Featured

Muddling Through Mud

I’ve been working on the same book idea for 4 years now. Some days I’m in love with it. Some days I’m hovering over the delete key. At some point, I’d like to be done. But the more I delve into it, the less likely that seems.

Every new person that reads my work points out, in varying degrees, problems. This is normal. Writing is about drafts, drafts, and more drafts. Intellectually I understand that. But it’s exhausting and disheartening to get crisp white papers back full of blood. Every time. No matter how many good things they say, it’s the bad ones I remember. It’s the bad ones I have to try to fix. And so many times, I have no idea how.

Day after day I pour my soul into my story. And lately, I feel like all I’m making is mud. farmto table (2)

This is not a post written to gain sympathy. I simply want to be honest. And this is where I am in my current MFA journey, one packet in and very discouraged. I’m tired, my heart hurts, and when my heart hurts, I write. Thus this self-indulgent, depressing post. 😉

I don’t have any real solutions to add. There’s not going to be a big hopeful but and the end of this. I will, however, offer a small one: even on my worst days, I can’t imagine stopping. Trying to stuff my dreams and my stories back in would be like trying to put a full Kleenex box back together after my two-year-old has ripped out all the tissues and scattered them all over the house.

So I guess I keep going. Maybe the mud will clear. Maybe the blood will dwindle. Maybe I’ll make it; maybe I won’t.

All I know, is there’s no way in hell I’m getting all those damn tissues back in that box.

 

Writing Prompt

I’ve been having a wonderful, overwhelming time so far at my MFA residency. Today, true to my word, at least for now, I wanted to share a little snippet of an event with you.

I attended a lecture from a graduating student about incorporating trauma into your writing. At the end she gave us a prompt and asked us to write about a difficult event from our past: what was important, what you remember, what you don’t.

We were short on time, we only had five minutes, but it was an interesting exercise. This is what I wrote:

What matters is this.

My grandma forgot who I was.

I was in 7th, maybe 8th grade.

We were watching TV, I don’t remember what.

My grandma was in a chair.

I was on the floor, pulling on the long carpet strands.

She called me a beautiful girl.

Asked who I was.

I couldn’t answer.

Someone did, my dad or my grandpa.

There was a nightmare.

She thew snakes.

My grandma forgot who I was.

My mother promised me she wouldn’t.

Mom’s Going Back to School

Approximately two hours ago I (ok my husband) loaded up the car with probably more stuff than I needed. It was pouring rain as I pulled down the driveway. A spider man helmet got stuck underneath the car and I had to get out, turning my curled hair into a frizzy mess, while my husband pushed the car backwards to free it. My two oldest sons raced me to the corner. I let them win, then I waved goodbye.

And now I’m here, at the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. My luggage is unpacked. (ish- stop judging) My residency package is picked up. All that is left is to wait for the first meeting, and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into and if I’m going to make it out.IMG_20180713_151458

I was talking to one of my aunts a couple days ago. She commented that motherhood hasn’t changed who I am. At first, I didn’t agree. There are oceans, mountains, planets between the person I was six and a half years ago and the person I am now. Most days, I feel like an exhausted wisp of my former self. “Yeah, I used to be smart,” is a common retort of mine. But as I reflected longer, I realized, though I have changed, it’s not in the negative, and all-consuming way it sometimes feels.

Motherhood has made me, more me, which I believe was exactly her point. It’s forced me to be more honest about myself. It’s shed light on anxiety issues I’d previously been able to hide with careful planning. It’s forced me make more specific, more confident requests:

“Yes, I am sure I want you to pick up those toys, even if you are going to play with them sometime in the next 10 years.”

It’s made me focus on what’s actually important.

IMG_20180713_083226

And now reader, if you’re wondering what any of this has to do with me beginning my master’s program, here it is:

Old me, the one with brain power, and free time, secretly wanted to be a writer. A real one with a book, or several, on the shelf and another formulating on her computer. But old me would not have signed up for this program and pushed to make this dream into a goal.

So, although three children ago might have been an easier time to decide to enroll full-time in graduate school and be away from home for 10 days a semester, although I might have felt more quick witted and less frazzled, although my biggest hesitations now center around my children and how they will cope, I know it is because of them, not in spite of them that I’m here.

No, I don’t have hours a day to stare blankly into the heart of my computer and come up with a masterpiece. No, I haven’t suddenly turned into an extrovert who loves meeting new people. Of course I’m going to miss my family like crazy.

But I wrangle three small humans, bent on mutual destruction, on a daily basis now. So yes I’ve changed. And Yes I’m the same.

And yes, I can do this.IMG_20180713_165755

I’m planning to document my creative writing MFA (Masters of Fine Art) adventure here on this blog and to be faithful about writing regular posts about my experiences and progress. So, if you’re a mom on a mission, an aspiring author, or you’re my relative and feel obligated, make sure you check back! And, to make it easier, if you follow the blog you’ll get an update when I publish something new.

Thanks for visiting!!!

Writing: A Dream Worth the Thud

eraser-316446_1280

Dreams are amazing. They fuel our passions and send us flying. But then they get hard. They collide with reality. Gravity takes over. And falling hurts.

I want to be a writer. I want to be an author (published please!). And I know it takes work to get there. I knew that from the beginning. But knowing that what I’m going through is normal, isn’t all that helpful during the slumps.

It’s been several months since I sat down to seriously write. For a few of those I had a good excuse: my body tries to kill me when I’m pregnant. But thankfully, not for the full nine months. And so, almost six months in and able to eat food like a normal person, I should be trucking away. I’m not.

megaphone-911858_1920My inner critique is loud and obnoxious and incredibly unhelpful. My energy level is non-existent (yay pregnancy). And my inbox is full of old form rejection letters, because I haven’t been submitting enough to collect new ones.

