A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
Sweet, Elusive Abundance
The red leather notebook I keep in my briefcase for business meetings. A wallet-sized notepad which adds more weight to an already stone-heavy purse. The Notes app on an aging smart phone. The digital files on my laptop, on the shared homework computer in the living room, in the cloud. Cheap drugstore pocket folders stuffed with scribbles from graduate school night classes. A lovely, Florida flamingoed blank folio from the expensive Winter Park paperie piled under books on my bedside table. And all the backsides of grocery lists, progress reports, unpaid bills. These are chaotic containers for my writing life. They house a muddled assemblage of new ideas, lists of dream literary journals, half stanzas, maybe-some-day writing residencies, and poem beginnings, middles and awkward endings.
The blank waiting page, the dedicated time at the table are not realistic goals at this point in my harried life. Three children, a husband, a job and now back to school, too. I do not have to spell it out for the mamas. You know. Other parents ask, “Three kids? How do you do it?” but I remember feeling just as overwhelmed with one. And poetry was barely a wish back then. Each time a child grew with new independence, I gained another moment alone. With it a palpable sense of urgency to start talking, be loud and make art. I picked up a pen and the words spilled out onto a slippery sidewalk.
Most days these words do not come easy. My most formative creative writing ideas seem to appear out of the blue (think car line, think bike path) and I need a place to put them instantly. If not, they get lost in the maze of a 40-something mind that is more focused on family than submission deadlines or poetic devices.
Somedays it overwhelms me, this spread-all-over-the-place practice. The chaos seems to mirror my mind, and I place organizing everything on a tall pedestal. I wish for the pieces to come together in an accessible, tidy place. One that looks like a curated Pinterest board wouldn’t hurt. Could a room of my own really contain the chaos? I doubt it. At least that is what I tell myself to ease the disappointment of not having a Woolf-approved refuge after all these years.
Learning to live with life’s letdowns takes years of practice. And with it comes the knowledge that envy and regret are best placed on a back shelf in the bulging pantry. Parents must make room for the most pressing issues: feeding a hungry horde of teenagers, walking to daybreak bus stops, listening to how hard high school still seems to be. Afterward we grab the discarded homework draft and write.
Because my writing life does not exist on its own right now, as a place as much as a practice, I have to put it all around me. I have to bless the fact that it exists at all. Poetry may not be paying the bills but it is putting me back together again- one scrap of paper, one kilobyte at a time. When I am ready, the words will be waiting. Their sweet, elusive abundance keeps leading me on.