The One Thing I Never Mind Cleaning Up

If you have children you have no choice: Your house will get messy. I have four of them. It’s difficult to keep order when there are four tornadoes living in your small home and each one decides to unload a different tub of toys.

But there is one mess I never mind picking up.

One that, instead of frustration, brings joy.

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Clara at one and a half

Books. I have thousands of them.

We have books in every room of our dwelling: in the kids’ room, in my bedroom, in the living room, basement, kitchen, and in a drawer in the bathroom.

Some of these paper and glue treasures are borrowed from the library. Some have been rescued from the discard/free bin in front of Lowry’s Books & More. Others were acquired at a library book sale, a friend’s book signing, inherited from our parents, purchased by impulse or because of college requirement.

My wife and I didn’t have a conversation about it but somehow books ended up on the bottom of our bookshelves, easily accessible to crawling babies and toddlers. Its almost as if the shelves are begging to be cleared off with one sweep of the arm. This occurs daily and is almost always followed by one of their smiles of immense satisfaction like you and I would have after a hard day of spring cleaning.

But my kids don’t just make messes with books.

Before they could even read I’ve found each one of my children in a room by themselves, by their own volition, flipping through a book. A pile lay all around and they sift through their favorites, looking at the pictures and occasionally making up the words using incoherent babble.

Here’s a few of the books my children have settled on recently.

Emily, my youngest and a proud eighteen months old, goes for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon. It’s on my night stand. I admire the dense plotting at the end of this unfinished novel and she points to random words and emits screeches. Cute screeches.

Bobby, my third child a robust three and a half, carries armfuls, yes, armfuls of Spider-Man and Star Wars books around the house. His favorite is anything with black Spider-Man. He clarifies it is when he has the symbiote suit on not Venom. There’s a difference.

Clara, my second, a joyful five and a half, is currently learning how to read. I marvel at her willingness to trudge through books fit for second graders. She is eager to learn and is already reading astonishingly well. She loves the Finding Dory book a #2 reader she recently picked up from the library.

June, my oldest at seven and a half and most advanced reader, loves Elephant and Piggy Books, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel, and the Princess in Black series. I marvel at her confidence and vocabulary. Life goes so fast.

Some say books belong on shelves. A home is neat and tidy that way.

I am happy that our books rarely are.

How does your family incorporate books into daily life?

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Writing As Play

The very first error I made with my novel was thinking it was a linear process. Write one scene and the next until finished. This may be true for the first draft, but not the rest of them.

Part of the fun of writing a novel is seeing what lay down the road of each possibility. What if the character didn’t follow when they should have? What if they were killed? How can this portion be even more gut wrenching? – and then writing that scene to see where it goes.

Many of these pieces will never be read by anyone but the author and may be considered by some to be wasted time and energy. Not I. This is part of the joy and play of writing.

As writers we must turn over every stone, make the road long and necessarily weary, before we can stand confidently on our finished book. Through the struggle I admit I lose some of the fun and playfulness. There should be joy and it is work. For me, they are intermingled and confused all too often.

Every now and again my kids remind me of this. They have so much joy in what they do where I take things too seriously. It is a refreshing reminder to pull my head out of the ground and see the sun. I love my children for this and so much more.

Cheers,

Bob

 

Overnight Success or Steady Eddie?

I have three kids and for each of them I’ve written in a journal for the first year of their life. I talk about the world, what I hope for them, their birth story, about their family, what they did with their day and the joys and struggles of parenthood. I pause, just before turning off the lights, to write for ten minutes. It’s been my “blog post a day”, but for them. I bring this up because in three days, I’ll finish my son’s journal.DSCN8360

Often I struggle to find time to write, or at least the allotment that I think works best for me. I search for an hour or more when maybe I should be looking for a small collection of minutes, just like his journal. Over the past year, I’ve put about 60,000 words down without worrying about the time, struggling with not-writing, writer’s guilt, or being emotional about not getting something done.

It’s strange how effortless this was. Many times in my writing life I see the overnight success and grumble. I wonder how they got there. I sprint and burn out and if I’m honest I lose the taste for it at times. I suppose it’s not about the book or the sprint, but the next word and the slow plod. Perhaps I should take my time, write every day for fifteen minutes, instead of moaning about never having time for it.

What do you think writer? How do you get words down consistently?

Write today, even for a minute.

Cheers,

Bob