Reflections

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This morning a gentle snow fell. Chris brewed coffee. And the brain fog from this cold began to lift.

It’s been one of those weeks when this 365 project has felt challenging. Challenging, but not impossible. Life never fails to get in the way. But if you carve a path for yourself, you’ll eventually create a smooth groove, one that allows you to stay the course even when other forces attempt to push you in a different direction.

Committing to this year-long daily practice has been life-altering in big and small ways. One of the things I learned very quickly was that fear will rise up again and again, and there is no choice but to walk through it. I had to contend with my fear of being seen, my imposter syndrome, and my self-doubt with every step, from writing to submitting to publishing to promoting. Every step was an act of courage. Until courage became habit. And the fear piped down.

I began the project with no real idea where it would go. I had planned nothing beyond putting words on the page and hitting publish every day. That alone felt daunting enough. I hadn’t planned to take writing classes or give a reading or attend a professional conference. I didn’t know I would spend those first months writing and revising one essay, a strange process that came out like a prose puzzle. I spent so many nights at the library trying to figure out how to piece it together. When an editor asked to publish it, I was beyond thrilled. My secret goal was to get a piece published before my birthday, and somehow that little dream came true. But I hadn’t anticipated how publishing a personal essay would make me feel exposed and raw, how it would make me want to tuck myself into a dark closet for a couple of weeks. Nor was I able to anticipate how moving it would be to receive emails from women struggling with the same challenge. Women who shared their stories with me. Women who told me I’d given them hope. Looking back, there was so much contained within the experience of a single essay.

2016 was a year of learning and growth and connection. I feel rooted in myself. I feel strong.

A few of the highlights: I turned 40! (Holy wow, still getting used to that number.) Brain,Child Magazine named me New Voice of the Year and invited me to become a contributing blogger, a dream come true. I saw Roxane Gay speak in NYC. I grew my first garden in our new backyard (and wrote and published an essay about it). I attended my first professional writers conference. I weaned my toddler. I voted for our first female president with my mother and my daughter by my side. I had my first poem published.

This year was big. How do I top it? How do I keep up the momentum? My mind spiraled toward a hundred different goals and dreams. I couldn’t focus. Then on New Year’s Day, a nasty cold virus took the wind right out of my sails. I had no choice but to pause. Be still. Let my mind drift. The word that came to me was tethered, a word that’s come up a lot over the course of this year. Daily practice has kept me tethered to myself, to my art, to consciousness. This project will end, but I want to stay tethered in the new year. Shortly after, I received an email saying I’d been accepted into a writing course I’d forgotten I had applied to during the holiday mayhem. And there it was, an opportunity tying me from one year to the next.

For writers involved in a daily practice or considering one, there’s a terrific article up at Brevity today, The Power of Listening to What Your Practice Demands. I’m also thrilled to announce that my writer/author-friend Rachel‘s newest book Writer’s Boot Camp, A 30-Day Crash Course to Total Writing Fitness has just hit bookstores. I ordered my copy today. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new year of writing!

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If the Season We Could Keep

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Thank you for all the kind words and encouragement during this wacky week of Intro to Potty Training. I swear I’m going to stop writing about it. Today is a better day for no particular reason other than it just is. These last few days I’ve wanted to hit fast-forward, but last month I wrote this essay about the moments I wish I could keep, and it’s on the Brain, Child blog today. A good reminder that there are so many little joys and that things are changing all the time.

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Breathing Under Water

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Good morning friends! My new essay Breathing Under Water is up on the Brain, Child blog today. I hope you’ll give it a read when you have a chance. My heartfelt thanks for all your support!

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A Mother’s Garden

To my lovely readers, if you’re not yet tired of my garden tales, I have a new essay up at Brain, Child today and would be honored if you gave it a read.

Happy August, a day late! This has become a thing with me, running a little late, scurrying to keep up. Insomnia and little panics. A mom thing? A summer thing? I’m not sure. The jam-packed calendar feels both exciting and daunting. If any of you masters of time management have strategies to offer, I’d love to hear them!

