year of writing

January 5, 2012

Post image for year of writing

Me, squinting and looking sheepish.

I did not write much in 2011.

That realization sort of stuns me. I didn’t recognize it until the year began to dwindle and I glanced back. I spent a lot of time last year working behind the scenes of my writing, without actually writing. I futzed under the hood, you could say, without actually driving the car.

And how, you might ask, did I do that for a year?

I spent the first three or four months of the year researching why writing matters. This was, ostensibly, a means of starting a book chapter called (what else) “Why Writing Matters.” I can’t, I figure, expect parents to read a book about helping their kids with writing unless they’re convinced that the endeavor will be worth their while. So I simply set out to do a little research, and found myself falling into a rabbit hole of studies, reports, articles and books on how writing is becoming more important than ever in the modern world. And concurrently found other studies, reports, articles and books bemoaning the fact that writing is being more neglected than ever in most classrooms. It’s a fascinating, horrifying story, and I couldn’t move on from it; I just kept reading, gathering notes and pulling out my hair. I managed to collect it all into an article query, and wrote an introduction to the article, but haven’t yet had a magazine take me up on writing the actual piece. It’s an important story, and one I’d still like to tell.

I spent another few months preparing workshops which I presented at a homeschool conference and elsewhere. I’ve given workshops before, but these were two completely new ones, and it surprised me how much time they took to put together. Good news: those months of research wriggled their way into both workshops. Suddenly I had more evidence, more grit for parents, to work them up about writing. Giving the workshops was exciting–there’s nothing like sharing ideas with others and getting immediate, tangible responses. (And hugs, even.) The give-and-take with participants gave me all the more insight about kids, parents and writing for my book project.

Still, it wasn’t writing.

I spent another two months redesigning my blog. This was perhaps the most frivolous, not-related-to-writing distraction of all. I just wanted my blog to look more like the vision I had in my mind; I had no idea how much I had to learn about code and such to make that happen. It was a fulfilling little dalliance, though, and it had to be good for the synapses in my forty-six-year-old brain. Now I’m redesigning my homeschool support group’s website, so the experience wasn’t all shallow self-indulgence.

Looking back on how I spent 2o11, and how much I wrote, I realize that I worked on just three projects: that article query, my e-book for parents on facilitating writer’s workshops (still unfinished) and this blog. That’s it.

Sigh.

I also realized something else. There are two things getting in the way of my writing.

  1. my book project
  2. this blog

I know, I know! How can writing a book get in the way of writing? But a book project is nothing if not big. I knew that writing a book would take years. It’s been almost three years since I got the original audacious idea of writing it. In that time I’ve done a lot of thinking, outlining and note-taking. I’ve even done a lot of writing. But I can see now that I am years and years away from anything resembling a completed book. I just don’t have the time to make it happen faster. I’m still a homeschooling parent, which implies a certain level of busy.

I’m also a monogamous-project person. Ask any of the moms in my homeschooling group, who see me knitting at the park week after week. I work dutifully at one project and finish it before I even swatch for another one. It’s a little ridiculous. I knitted a single sweater coat for nine months until the thing reached my ankles. I’m not sure what this tendency says about me. That I value finished projects over process? That I can’t multi-task? That I’m tunnel-visioned? True. True. True. But it’s also true that if I want something I will work for it. Stubbornly. Single-mindedly. Mulishly.

I thought I wanted to write a book. I do want to write a book. But what I realize, now, is that I want even more to help other parents with their kids’ writing. And if I put all my time into writing a book that won’t make it into another parent’s hands for years and years, then I’m not going to be helping anyone for a mighty long time.

Then there’s the fact that my project single-mindedness hasn’t allowed me any other writing for almost three years. So many times an essay idea has whispered in my ear, and I’ve ignored it, knowing that I’d never get a book finished if I got sidetracked with other whims. But, oh, how I’ve missed writing essays and articles! I’ve missed breathing on them and shining them up until I could see my reflection in them. I’ve missed sharing them with my writer friends, and re-writing them, and re-writing them again, and finding potential markets for them, and sending them off, with held breath and crossed fingers. I’ve missed that enchanted period before the rejection arrives, when the unlikely is possible.

