“Write what you know.” No four words have elicited more anxiety from aspiring creatives.
I love to write. When I was 16 I was trying to choose between Dartmouth and Georgetown. I wanted to double major in creative writing and in government and I was torn between a really awesome international relations major at Georgetown versus the creative writing chops of Dartmouth. (“Dartmouth has Toni Morrison!” I remember writing.)
Joke’s on me. I didn’t actually get into Dartmouth. And thus ended my creative writing career.
And ackchyually, I was never a creative writer. I was a “creative writer” the way any moody teenager who knew how to write a poem was a creative writer. I was in the school lit mags. Anyone can get published in a school literary magazine. (My favorite line from a poem that I had in the Georgetown literary magazine goes, “And the I Love India T-shirts/ can go fuck themselves”. I used profanity. I was deep, y’all.)
In high school I won some sort of maritime poetry contest but guys, I had all these made up references in there and when they read my poem for the award the guy was so serious and was raising his eyebrows in appreciation of all this faux-deepness and that’s when I realized that, sure, maybe not all poetry was bullshit but anything I wrote totally would be.
Seriously, I had two creative writing claims to fame. One was a caption contest online that showed some guy’s car parked crookedly in a spot, and my winning line was, “Sometimes I feel like I’m parked diagonally in a parallel universe “ I won, y’all! I was so proud of that shit. I would quote myself on AIM away messages.
And then I went to college and improved it to, “Truly, at times I feel as though I am parked diagonally in a simulacrum of a parallel universe. What a twisted life we lead.”
The second was that my best friend and I made our own literary journal when we were in elementary school. My favorite of hers went something like, “Give me some peas./Give me some peas/ please, Woman./I want them right now”. (I think the last line is wrong. I haven’t managed to dig out all my childhood stuff from my basement for this post. But just you wait! That basement might as well be a gold mine.)
My best poem was also the first one I ever wrote:
I love the hot water
The hot water loves me
It’s the best friend, as best as can be
It warms up my toes
It warms up my hands
It gives me a lot of tans.
This poem has followed me throughout my life. I literally still, when the water from the shower head is too cold, chant to myself, “ilovethehotwaterthehotwaterlovesme…”. On my second date with Adam we were walking on the beach and came across a stage, and he dared me to go up there and recite something. Since this was only the second date and I had somehow fooled him into thinking I was spontaneous and fun (spoiler alert: I am neither spontaneous nor fun), I got up there and recited my hot water poem. And then fireworks went off. Really. And then six years later our friend who was marrying us mentioned this story in his sermon but in this completely amazing, “isn’t this romantic?” way. So yeah, best poem ever.
Oh, I also wrote Star Wars fanfic. Let’s save that for another day, shall we?
Suffice to say, I’m never going to be Sylvia Plath. Most of my professional writing has been either analytical writing or opinion journalism, and in neither profession is it acceptable to feature run-on sentences and curse words.
So although it feels silly to do this unless I’m getting paid, at least there are no editors to stop me from the run-on sentences, amirite?
So what do I know?
Well, I don’t really have that much going on, you know? My former career was kinda kick-ass but by its very nature I can’t really talk about it. I tried writing a book, guys. A thriller novel. Almost got to the end but realized a.) It totally sucked but also b.) Since I was writing what I knew, it almost seemed like a memoir about the work-that-shall-not-be-discussed, and when I changed things it wasn’t obvious I changed them, which made it somehow even worse than if I had just told a true story, and how many commas can I put in this sentence?
(Although there was a scene where the main character figures out the super secret way to get into the tunnels under Georgetown and goes, “I’m in Harry Potter. I did too much blow last night and I must still be passed out.” Classic. Sad I’ll never get to use that.)
So what do I know?
