to health, for four weeks when the first round of antibiotics didn’t work.

We all felt good for a week, although I still wasn’t 100 percent. During that time, my follow-up x-rays came back from the radiologist. Something didn’t look quite right. One CT scan later, the doctor discovered that my pneumonia was gone. What he hadn’t expected to find was my slightly enlarged thymus. I’m looking at another CT scan in March, and if it is still enlarged, it might have to be removed through sternum splitting surgery.

Then, the first week of December, Sam developed a sinus infection. Shortly thereafter, John got it too. Yellow pus oozing from the eyes, copious green snot, difficulty breathing, two little boys not sleeping. Then Tom got sick. It started out as a cold, but then he developed a sore throat that no medicine would touch. He also had a sinus infection and a throat full of abscesses. I caught a cold. Then began having sinus pressure and rainbow colored sneezes. I fled to the doctor, terrified of another bacterial infection. He prescribed antibiotics for my head cold, as a preventative measure. I’m in a new category of risk now, susceptible to every infection that comes down the pike.

Then yesterday, with antibiotics in our system, I thought we were all on the mend–until Sam had an Exorcist-esque attack of he stomach flu in his carseat on the way home from preschool. I have spent the last 24 hours literally elbow deep in noxious bodily fluids.

Through it all, I’ve been writing. I finagled Sam into five-day preschool. I told Tom to prepare himself, I was finishing the book this year and if nothing else got done, tough. I ran away from home and pounded out draft after draft at the local Panera. My mantra became “little drops of water fill the bucket.”

And today, all those little splashes of words did indeed fill the bucket. The introduction is entirely new. The writing is tight. The story is ready.  And has been sent in its entirety to Agent #1. The book is out there now, in the world, and hopefully, will get published someday.

I’m going to take a writing break for the next few weeks. Thoroughly douse my house in Lysol and clean up the messes I’ve neglected.

Then I’m going back to work on something new.

Brittany: The Artiste at Work

I am finished with my novel.

I wrote down the words, but it hardly seems real. Probably because my critique group hasn’t had the chance to sink its teeth into my novel yet. Some revisions will still need to be made. But beyond that, I also feel a deep sense of melancholy about its completion. It, and Sam, were both conceived in November 2005. I have centered my life around them. They were my soul reason for being these last two, now almost three, years.

But now Sam is two, and going to preschool. The book is finished. John is here. Could I have a better reminder that time marches on?

I feel like, as a writer, I have been a neglectful mother. While I am holed away with my laptop searching for comma splices, my boys are growing bigger every day. I really should go live in the world I’m writing about, and bring them with me. Sometimes I feel such enormous guilt. Have I done what I set out to do? Do my boys love language, and reading, and art? Are they creative and open to possibilities? Do they see the world as magical and everyday objects as things to explore? I often wonder…

Yesterday, I got a yes.

I was nursing John. Just one side. Just for a minute. I knew I shouldn’t leave Sam to play unattended, but the baby did need to eat. I figured, what can he get into in just a couple of minutes?


I hear the word coming from the bathroom. I go to investigate. And this is what I found:

Sam had channeled Jackson Pollock and taken a half-full bottle of liquid soap and created a fabulous art display all over the bathroom vinyl. Then, he brought out his cars and furthered his artistic endeavors all over himself, the bathtub, and the bath mat. It was marvelous. It was horrifying. Like there are really enough hours in the day to clean up a mess of that magnitude?

I had to step back and look at it through his two-year-old eyes. What a thing of beauty is a bottle of soap? How easily it moves. How pretty it shines. You’ve got to hand it to the kid. He doesn’t lack for creativity.

And then I had an ephiphany. Maybe all that time I was fretting about being neglectful, it wasn’t really neglect at all. I was giving him space, and room to just be. What if I was actually a good role model, plugging away on my computer, creating my world of words, and leaving him to his exploration? Would Jackson Pollock have gotten anywhere if he wasn’t given time to experiment? Would I? Would anyone? Who knows, Sam may become an artist one day too, and for that I would gladly sacrifice a bath mat.