I haven’t written a new essay in almost three years. I stopped writing essays just about the time I started getting them published.

Suddenly I’m feeling a little sad about that.

I’m not giving up on my book project. I’ve just decided to let it become the afghan that I knit at on the side, for years, without worrying about when it will get finished.

In the meanwhile, I’m allowing myself to dally. I’ll keep working at my e-book on facilitating workshops. I’m excited about the e-book model: the shorter format, the self-publishing angle. I’ll try out this first idea, and if it goes well, I very well may release other portions of the book in my brain as e-books. I love the idea of potentially helping other parents sooner, rather than later.

And I’m going to get back to writing essays and articles. I’ve pulled a few simmering-too-long ideas right up to the front burners. Feels good.

But back to that other writing obstacle: this blog.

I’ve kept up this blog as doggedly as everything else I do. A post a week, most weeks. For a long time I kicked myself for not writing more. I was convinced that I needed to post more often to build up my audience. And how I wanted to build my audience! I kept waiting for the month that my blog would take off, and attract masses. But, no. There have been no take-offs or other statistical pyrotechnics. My blog audience has grown slowly and steadily over the months and years. What else did plodding, deliberate me expect? I have a relatively small yet loyal readership. Every month there are a few more of you. I am finally beginning to take satisfaction in the fineness of that gift.

But a post a week here has been too much for me. As this current post is making all too evident, I don’t write short. Wish I could, but I can’t. So even posting every eight to ten days meant that blogging took up a good chunk of my writing time.

No, I’m not giving up the farm. I’m just putting my eggs in the basket that says that most of my readers will keep showing up, even if I only post every two weeks or so. That’s what feed readers and email subscriptions are for, after all.

I’m also hoping to focus my posts here on writing with kids, and passion-driven learning because those are the topics that matter most to me. I’ve finally figured out that I’m not Soule Mama, you know? I may drop in some atwitter posts now and again–heavy on photos, light on text–because I don’t want to things to get too impersonal. But I have a better sense of what my mission is, and what I want to share here.

So. All of this has been a bloated, navel-gazing introduction to my new year’s resolution: In 2012 I will write.

Wish me luck.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cari January 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

You are on my reader and I will look forward to your thoughts when you have time to share them. You’re wise to keep things real, balanced and on target with your passions. Best wishes in 2012.

Cari

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patricia January 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I know you’re a writer, Cari, so you understand how important motivation is to writing. It’s the same for us as it is for our kids.

Thanks for reading!

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amy January 6, 2012 at 5:33 am

i love your posts whenever they appear.

and i do love the idea of an ebook – in fact i would love an ebook of all your posts, so i could read them all together on my kindle. i have seen other bloggers do that.

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patricia January 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

Thanks, Amy!

Wow, I’ve never heard of bloggers making ebooks of their posts. My hope is that my e-book will offer something very different from what you can find here on the blog. The information will be more developed, and hopefully more user-friendly. The writing will certainly be more polished, and organized. Like a book, but in a shorter format.

As much as I love blogging, my writing here is very casual and off-the-cuff. I’m looking forward to being able to offer readers something more cohesive and instructive. We’ll see…

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Just Peaches January 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Understood! I’ll pop my head in now and again to see what’s up at the Wonder Farm and drop a line if I think I see something you might be interested in. Good Luck!

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patricia January 8, 2012 at 9:20 pm

You’d better! This blog wouldn’t be the same without your regular comments. And I love it when you send along good stuff. Thanks for your continual support, Peaches!

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Kristin January 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Happy New Year Tricia!

You know me. I’m blunt. I’ll get to-the-point.

I get how much time writing one post a week consumes, and how doing that may be interfering with your other writing goals, but I think I think that you are selling the writing that you’ve done on your blog short; it counts too and it’s useful to many. I’m sure it’s been helpful to you to get feedback and to sort your thoughts for your book, hasn’t it?

This is not meant to be condescending, but I think you are too hard on yourself; and I also think that it might help if you learned to say “no” to doing things that may, in addition to your blog, be interfering with the time you have to pursue your other writing interests. (I know how much you volunteer to do stuff for our homeschooling support group, for example, and there are many moms who could step up.)

