On Not Quitting the Hard Things

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It’s not OK not to try.  This is what I tell my kids when they’re confronted with a task they believe is too difficult for them.  But how many times do I avoid doing something hard because I’m afraid of failure?  Or, once I’ve started the hard thing, how often do I get dangerously close to quitting when I bump up against a proverbial brick wall?

Too often, if I’m honest.

I’m working on a second novel.  I’m still in the beginning stages, and already I’ve hit snags that leave me perplexed and discouraged.  I knew this would happen before I ever started (it’s the nature of the beast), but the resulting feelings well up in me just the same:  I want to bail on this project.

This realization is discouraging to me.  Why am I still struggling to stick things out, to keep going, to silence the voices of opposition after all this time?  Why am I tempted to not try, or worse, to try and then to give up?

I don’t know.  I hope that, in time, I’ll grow up and leave behind the temptation to quit on hard things.

But what if I don’t?

If I don’t, the solution to the problem is the same–for my kids and for myself:  we keep going anyway.  If a thing is worth it, if, in the quietude of saner moments, we’ve decided that it’s of real value, then it must be attempted.

And conquered.

Sehnsucht

“My sister stands beside me on the pool deck. We aren’t watching our kids play-fight in the water. Our eyes are on the adolescent bird sitting at the base of an oak tree a few feet away. We can hear his mother squawking at him from a bush nearby. He’s fallen from her nest, and she can’t carry him to safety because he’s almost her size. But she can’t leave him alone, either, because she knows better than any of us that the woods are full of raccoons, that her life’s work might end in a half-eaten lump of sorrow if he can’t get to a low branch somehow. There’s nothing for her to do but to wait and to sing…”

Read the rest of how a bird taught me about parenting teens over at Mothers Always Write magazine.

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

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I’m back from a ten-day stint overseas and I’m popping in here, not because I have anything profound to say, but because I’m awake now, and wanting to slip back into familiar routines.

Two quick observations:

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  I missed my kids while I was in South America.  And it turns out that I needed to miss them.  It’s helpful to be reminded of how much space they take up in my heart because I can forget when the middle school gets thick around here.  For the time being, I’m seeing them with fresh eyes, and it feels good.

Writing while traveling, even if it’s just keeping a journal, can inject fresh life into a stale routine.  I was worried that being without my laptop for ten days would cause me to lose momentum on the writing project I was working on before I left.  I’d bought a little sea-blue journal and had made myself a promise to record observations and events while I was in Paraguay, but I still felt like I’d be taking a hit when I got home.  I didn’t.  As it happened, I was able to jump right back into my project–with new perspective.  Hopefully I can use some of what I jotted down while I was away sometime, too.

All in all, it’s good to be home.  I love to travel, to speak with different vocabularies, to memorize other hearts.  But at the end of the day, I love the familiar, too.  Here’s to slipping through the looking glass, and to popping back out again.

**I’m headed to Paraguay tomorrow.  I won’t be blogging for ten days or so.  But if you want to look around here while I’m gone, be my guest!**

Finding the Courage to Go Slow

In our big, loud, fast-is-better culture it’s sometimes hard to go slow.  With creative pursuits, however, forcing oneself to move at the speed of thought, giving oneself the space to stare off in the middle distance and wait occasionally, is invaluable, and allows an artist a better shot at actually liking what he or she creates in the end.

Today, I’m over at Southern Writers and I’m discussing something dear to my heart, slow writing, and how it’s changing the way I do life in general.

“…I used to write as if I were shoplifting, stealing moments in the bathroom or in my bedroom, with the door locked. Every minute in which I managed to wrangle thoughts into words uninterrupted felt like a piece of sparkly merchandise hidden under my coat…”

Read the rest here.

Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time So It Helps, Not Hurts

Are you a parent who feels guilty about how much screen time your kids engage in?  I, for one, wish screens didn’t exist most of the time.  But they do, and my kids use them.  So, ahem, do I.  Here’s a great article on how to help your kids get the most out of their screen time, and how to incorporate purposeful screen breaks in order to encourage your children’s engagement with the real world.