It’s funny how much insecurity loves company.
I’ve been staring at a blank screen, trying to think of something profound and devastatingly clever and heartbreakingly lyrical to write, and inspiration is avoiding me like the plague. I can’t even come up with an original simile. Sometimes the idea of writing seems completely preposterous.
With some trepidation and much guilt, I decided to take the week off from writing. The jury’s still out on whether that was a good idea, or just wimping out. But I need a break to sleep, and to percolate.
I write largely by percolating ideas. I have to sit with them for a while, let them trickle down through the layers of consciousness like the water through the model water treatment plant I made for the elementary school science fair. Muddy water filters through rocks, fine gravel, and sand, and comes out pure and clear. I hope this is what happens when I percolate. I don’t know. The jury’s still out on that one, too.
What’s definitely happening in this hiatus from writing is that I’m questioning myself even more than usual. Why am I not writing? Am I just being lazy? Real Published Authors wouldn’t take a break for a week, would they? If I don’t constantly feel compelled to write, am I not really a very good or very dedicated writer?
I feel this way all too often about motherhood as well. Am I doing it right? Are my kids turning out okay despite me? Are they going to be able to percolate through all the stages of their childhood and youth and come out pure of heart and clear of purpose? Am I facilitating this process, or just throwing dirt in the water, stirring up the sediment? I constantly worry that I’m not “good enough,” that I’m not serious enough about this business of mothering. I’ve made decisions that weren’t great, I’ve lost my temper, I’ve descended far too often to the level of toddlerhood. I’ve yelled. I’ve cried tempestuously. I’ve failed to pay attention.
My characters, like my boys, are strong-willed, like their creator and mother, to the point of stubbornness. Stubbornness, I think, is a virtue taken too far. Both my word-children and my flesh-children resist me, talk back, push against the control I try to exert. I hope that this innate stubbornness means that I can’t mess them up too much, that the essence of their personalities won’t change. And what does this say about me as a writer.mom? Should I bend my characters to my will, make them fit into the story I want to tell? Am I not doing it right? Should I be more insistent with my boys? Are they undisciplined? Will they become little punks because I’m not always consistent, because I haven’t been able in five years of motherhood to figure out how to get my five-year-old to stay in his bed at night? I don’t want to be a helicopter.mom, but I’m often afraid I’m erring too far on the other side.
I’ve been working more lately at my new career as a professional organizer. I’ve gone from being a stay-at-home mom to a mom who works half-time. As a result, I haven’t been spending as much time with my boys. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It depends on the day, and how many attempts at fratricide I’ve prevented.
I’ve chosen to be absent at times from writing as well as from the immediacies of mothering. In these absences I percolate. In these absences the insecurities arise, breaking the surface of my thoughts like those ancient Irish bog-people drawn from their sodden graves, their executed bodies bearing witness to the horrors and mistakes and failures of the past. They chastise, suggest, condemn. What happened to them? What went wrong? What did they think and feel? Who did they love, and what made them happy or sad? Who were those men and women whose names and lives are lost to history? This uncertainty haunts me. And it’s the same with all my insecurities about writing and motherhood. They trickle through my waking thoughts and through my dreams, and bubble to the surface. They sadden me. They make me doubt, and fear. They make me ask questions the answers to which I’m not sure I want to know.
So I’m going to sleep, perchance to dream, with hopes that the waters will be a little clearer in the morning.