Summer invited me over for paella and sangria tonight and I went gladly. A few days ago she sent me a link for a couple of requests for submissions that she thought would interest me. She does so periodically. Once, a year or so ago, I actually sent off a piece and it was accepted and published. Remembering that, I decided to try it again. In the space between reading student papers and waiting for my daughter to wake up, I wrote a query and emailed it off. In the bio, I wrote that I was an “occasional writer,” and explained myself away by saying that I am the single mother of a teenage daughter. Single mothers will understand — single fathers too.
But is that really my excuse? I always have an excuse for not writing. I’m a single mother. I’m working full-time. I have other things going on. Right now it’s summer. I should have time to write. I teach two classes instead of three, four days a week instead of five. Why is it hard to drum up 500 words for my blog during a time that should be more expansive? Today I plunged back into my retrospective, was interrupted three times, and realized that if I wanted to publish it, I needed to hit publish. So I did.
Tonight, slightly buzzed on sangria after a brisk walk home from Summer’s house in perfect night-time weather (finally the evenings have cooled down after last night’s dramatic thunderstorm), I rearead today’s blog entry. Typos, awkward sentences, moments when I could have said what I wanted to say more subtly, or more clearly. I berated myself, and then gave up. I recognize the cycle. I get good about writing regularly, get on a roll, and then get pulled aside. Then I beat myself up, and try again, and fail again.
Summer has nine months off — a time of bliss, I think. She has the summer, right now, and then a quarter’s sabbatical, and then a quarter of unpaid leave subsidized by a large artist’s award she won last year. She has been going to writer’s retreat after writer’s retreat, and last week, she received two acceptance notices for pieces she has written.
“Do I dare tell you?” she speculated, when she was over for an afternoon with her writing. She had a “piece-within-a-piece” she was contemplating for publication. I’d offered to help her read it and make suggestions about cutting. She’d taken me up on the offer.
“Tell me,” I said.
“OK.” She thrust her glass at me. “Promise you won’t be mad?”
“Why would I be?” I pour her wine. I know what she’s going to tell me, that she’s been accepted again.
“Will you be happy for me? Or jealous?” she asks.
“You know I don’t get jealous.”
She tsks and shakes her heads and sips her wine. “OK,” she says and she tells me.
I’m happy for her. I tell her congratulations. I don’t tell her that I appreciate the way she sends me links of places she thinks might like my writing. I know she knows I appreciate her thinking of me, and that she doesn’t like flattery/praise. It does make me happy to know that even though I write only rarely, in bursts here on this blog, and almost never in any other capacity, that she believes in me somehow, enought to send me a link here and a link there, to say, on occasion, “You really just need to send your writing out over and over again. Just get into the routine. Just do it.”
So today I wrote a query letter, and cut-and-pasted an old entry to it, and sent it out. If Summer says, “Do it,” I might as well try.
And I think of how lucky I am. I have several friends who encourage me. My blog friends, and two real-life friends, R.C. and Summer. If I don’t send writing out, it’s my fault. Mostly I don’t have time to write, let alone revise and edit and polish. Today’s ham-fisted attempt at an unfinished retrospective, published in the split-second before Zeke came downstairs in a grumpy mood — “Mooooooommmmm,” she wailed from upstairs, and I finished my sentence and hit publish before she rounded the corner because I knew I was in for a long conversation — is an example of why I rarely fully finish anything I write.
“In a couple of years,” I tell Summer, “she’ll be in college, and I’ll have a lot more time. In the meantime, I don’t mind being available. Those years go fast.”
Summer, childless, nods. She never protests or condemns. She has her own challenges when it comes to writing. And I have mine. Zeke, 15, sensitive and kind and sweet. Happy in general, but tormented at times by the frustrations of being a teenager in a world of doubt and difficulty. We argue sometimes, but mostly we just live in a kind of gentle, easy orbit. Her friends come in and out, in and out, and hang out and leave and come back, and I’d rather have them here than elsewhere, so my computer is commandered for MySpace sessions, and I cook baked potatoes and pasta, and I don’t write.
Still, Summer’s links, today’s writing sessions, the cool night air blowing throw the house after last night’s dramatic thunderstorm — all these feel like nods from the fates. I’ll try to write, when I can, and if I can’t find the time, I’ll try to just accept it.