Look, Ma, No Hands

How do I feel about writing? It’s the perennial question, the one I can never answer without feeling I’m lying, even though I know exactly how I feel about writing: I love it, and I hate it. I love it when it’s going well, when I feel connected to the words, lost in them, when everything is flowing. I hate it when I’m sitting staring at a blank screen with an equally blank mind. I hate it when I’m wrestling with a poem, or a fragment of a poem I don’t particularly like, but I haven’t any better ideas and need to post something. So, lately, I hate it. But I don’t. This is part of the experiment, part of the challenge of having a blog that is essentially my daily writing practice. So far, I’ve done a decent job keeping the commitment I made myself to write every day. The real problem is the voice that’s crept in that says I should be better than I am.

When I started this back in January I felt like a little kid out on my first bike, not caring that I still had training wheels, just thrilled that I was riding. Look at me go! But now I notice all the big kids zipping by, racing up and down the street, and I feel my smallness. I know I don’t belong with them (and part of me is terrified to think I might be expected to join them some day). I’m just a little kid with a little bike and little training wheels waving to my proud parents, who are trying not to let me see that they admire those big kids on their big bikes. They ride by letting go of the handle bars, never slowing down. I’m tempted to stop, to leave my bike by the side of the road, and to curl up under a tree with a good book instead. Riding is overrated. It’s too much work. It’s draining. It feels wobbly. And it’s not that impressive. Not the way I do it.

My little rhymes and poems aren’t making me as happy as they used to. I’m trying to sort out why. Is it the unavoidable comparison of my writing with that of real Authors and Poets? Or is something else going on? I haven’t been spending as much time writing as I had been, in part because I’ve had other demands on my time. The main demand is six-years-old and jabbers from the minute she wakes until she falls asleep again (usually much too late at night). Since I dared go away for a couple days without her, she has been glued to my side and literally in my face (and, yes, I’m using literally correctly—I spend a lot of time with a six-year-old’s face pressed up against my own, demanding undivided attention). It doesn’t matter how early I wake, thinking I’ll get some quiet writing time; she wakes earlier and is by my side, sometimes before I’m even out of bed.

It bothers me when I feel myself getting frustrated or angry at the interruptions. Is writing every day, posting every day, really more important than spending time with this fleeting being? She’s changing daily, and there’s no rewind or pause. I can’t come back to her later and expect to find the same connection she’s offering today. This her won’t last. And I won’t get another chance to experience this day through her eyes and share her observations of life as it unfolds.

My daughter wants to move out, to find a place closer to her friends, to have her own place, and she’s close to doing so. When she goes, my darling interruption goes with her. I’ll have all the quiet time I could ever need. (How boring. How sad.) Will I write more then? Retreat into my own little world, since I’ll have no one tugging on me, calling me to come out and play? Will I turn back to my poems and find them amusing again?

I argue with myself about all this. I should set and respect my own boundaries, giving myself time every day to work on my writing. And I should spend every second I can with my spectacular whirlwind of a home-schooled granddaughter, because the calm after the storm is going to feel so empty. Which is more important? Am I a real writer if I choose her over this? Am I a real soul if I choose this over her? Is there a way to have both without either suffering? Without my suffering?

It’s almost one o’clock. I started writing at eight this morning. We had to look up what molecules make up air, the embryonic development of tigers, and how blood circulates. I got in a few sentences before breaking for muffins; a few more, then a discussion (and more research) about bed tents and how to make her room prettier. We ran in circles (she ran, I watched), scrubbed potatoes, talked about food chains. I typed in spurts, tried to reread to see if I was making any sense at all. Gave up. I’m overdue to water the garden. The day’s not over yet, but this is the most writing I’ll get done. Is it enough? Does it count? I ride a little bike with training wheels. Look at me go.

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