One question keeps replaying in my head, “Why are you writing book two when no one is
interested in the first one?”

But here’s the thing, I do have an answer.

I love my story and my characters. I believe their journey deserves an ending, even (though this would be sad) if it never gets published. I just need to make sure these answers are bigger than the question.

To do this, my expectations have to change. I can’t get up at 5am anymore to write. Littlest guy won’t allow it. Nor am I truly functioning by the time we get crazy boys one and two sleeping. But there are other options. I can sneak away when hubby gets home and on the weekends. I can make time. And I should. I am happier when I am writing, making real progress.

And I can tell my inner critique to CHILL OUT. It’s different writing book two. I have a little bit too much information about how much work happens after you type the words, “The End.” But that’s not a good excuse. One of my writing buddies shared a quote by Shannon Hale a while ago that I loved:

 “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

Now, I just need to have this running through my head when I sit down to write…

And most importantly, I have to decide that the dreaming, the soaring, is worth the thud. Because it is. (Yet another life-lesson I learned from Ann of Green Gables 🙂 )angel-1008398_1280

Writing Lessons from a 2-Year-Old

Writing Lessons (1)I was watching my two-year-old son play the other day, running from home-base (which was me on the couch) to his kitchen play-set, his car, and then back.

Each time he left, he’d say, “Bye mommy. I go to work now.”

And I’d respond, “OK, have fun!”

Then he’d beam up at me and say, “OK. Fun.” And run off again.

I found myself wishing I could capture that pure joy. Feel the pride that completely transformed his face when he knew he’d said something and I’d understood it. I found myself wishing I could write like my 2-year-old. Not in broken –English, of course (unless the story calls for that), but totally absorbed in the wonder of words.

So, for the next couple days, I sat back and observed him with this questions in mind: What writing lessons can I learn from this crazy ball of energy? This is what I came up with.

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Ever watch a kid launch himself off a rock? Or belly-flop from an ottoman to a couch? (Mine likes to preface this last one by saying, ‘Doggie, doggie, Doooo” –not sure why) They are fearless. And sure, sometimes that leads to scraped knees or a knot on their heads, but it also leads to new experiences. Some mornings I find myself sitting in front of the computer, paralyzed by the idea that I don’t know what I’m doing; worried that I’m venturing off to ‘parts-unknown’ without a map. But that’s where the stories live, and really, the worst that can happen is several hours later my delete button gets a real work-out. As one of my high school math teachers used to say, “Buck up little campers!” Adopt the courageous (and sometimes foolish) heart of a 2-year-old, and just go for it!

  1. It’s OK to talk to yourself.20150828_165243

So honestly, this is one I was pretty good at already. Hanging out with two kids all day
I’m the only adult around to talk to so I take advantage, but the way children talk to themselves is different, better. Usually when I’m holding a conversation with myself the content is boring. Chores, lists, plans for supper. When my son talks to himself he does voices (usually high and squeaky); he takes on invisible bad guys, argues with Mickey Mouse, and travels to the moon. Think of all the adventures I could write down if only I was brave enough to have them in my head first.

  1. Keep trying until you get it right.

I tend to be impatient. I try things a couple times and if I don’t get it, I move on. Imagine if I’d done that as a kid. Imagine if, after the first couple times I fell trying to take a step I’d said, “Oh well, I guess that’s not happening.” I watch my son, with his tongue stuck out in concentration, try again and again and again to stack blocks. And every time they fall he just picks them up and starts over. Writing takes drafts, lots of drafts. Publishing takes nos. But I can’t just move on. I have to keep going until the writing is right and until I get a yes.

  1. It only takes a few words to get your point across.

My son, in four words or less, can tell me he needs a drink or something to eat, wants to go to the park, can’t reach a toy…etc. But it takes me four hundred words to set a scene. When I got my first set of real edits from a critique partner one of the biggest ones was, ‘cut, cut, cut.’ And I thought to myself, “But all the beautiful words! I worked so hard to string those suckers together.” Of course, when I sat down and actually studied them, there were a lot of things I could delete. If you can say the same thing but in fewer words, you probably should. Now if only I could remember that the first time…

  1. Language is magic.

This is what really inspired the post. I take communication so lightly now. I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve forgotten its magic. But I see it again when I watch my son talk. His face illuminates after even a simple phrase like, “More yogurt please.” He’s discovering the power I take for granted. Words. Thoughts made audible.  Transformed into something that can be shared and understood. It really is magic. And if I can only tap in to the wonder I see on his face every time it works, my stories will sing.

I’m a Writer…There I said It

Several weeks ago my family and I attended a small group from our church. It was one of the first meetings so we went around the room and did introductions. Simple stuff. What’s your name? Where do you work? Questions I’ve answered a thousand times. But as they came to me, I found myself giving an answer I never have. At least not out loud and not to strangers.

“Hi, my name is Tacheny Perry and I’m a stay-at-home mom and a writer.”

 End of sentence. No caveat. No prefacing it with ‘aspiring.’ Just “I’m a writer.”

And saying it like that made my heart pound, as if when they heard the ‘unpublished’ part, they’d laugh or throw rotten fruit or something.

But I said it anyway, because that’s what I am. Being a published author may still be just a dream, but I’ve always been a writer.

I get up every morning at 5am and pour my soul into characters I’ve only book
met in my head. I laugh and cry with them, because to me they’re real. And yes, some day I want to go into a bookstore, walk over to a shelf, and find a book with my name on it. But even without that, I love sharing quiet mornings with my stories.

So here I am, irrational fear in check(mostly), introducing myself to yet another group of people:

I am a writer.

Welcome to my journey.

And please, no one throw virtual fruit at me 😉