A Little Rain Must Fall

The sky was overcast this morning as I headed out for my morning walk. It’s summer and I admit, I don’t tend to check the weather that often this time of year. What’s the point? I live in the south. It’s going to be hot. It is going to be humid. There will be a chance of thunderstorms whether there is a cloud in the sky or not. So while it was overcast, it didn’t look like rain and so off I went without double checking one of the several apps on my phone.

About a quarter of the way into my walk, it began to rain. Not just mist or drizzle, but a quiet shower that whispers through the trees and comes down all at once. The kind of rain best listened to as you hit the snooze button and roll back over for a few stolen minutes of cocooned peace. But I had already silenced that alarm clock. I had already dragged myself from the cocoon. I was soaked in a matter of seconds.

The Dixie Chicks Long Way Around came up in my shuffle and so I tucked the phone away and kept going. I was already wet. Water dripped off my lashes and nose. No reason to end my walk early. Like the song, I’m not one for short cuts.

It was beautiful. I laughed. I splashed through a puddle. It was me and the quiet and the scent of fresh cut grass and damp earth. The rain was cool and tickled my skin. I felt ridiculous and invigorated all at once. The rain was brief and the last half of the walk was dry save my shirt, shorts, shoes, and the drops slipping from the drooping and heavy crepe myrtle trees overhanging the sidewalk.  I kept going.

I recently entered my manuscript into #PitchWars, an online contest where aspiring writers submit their work to an amazing group of selfless authors who will serve as mentors. These mentors will select one lucky manuscript each to guide through an in-depth and intense two month editing process to revise and polish the work with an opportunity to pitch the final book to a similarly amazing group of agents.

There are several weeks between now and the selection announcements. There are thousands of entries. There are 149 mentors. There are fewer mentors suitable for my book. There are four that I submitted to. There are odds that are small and then there are these odds. And I admit, I was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed with how inept my book is. How wrong it must be. How trite and amateur and many more adjectives with less friendly sides to them. Because I am a writer. And what is a writer if not filled with self doubt?

Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. – Stephen King

But I’m not one for short cuts. The wait, the work, the doubt, it’s all just a little rain and while I may get wet, I will also get to see bright yellow leaves skid across puddles and the shift of the clouds across the sky. I will be uncomfortable, but I will be making progress. If I let it, the rain – the setbacks that seem annoying, painful, discouraging – might simply be watering the work so that when the sun shines again it will grow and blossom into the beautiful thing I know it to be.

I am back at my desk. Back at work. Letting the rain fall where it must and putting in the steps to get where I am going. See you there.



Sounds of Silence

Every day, I tuck myself into my office. From 10 to noon, I ignore the outside world and enter another. This is my protected writing time. My work in progress time. My focus on the novel time. I keep the house quiet during this time. The door is shut. The heat clicks on. A bird chirps outside. A construction vehicle beeps as it backs up down the street. I settle in for the work. The silence is mine. I shape it and fill it with words on the page.

The afternoons are not silent. There is usually music or a podcast in my ears as I edit or run an errand or work through a plot problem. There is chatter and thought and ideas clattering up against my ear drums.

Then, it is 3:30. The focus shifts.

School dismisses at 3:45. At 3:46, the school’s bus alerts start dinging on my phone. One ding at a time.

The buses arrive on campus – ding by ding.

The buses depart – ding by ding.

My children’s bus is one of the last to arrive back at school (thanks to bus sharing between schools) and so I wait and wait for the bus three ding. My ding. The ding that means I should head for the bus stop.

And while I wait, I finish whatever task I’m working on. I click off the music, pause the podcast, turn away from the book’s voices. The house settles and is suddenly quiet again in a way it isn’t the rest of the day. The heat clicks on again. I hear car doors slam at my neighbors houses as older kids return home. Someone laughs or hollers at another kid across the street. I hear the trash cans being dragged up a driveway.

This silence is no longer the same as the writing silence. This silence is the quiet pull back of the tide before it returns the quiet water in a rush and crash of a wave.

I suddenly long for my boys, crave them, can’t wait to see their bodies and minds return to me to tell me about their day. The attention they grant me is fleeting. Sometimes only as long as it takes for us to walk back from the bus stop or for me to help get them a snack. I remind them to put their bags and lunch boxes away. They pull out their homework. They disappear to play.

But their breath, their laughter, their stomping feet, the rustle of their turning pages, their whirring brains fill my silence and I wrap it around me like a blanket. My mother silence is anything but quiet, and yet it stills my soul and calms my anxieties.

It is 3:34 and the house is too quiet again.

I wait. For the boys to fill the silence.

I crave it. Like a drug.

I wait.

The Productivity Problem

There has been plenty written lately about our culture of busyness. A quick Google search on that phrase will bring up several articles about the busy trend, its effects on our health and mental well-being and how to combat the busy trap. Now that I’m no longer answering to anyone but myself (and two little munchkins who apparently get hungry sometimes or can’t find their shoes), I am beginning to see how that culture had truly permeated my life. 

First, I noticed the quiet. It was eery, almost. Unsettling. Like the first time you eat a meal in a restaurant by yourself. Smartphones and pervasive internet access have created a world where workers are on-call 24 hours a day. Although I only worked part time, I was available full time. I checked email when I wasn’t in the office or working on projects, answered requests, tracked down information, returned calls and monitored social interactions during weekend events. It made me feel productive. Important, even. Needed. 

Recently, I’ve felt less so. Before, while I was working, I’d squeeze in a load of laundry without a second thought. I had a few minutes to sort and load the washer, so it got done. Now, whether the laundry is done promptly feels like a direct commentary on my very productivity. If I don’t do it right then or side step that extra comforter that needs a run through, I feel guilty, lazy, selfish. That’s a lot of power for a comforter.

A recent text conversation with the hubby opened my eyes. I had told him I’d be working on a blog post that day. Later, I texted him: 

Me: I have done nothing all morning. 


Hubby: Post not going well? 


Me: Well. Okay. I finished that. 


Hubby: I’d call that something. 


Me: But the dishes still aren’t done and the laundry is still all over the room. 


The fact that I equated my self-worth with chores was disturbing and eye opening. I’ve done this before. I’m sure, as women who are struggling with doing it all (i.e., all women – longer exposition for another day), we all have. But it has been gnawing at me since then. Why didn’t I include writing a post as an accomplishment for the day? Why didn’t I include the fact that I made a delicious and healthful meal for the family that they gobbled up? Why not include the silly giggling over three rounds of Pengaloo with B or the fact that I taught T a new way to approach a difficult math problem? Why not pat myself on the back for redesigning this space? Why do I look for validation from accomplishments that fit the culture of busy definition and not my own? 

The slower pace of this new at home life doesn’t mean I’m not producing. It doesn’t mean I’m not accomplishing. It may mean I’m producing and accomplishing differently than you or somebody else. But I’m learning to stop and enjoy the little accomplishments. By learning to appreciate my day and duties in a new way, I’m able to regroup and reevaluate what I want that next step to be. It’s allowing me to prepare for the larger accomplishments that are down the road. 

Instead of press clips, new Facebook fans, emails answered and deadlines met, I’m going to measure my days in hugs and laughter. I’m going to look at the quality of words written, not the number of them or time spent doing it. I’m going to take out my phone on the playground to capture moments, not distract myself from them. I am going to feel presence in where I am so that I can figure out where I want to be going. 

By eliminating the noise and the hum of busyness, I have a lot of room to fill with new experiences. Experiences that will make me feel productive. Important. Needed. And, I hope, like my best self.

My best self that may or may not have emptied the dishwasher. And that’s okay.

It’s only a dishwasher.