The house is blessedly quiet this morning. It’s not that my heart is two sizes too small. It’s the endless repetition of the same 14 songs. By this point in the month you’ve likely already been sent to Whamaggedon many times over or heard the strident opening bars of Mariah at least 27 times.
If all you want for Christmas is something a little different, we’ve enjoyed these playlists the last few days and given ourselves a break from many of the usual songs.
I’m looking forward to baking many (many) cookies next week and hoping KUTX runs their weeklong holiday mix again to accompany me in the kitchen.
I’m not sure if it was the cool, dry weather on a weekend (finally) or stumbling across this quote from Annie Dillard as I finished up working on the manuscript on Friday, but we had a (mostly) ‘Yes’ day yesterday.
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.”
We did not rake leaves, or empty gutters, or obsess over flashcards (okay, a little flash cards). We did not try to bottle up the day and squirrel it away. We let our instincts to be productive, or study, or workout, or hit that word count go dormant.
We wrung out the day and had no regrets.
Less than week left of eight grade for Cecilia. Which means less than a week of her returning home and my asking “How was your day?” and she responds, “Good.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.”
I realize that “Nothing” actually means “How am I supposed to answer that? Being fourteen is insane. Middle school is sorta insane. There are so many positive, exciting, hopeful, scary, sad, and disappointing things happening at the exact same time.”
So maybe I’m not asking the right question. Or maybe she’s tired of being asked. Maybe “How are you? or How was your day?” really are hard questions. Maybe I’ll think of better questions in high school.
If you’ve read this blog even just a few times you know that Ally loves to craft. It comes up a lot. It will come up this week, too. I love to sneak down and just watch her from the stairs. I’ve learned more about art from watching her paint and draw than any class, podcast or expert. Now that we are collaborating on a book about a robot and a lost baguette, I get to see this up close.
She doesn’t think about starting or finishing or muses or process. She’s just doing stuff. It’s sort of magical. Sadly, it’s a mindset most kids seem to lose as they get older.
If you’re stuck on a project today or this week. Ask a kid. I guarantee they will have ideas.
The new book has been out in the world for a little over a month and that means reviews and feedback have been coming in and I realized recently that how I deal with that feedback has changed over the years.
I used to fear and cower from it. I’d have a knee jerk reaction to all of it. Any criticism couldn’t possibly be right. What did they know? I was the author. Now, I listen and I often cherish the flaws more than the praise.
What critics and readers often don’t like or find uncomfortable or different about a work is often the best and most interesting thing about it. Those are the parts worth digging into. Those are the parts that keep a work unique and individual.
They are not always right. Neither am I. But it’s worth listening to carefully.
Cecilia has to pick her high school classes this week. Yeah, it took a hot minute for that to sink in initially.
If I could go back to my eighth grade self and give him one bit of advice it would be to dial back the stress and subsequent anxiety by a factor of 10. The “right” classes and the “right” school matter far less than the everyday habits that you develop during this time.
Those are far better indicators, and far better tools, to navigate through life.
Don’t believe me, eight grade self? Maybe you’ll listen to Leonard Cohen. Adolescents seem to gel with his vibe:
Sometimes when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, you know, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise and you’re not gonna get it all straight.
I found that things got a lot easier when I no longer expected to win.
You understand that, you abandon your masterpiece, and you sink into the real masterpiece…
I spent the last week going over the edited manuscript for the new book. It might be the part of the process of writing that I enjoy the most. It dovetails nicely with my “fix-it” brain. See a problem, evalaute a problem, fix a problem. It’s a lot easier than the actual writing. Very few writers like that actual writing. They like having written.
But this fix-it mentality is a double-edged sword. Writing, or parenting, or life in general comes with expectations. Trouble can start when the expectations don’t match up with reality.
That stress between how we thought something would go and how it actual plays out can either make us or break us.
There is certainly possibility in that friction especially when you are trying to be creative but if you are parenting hanging on to those expectations will often lead to frustration.
I am trying very hard these days not to be quite so inflexible about those visions in my head and rather to pay attention to what’s in front of me and the possibilities of what I can do with it.