After wrecking my knee once again, this time by gardening misadventure and not running, rain has provided a welcome reprieve and excuse. I’m chugging through desperate re-writes to get my novel out to a lovely group of beta readers and a couple of agents by the first week of June.
Since I’ve established a hard deadline for myself, I have been busy cleaning windows, rearranging closets, volunteering a few extra hours, sewing on loose buttons, reading obscure texts, and listening to writing advice podcasts while sharpening garden tools. All in all, this would be considered quite productive if any of it actually involved writing.
I wonder if I’m always going to be fighting this battle of distraction. It seems even technology can’t be blamed. Now I know why the classic writer was either going on walks or putting their liver through its paces. It’s lovely to have all those thoughts floating about one’s brain, but quite another thing committing them to paper. I have a mental image of wrestling each and every word to the ground, until they are forced to stand in a row and make a blasted sentence.
It’s easy to get distracted by the current chaos in politics as well, each headline more alarming than the last. I am not particularly surprised by much of it. People voted for a man who has all the diplomacy of a wrecking ball, in addition to a personality disorder that deems every occasion an opportunity to blame, brag, or bloviate.
My outrage meter blew a fuse and now I just want to know that the people not besmirched by this person’s conduct are still doing real work in our government – like handling the fact that the threat of homegrown terrorism is as high as it’s been since 9/11. Or backing down Texas, which thinks it should get federal money despite its discrimination against Planned Parenthood and consequently against the poor in its state. A discrimination which has resulted in a higher number of unplanned pregnancies needed to be covered by Medicaid in Texas. It really beggars belief.
It hit me that I’m counting on the much-maligned civil servant to keep our nation from turning into a third world turd hatchery. I’m counting on people who have been insulted and blamed for everything from long lines to confounding paperwork, to keep coloring within constitutional lines. We don’t have the leadership capable of reasoned and steady trustworthiness. We must rely on the sluggishness and lack of agility of government to slow the man-made disaster of our executive branch. That’s right, the IRS and DMV and AARDVARKS (I really hope somebody is using that acronym) are our last line of defense against autocracy.
Mother’s Day came and went with the usual commercial hullabaloo and media coverage. Since it is the most popular US dining day, I stayed home, enjoyed being left to my own devices by my family and gardened. News bits and bobs ran the gamut from how hard mothers have it to the “why not me” defensiveness of the those without children, fathers, etc.
Since most holidays strike me as over-the-top bullshit which I generally ignore, I spent my time thinking about the defensiveness that emerges in response. As much as I enjoy being referred to as a breeder and moocher and victim in my role as a mother, I have to wonder at the anger. Mothers have bankrolled psychiatrists and psychologists for years, but it’s usually the children of said mothers and not a generalized anger.
Perhaps it is a backlash to the cult of motherhood, Hallmark, and all those gauzy recollections of warm, caring humans that may or may not have been true. I recall being very defensive in my 20s, as all my peers were getting married and having children. I hadn’t planned on either of those things for myself and felt like there was something wrong with me. I could be very snide in my defensiveness. But then I grew up.
I am still occasionally defensive about one thing or another. To me, it’s a tip off that I have some thinking to do. What’s really going on? Am I not happy with my life choices? Am I scared? Am I in pain over something? I’ve learned over the years to listen to people who are defensive and automatically think what’s really going on here? Contempt for other humans is neither healthy nor laudable. People who are genuinely pleased with their lives don’t feel the need to attack others or justify their choices.
Between listening to the audiobook, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and reading Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman for my English learner tutoring gig, I have gotten some great reminders about writing. I like big words, because some of them just roll off the tongue and make language more interesting. I also have an interest in word histories. Sometimes this gets in the way of writing well.
I have a regular conversation with the students I help, as well as with my own child about writing. Writing gets treated as a different language from speaking and this is why it becomes so difficult for some people. People who are extremely coherent and expressive verbally suddenly feel tongue-tied on paper. The exercise I do with English learners is to have them say the sentence they want to write and then once they’ve written it, have them read it out loud. It’s always different from what they’ve said. Then I have them say it again and write it down verbatim.
When I am well and truly fighting with my words, it’s because I think I have to write something different than what I intend – bigger words, more poetic, flowing sentences. I have a sign on my computer now. Tell the @#$% story. Stop being a writer and be a storyteller. It’s amazing how words drop away and sentences shine with clarity.
Time for me to get back to it. The rain will stop and I’ll be distracted once again by the siren call of my garden.