Jenn: The Finish Line is in Westfield

Miranda wrote to me the other day and asked where I’ve been. I haven’t posted to this blog in several weeks, though I’ve logged on and lurked. I wrote back to her and said that I only write when I have some news and progress, and that though my students were getting their parts done, I hadn’t actually turned in a chapter since the 11 chapter flurry over spring break. Why would I write a post saying “I failed?” I mean, isn’t it obvious by my absence that I didn’t meet my goals?

The truth is, two things have gone on. One: I’ve temporarily exhausted my desire and probably my ability to write. I wrote like crazy, non-stop for months, and now I need a break. *Could* I keep going? Sure. Would it be forced and lackluster? Yes. And the other thing: It’s Spring.

Spring means road races, people! I used to be a good runner about three years ago. I have a line of trophies and medals in my office to attest to this fact. I once ran 8 marathons and an ultramarathon in 9 consecutive weeks. I ran until I was 9 months pregnant. I ran a 10K when my daughter was a few weeks old, my dad driving nearby with her in the car in case she got fussy. Running, like writing, is what I do. But for the past year or so, I’ve slogged along 5 miles to school and 5 miles home most days. Liking the trip, feeling like I’m somehow cheating the system by running AND commuting to work at the same time. But I haven’t raced in a while. I’m not on the EDGE, I’m traversing a distance in a routine.

So this weekend, I signed up for a 5K in Northampton MA, mostly so my daughter could run the kids fun run beforehand. I didn’t feel like racing when the gun went off, I hadn’t warmed up, and I started off fairly slowly. But then by the time the race was nearly over, I was in oxygen deficit, running all out, and loving/hating the feeling. I ended up winning my age group. Then I went out to lunch, went to a dog show, went to an alpaca show, had dinner with my friends Paul and Jeff, drank WAY too many Guiness’s, stayed out WAY too late, getting not one minute of sleep, then toeing the line at a 1/2 marathon in Westfield the next morning. The sky was gray, I was hungover, exhausted, happy, hungry, and bewildered – wondering what the heck I was doing there.

I don’t usually run to music, but I felt I needed my IPod to get through this race; I hadn’t run 13.1 miles in over a year. The race started off well, I got caught up in a pack of guys who were running the 5K and so I went out WAY too fast. The first 1/2 hour or so were up a mountain, and I listened to Eminem, Shannon, Rick James, Beck, Queen, etc. and cranked out some fast miles. Then it started to hurt. As I went up yet another incline, I thought, “Thank GOD I have my Ipod.” Then the Ipod died, leaving me with the sound of my mysery and lack of training for the next 8 excruciating miles. Oh, and this blog.

On the run, I realized that I was wrong to stay away because I haven’t written and turned in more chapters. Isn’t that a rather narrow mindset? Hasn’t a recurring theme recently been about balance? Why do I feel like a failure because (a) it’s finals time and I’m crazed at work, (b) I’ve taken my daughter to some really fun, cool things that she’s enjoyed immensely, (c) I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and having a blast with them, (d) I’ve taken my classes on four weekend field trips these past two months, (e) I’ve given four talks at meetings and conferences in the past two months, and (f) I’m back full force on the running circuit, and I now have a training plan, some goals for running, and tons or renewed love for the sport? Isn’t that called “balance?” Who wants to hear from a blogger only as she checks off the boxes towards the completion of her book?

That race in Westfield kicked my butt. I finished 5 minutes ahead of my goal time, so I’m happy, but I was also berating myself for getting so fat and out of shape. I watched my thighs flop up and down in places that they’ve never flopped before and said, “this is the price for too much writing.” Just as repetitive strain injuries are the price for too much running. SO the goal is, yes, to finish the book and well before the deadline, but also to write, to run, and to live life. I missed a due date from The Monday Page, but I won a trophy while the deadline slipped past.

But Brittany, with respect to your question, I know enough about my writing to know that nothing is EVER finished. I just get tired and say, “good enough.” There could ALWAYS be one more example, one fewer example, a more clear description of this, a shorter definition of that. At some point, I just let it go. I look at things I’ve published and said, “Oh MAN, that’s SO rough! WHY didn’t I spend some more time on it.” But back to the balance theme, I was just *done* mentally with the work. Because it was time to move on to something else.

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