It’s been nine years since I became a mother. Much has changed while much has stayed the same. For instance, laughing and crying at the same time. I still do that, but for different reasons. Nine years ago I was an earnest reader of What To Expect In The First Year. I was riveted. I probably made notes, charts, even a Captain’s Log, Stardate and all. However, the laugh/cry came when I uncovered the terrible truth. The inescapable path of The Pregnant Princess is to become, no, not the Queen Mother, but rather, the Post Partum Peasant.
So, in my heap of creased clothes and equally creased skin, with a baby I didn’t really know what to do with, I discarded What To Expect and started reading other books. A peasant after all, doesn’t need to be crisp, ironed and perfect, does she? So I worked my way through spy books, kite books, bee books, library books, book club books, even defecting ballet dancer books. I held onto that sweet baby and (perhaps with a more anxious grip) to the needy one that followed. While patting their backs and deciphering their screams, I travelled worlds through books.
The other day that first sweet baby turned nine. It’s dawned on me that the chaos subsided and my time crept back. Now, we are all reading books, a jumbled pile of my current fixation with crime thrillers set in Sault St. Marie and their’s, with The Secret Seven. (Thankfully, no one wrote What to Expect in The Ninth Year, because, I don’t want to know. Leave me in the dark rather than leave me to obsess over the details.) On the day the sweetie turned nine I was lying on my bed (because, drum roll…,they’re at school), reading nothing earnest and parental, but rather Stephen King’s On Writing. He’s frank and he’s brash and we all know he is smart but he has little time for “literary gasbags” (perhaps the literary version of the Baby Self Help crowd?) and plenty of time for the self-doubting novelist.
As was my journey into motherhood, so has my journey into writing been fraught with earnest endeavor. I panic at the thought of symbolism, theme and arc just as I panicked at the thought of feeding, developmental milestones, and heaven help us, sleeping through the night. When I caught myself laughing and crying at Stephen King, it wasn’t at the discovery of any terrible truth. It was sheer relief. I realized that no matter how much you struggle as a writer, the requirements for survival are, much like motherhood, quite simple. Good sense. Good Basic Tools. Hard work. Another writer, Steve Hamilton, (of the thrillers set in Sault St. Marie) encourages himself by keeping a lego brick on his desk. Writing a book is a process, like a lego house, it’s one brick at time. A little bit every day. The pressure to be Shakespeare is off. I shall write the book, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. And, when school is out, I shall be the best mother I can be. One hug, one kiss and one quiet conversation at a time.