I’d like to give you credit where it is due. You, after all, are the one who introduced me to the blogosphere. You’ve motivated not only me to write, but all 3 of my kids in your writing group. I’m asking you to note what you’ve accomplished (which is a hell of a lot!) and to be proud of it, not sheepish. (BTW: I like that intro. photo.)

Of course I’ll read your posts no matter what the duration between them is because they contain quality information.

Thank you and keep ‘em comin’ please Amiga!

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patricia January 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Oh, I didn’t mean to discredit the blog in any way; I’m sorry if what I wrote came across that way! This blog has been incredibly valuable and meaningful to me. I’ve learned so much from the feedback from my readers. The blog is what made me realize that I want to help parents with their kids’ writing.

What I’ve come to recognize, though, is that I put unreasonable expectations on myself about how often I need to post here. I think I can post less often, and readers who want to read will still keep coming back. That’s what I meant to point out.

I’m not meaning to be hard on myself. It’s not that I didn’t work diligently at my projects last year; I recognize that. It’s just that many of them were peripherally related to writing, and I suddenly realize how much I miss the kind of writing I used to do. I want to make that more of a priority right now.

I agree that I should be better at saying no! Most of what I do for our group, though, (outside of redesigning the website) I do selfishly because I want to provide certain opportunities for my kid. For many of these activities, I feel that if I don’t step up and offer them, maybe no one will. Learning opportunities for my kids have always been priority #1 for me; I’ll have plenty of time to write when they’ve all moved on.

Thanks for the never-ending support, Kristin!

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Melissa Taylor @imaginationsoup January 11, 2012 at 5:57 am

We will still show up, don’t you worry!! Go after that book – it will be excellent and I’ll be first in line to buy it.

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patricia January 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thanks so much, Melissa!

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Heather January 14, 2012 at 6:22 am

First, that sweater is truly amazing! I can appreciate the struggle for balance. It is so nice to be able to work through this and come to a decision. I hope you rededication to your goal makes things better. I am still in the refining stage. Also, I find what you say has such value I won’t disappear.

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patricia January 15, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Thanks for the support, Heather!

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Carrie Pomeroy January 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

I agree with Kristin that your blogging has helped a lot of people–I see posts by you popping up all over the web as someone’s favorite post about something–so your blog work has legs, ma’am.

But. I understand that desire to put effort into getting work into print or online publications edited by other people. There’s something about it that is so validating. I stopped blogging because I felt as if it gave me that instant gratification of sharing my work, but I realized that it also was keeping me from working to pursue publications that would make me feel more like a “real” writer and possibly access bigger audiences.

I’m continually amazed by your generosity and enthusiasm. A minister friend of mine talks about stopping to figure out what really “calls” you. It sounds like writing articles is calling you strongly in 2012, and I feel sure you’ll find ways to pursue that calling.

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patricia January 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Carrie, your middle paragraph describes my thoughts exactly. I don’t plan to give up blogging, though, because it’s come to be so meaningful to me–and I learn so much from my readers. I just won’t push myself to post quite as often.

I do feel called to write articles this year, and I also feel called to focus this space on discussing writing and interest-led learning. It’s been fulfilling to see how the post I wrote addressing a reader’s writing concerns has generated a lot of traffic. That tells me that I must be on the right track. :-)

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Sylvia@MaMammalia January 29, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hi there, I found you by way of an Unconditional Parenting Yahoo! group. What a lovey discovery! I’m adding you to my reader because I’ve found some inspiration here :) I recently started to entertain the possibility of writing and homeschooling so I’m interested in what you’re up to.

Funny, I’m also a project-monogamist. While I can multi-task and run a hundred miles a minute, I’ve realized that I don’t really enjoy it. I LIKE doing one thing at time. I like the focus, attention, and riding on that compelling drive. Not very conducive to modern life, but then, neither are public schools ;)

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patricia January 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Well, thanks to those Unconditional Parents for sending you this way, Sylvia!

At least we recognize that we’re project-monogamists, right? If we want our kids to understand what kind of learners they are, it’s good for us to do the same for ourselves.

Glad to know you’ll be reading along!

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