I know what it’s like to live in a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, holding an absolutely gorgeous one year old boy in my arms while the older two… Well, okay maybe this isn’t a completely bucolic scene because the older two are probably screeching at each other and then the baby sticks his hand up my nose and goes, “Mama. Mama. Maaamaaa!” But whatever. Go with it. Beautiful home, beautiful kids, supportive husband, don’t want for anything…
And I want to scream.
Something is trying to get out. Something that is saying that I need to be needed by people other than my family. I want to be recognized for more than my birthing hips (them hips be epic, y’all.) The same wanderlust that led me to starting a “resource-driven parenting” blog, working for two politicians, starting a company, attempting bad novels, trying to get a professional photographer accreditation, appearing in two documentaries, writing opinion pieces on the cultural issues of the day… All of which led me back full circle to, “I’m not cut out for this. Time to go back to full time momhood”.
Yeah, now this. Yet another blog, yet another project just to give momma an outlet. One more thing the lady won’t stick with, just like her Scentsy business from 2013 (nb: that’s not true. I can say I’ve never sold Scentsy, essential oils, or it works! But you get the point. And more on that in another post).
Another mom trying to combat the general malaise and a directionless life surrounded by young children.
And forever and ever, the echoes of conservative female writers ping in my brain. Rants about how sick they are of mom martyr complaining culture and how much people whine about something so wonderful. About how we devalue motherhood and that’s why young mothers are so dissatisfied. I’m sure there are a lot of theses I can put in there about millennials and how we need to feel “fulfilled” in an external way and how we can’t find worth in a day’s hard work.
Something something participation trophies.
Let’s ignore the fact that those writers are writers and are on CNN and Fox News and obviously have more time to work than I do, despite their ostensible stay at home status, which means they are getting fulfillment in other ways.
Oh, by the way? All those other well known homemaker bloggers and influencers? The ones we might hold up as paragons of motherhood as they blog about homeschooling their 18 children and making vegan, cruelty-free baby papooses? The lactivists who are proud of their breasts being tied to their 9 year old? That whacked out “Transformed Wife” who writes pseudo diary entries about how the only calling for women is wifehood and motherhood? (Look her up. I’m not linking her).
You do realize they are writers. And activists. And photographers. And everything else that goes into being recognized enough to earn a spot on Pinterest.By the very action of proclaiming their awesome momhood and their sole vocation being thus, they are actually creating a job beyond motherhood.
We are far from the first generation of mothers staring into the abyss of the rest of their lives. We just feel more free to give voice to it.
I’ll give some credence to the conservative theory here and say something has changed. Sure, let’s blame the 1980s myth of having it all. For that matter, let’s blame Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In ethos. We can’t deny that we have created a culture that glamorizes equality, praises female strength and intelligence, glorifies the super mom who is a high powered lawyer by day and tucks her children in at night, and we didn’t actually change the culture to make it possible.
Like, F me, y’all. I loved my job, but I can’t be the mom I want to be and the awesome analyst I want to be and yes, there are many kick-ass women who can do that but I can’t and there are many others who can’t either.
(Please ignore the fact that I still can’t be the mom I want to be — even though I stay at home –because I’m not really cut out for this shit, but imagine how much worse I’d be if I worked full time too)
(disclaimer #2: I know many women are better moms because they work but seriously, I’d be worse).
I wrote an article that never got published (which means I can share it here one day at least!) about the concept of the “flex mom” who stays at home but also has her own thing going on. At the time, I mentioned how this was working for me (and it absolutely was). I have now quit my flex writing job — mostly because I’ve lost all respect for them– but also I have a toddler and I’m tired, y’all, and even though he goes to Mother’s Day Out, I spend those precious few hours either productively cleaning or zoning off into the distance, so there is no way I would have been able to keep up with a real job with real deadlines. Yes, ADD and extreme sleep deprivation is a bitch.
But anyway, for now, here’s a blog. That no one is going to read. Or if they do, they’ll go, “Man, she really needs an editor. She curses too much and has way too many run-on sentences.”
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.