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New Voice of the Year

Last night the Brain,Child newsletter arrived in my inbox. I’ve been a subscriber and fan for years. It’s such an honor to see my name announced in this issue as New Voice of the Year.

I feel incredibly lucky to be working with such a talented and supportive editor, and I’m thrilled to be a part of a community of writers I deeply admire.

I have two essays up right now, The Art of Conception and Milk and Cake, and a third coming soon!

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The Art of Conception 

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I’m not a numbers person. I’ve always been more of a guesstimator. But this 365 project, counting each day as it passes, continually pulls my attention to numbers. 115 days ago, just over a month into this project and the birth of this blog, I wrote Forthcoming, one of my favorite posts. It captures a lot in just a few words: my first steps toward carving out writing time, my resistance to relinquishing my daughter to the world, and my desire to be published. In the post, I mention three of my favorite literary publications, Glimmertrain, The Sun, and Brain, Child. A sort of invocation.

Today I have an essay up at Brain, Child called The Art of Conception.

 

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Taking Stock: 77/365

Here I am, 77 posts into this project. Currently breastfeeding my toddler while typing–that hasn’t changed. But a lot of other things have, and I’m only 21% of the way through the project. Today seemed like a good day to take stock of changes, side effects and discoveries.

1.) Productivity – In my first post I hypothesized that writing begets writing, and I’ve found this to be absolutely true. Outside of this space, my main project is taking shape. In addition to essays-in-progress, I have fragments, lists, and saved drafts, those fleeting wisps that disappear if I don’t catch them in time. For so long I didn’t bother capturing them–what was the point? Now I collect every single one, even if it requires me to pull the car over and scribble on the back of a napkin or turn on my phone at 3:00 am to type into the notes app.

2.) Empathy – Empathy is a side effect of daily writing I didn’t expect. Seeking the truth about myself every day, shaping that truth into words, and making it public deepens my understanding, not only of myself but of others. Where I was once quick to judge another person, I’m now curious to understand.

3.) Alcohol-Free – Another unexpected side effect of this practice: I’ve stopped drinking. Truth-seeking requires clarity and presence of mind, which even moderate alcohol hinders. It also steals time. I’m always searching for those quiet pockets: my toddler’s nap, evenings at the library. There aren’t many free hours and I need as many as I can get. There are nights when I’d love to relax with a glass of wine or have a beer at a birthday party, but I haven’t. Time, clarity and focus mean too much to me right now.

4.) Writing Routine & Commitment – I have carved out a writing routine and time for myself. Instead of dreading the blank page, I look forward to it, and my commitment to the work deepens.

5.) Pushing Through Slumps – Showing up in this space every day teaches me how to push through slumps. I can’t take a single day off from this commitment; every day I must come up with something, if only a sentence or two. I apply the same commitment to my other projects; I push through, even on the days when energy is low and I feel empty of words.

6.) Goals – As my projects take shape, my writing goals are becoming clearer.

7.) Being Seen – When Chris was featured in the local paper and my blog was mentioned, my site traffic skyrocketed–for a few days. I immediately switched the setting to private, wanting to hide myself and my words under a rock, never to be seen again. I got over it, and eight hours later switched the setting back to public. Every day I have to get over being seen. It is still uncomfortable, but it’s getting easier.

8.) Housekeeping (or Lack Thereof) – My house is messier. I don’t cook every single night. Sometimes my toddler watches too much Daniel Tiger. I’m learning to be okay with these things.

9.) Workshop – I was accepted into a memoir masterclass at Westport Writers’ Workshop with the amazing Marcelle Soviero, editor-in-chief of Brain, Child magazine, one of my favorite publications. Happiness, fear, excitement! Class began today and I fumbled with my words as I introduced myself and explained my project to the group. But talking about my project, explaining it out loud, gave it power. It turns out I know exactly what this project is; I know what story I want to tell. It’s not the murky, amorphous mystery I’d thought it was. I was the last person to read my work, and though I could feel red blotches blooming on my chest and rising up my neck, I got through it. I got through it to great reception. When it was over, I floated down the stairs and out to my car, happy.

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At the library. Happy.