REMINDER: Only 2 days left to post your Word of the Month poem!
BULLETIN: We’ve now posted poems by seven young poets. Please give them a look and tell our poets if you like what they’re doing!
REMINDER: Sign my website guest book. Those who sign for the first time this month might win a free critique of a picture book or poetry.
Greetings everyone. Get set for some straight talk from Vicki Grove. She is contributing an invaluable reminder that somehow writers write in spite of everything else in life that seems to conspire against doing what we need and want to do. Thanks, Vicki!
I also need to say that I’m sorry I couldn’t post Vicki’s article right after she sent it. You’ll see why when you read it. I’m blessed with a number of other outstanding guest articles from other friends and colleagues and have been scheduling them as they come in. Vicki’s message won’t be diluted in the least by my tardiness, but I still wish I could have put it up sooner.
I’m late with this article, which should have been done a week ago. My editor wanted to go over revisions for my new book this past week, too, but I dodged her calls and possibly by doing so lost my spot on Putnam’s 2011 list. I think instead of apologizing for either thing I’ll just call this blog entry “Writing in the Real World” and tell you about last week, since it’s a story I’ve wished for a long time someone else would post so that I could take comfort from knowing I’m not alone.
AARP just came out with a survey finding that 30% of American middle-aged adults are caregivers of either a spouse, a grandchild, or an elderly parent. My parents are 88 and 89 and my saintly husband and I have been their sole caregivers for nine years, since my father turned 80, officially put on his robe and slippers, and declared himself “through.” Mom’s health shortly thereafter began to break down, and nine years on, Daddy is blind, neither of them can walk without a struggle, and they are completely housebound. They live twelve miles from us, and usually if I get up before dawn I have two or three hours to write before I need to start cooking for them, then I go over to their home before noon. More often than not this past couple of years, this system has broken down at some point during the week and my computer has gone neglected completely. When I was raising my own children, I had triple the writing time. It was much easier.
This past week was an especially bad week for Mom, who is now experiencing dementia, and so the time (and, yes, mental energy) I had delegated to writing my article for this blog and to going over tough revisions with an editor failed to materialize. In fact, my Christmas presents have gone unshopped for, my cards remain unsent, my house uncleaned and undecorated. Let’s don’t even talk about my grooming (smile).
In case you’re starting to think this is a personal pity party, let me tell you about the book I’m working on now. It’s a YA novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a drunk driving accident and is struggling to regain his own balance and forward momentum. Suddenly last spring, as I was in the midst of this book, my father experienced a bout with depression and pain that turned both our households upside down for several months. I was completely away from my computer during that time, and when I could get back to my story the boy in my book shocked me by having developed a live-in step-grandfather while I was gone, an 89-year-old man who has just failed his driver’s license test because of macular degeneration. This leads the grandfather to a depression, which might possibly be lifted a bit if the boy can find the nerve to get behind the wheel again and drive this new grandfather to a Chiefs game.
If you have never felt the exhilaration that comes when a book takes its own life like this, then you haven’t felt the true joy of this job, the thing that makes all the rejection, all the long hours, all the various frustrations of working in such a crazy and competitive profession worthwhile. Is this new Chiefs-loving grandfather autobiographical, based on my father? Are you kidding? The boy will learn from him what I myself am struggling to remember I am constantly learning from my own dad. Hopefully, both Willem and I are finding what to concentrate on while we’re alive, what not to regret leaving undone.
Life feeds writing, and writing is a way to work out the things in our lives that are seemingly beyond our ken, sometimes almost beyond our capability. Cope-ability? Now, as I face turning 61 on Christmas Eve, I’m finally ready to state, uncategorically, that writing gives me self-understanding, period. All the rest comes and goes, or is icing on that great celestial birthday cake in the sky. But truly, what more could you ask?