My daughter is three months old today. In honor of that, here's a slam poem I wrote back when she was still in utero, and when we called her (gender unknown) Nibbler. It is not as polished as I would like, but one of the things I'm working on this year is sharing my work as it is rather than waiting (until that sunny, uncluttered, un-busy day that will never come) for it to be "finished."
A Letter to Nibbler
One—you are already the center of my universe,
Which, for what it’s worth, is really a pretty big place
‘Cause you see, I’ve been around for a long time now
before you got here. And that has given me a chance to see
both literally and figuratively, what the world is like.
That’s the benefit of waiting, you see,
I’ve had a chance to be me.
I’ve grown comfortable in my own skin,
I’ve settled all the way in. I’ve found a way to make room
In my world for you.
Two—you are so very loved. Little did I know
How far the love would go. So quickly and so fierce.
Like moths attracted to flames, people gravitate toward new life.
They are all waiting for you to arrive.
Hearts of stone you already seem to pierce—people who
Hardly care about me suddenly and deeply love you.
How could you know how much the world awaits your arrival?
Three—Even once you’re here, I’ll still be me. In a way it will take you
Most of your childhood to see, I’ll still be a whole person. Unique.
Free. Separate from you, existing long before you got here,
Growing on my own long after you arrive. One day you’ll see
That your mom is still free to be a person entirely my own.
One that will be around, free standing, long after you’ve grown.
Four—You’ve made me sicker than I knew was possible.
I mean that literally. I didn’t know I could endure so much illness.
Like having the flu. Combined with a stomach bug that sends you
Running to the toilet, your new best friend. Where you crouch, too exhausted
For months. And months.
Five—Life is hard. And the truth is, as hard as it is when all you can
Do is poop and cry, it will get harder. You’ll still want to cry and scream,
But you won’t be able to do a thing but tough it out. There will
Be days when you’ll want to give up. There will be times when you will
Feel that you cannot go on. And yet, those times will not outweigh the
Adventures that await you.
And we’ll be there to see you through.
Six—we overdid it on your nursery. I didn’t even know that I had
That kind of thing inside of me. I am NOT a decorator.
I do not do pink. I am not interested in home décor.
And yet here we are
Decked out with bunny decals and these tiny little stars
Covered in paintings of the sun and the moon
That we carried around, almost buried, moved from place to place
With no thought of resurrecting them
Until there came you.
Seven—I’ve spent my life learning to be strong and to be brave.
But all of the strength and all of the bravery might not be enough
For the daring challenge in front of me that every day with you
Eight—My life has had some hard parts, but I hope yours won’t.
Still, I worry that if yours isn’t hard, you won’t become brave and strong.
I worry that you’ll whine and whimper and cower all night long.
The world is a rough place and I want you to be ready to face
Whatever comes your way.
Nine—I wonder if the kicking you’re doing now is a small indicator
Of all the trouble you’re bound to cause me once you get here.
Each time I push against you and you push back
I consider all of the stubbornness and rebelliousness
That made your father and I love each other in the first place.
If you embody all that, we better brace ourselves--
We’ll be bound to have our hands full with a freight train
Pushing its way through every obstacle.
Ten—Despite all the worry and all the fear,
I can’t wait to meet you.
The excitement makes it feel like every day
Is the night before Christmas
And I’m suddenly five again,
Waiting and wondering
For the world—you--
For our love story to be told.
Until then, I'll write love letters
and wait for new life to begin.
I miss mixed tapes.
That's what I thought to myself as I walked out to my car (with no tape deck) on the first day of work in quite a while for me.
I miss the days of tapes that had been made by people who knew me well. (I also had a long pause as I stood at my door, missing the tapes, while I pondered the fact that I was now old enough to find myself wallowing in nostalgia at 7:00 AM on an idle Tuesday morning).
This is what I miss:
-The songs all had some kind of thread connecting them, but it was an organic one, not the kind found through logarithms and computerized gadgets, and part of the fun was figuring out the tie that bound the songs together.
-They were always made with love. The maker undoubtedly--no, inevitably, given the nature of tapes--spent hours making the tape, not to mention the time spent deliberating about what to include. The space was finite, precious. The maker had to maximize it with the perfect harmonious mix.
-Those tapes unlocked doors to new and amazing musical experiences. Some of the mixed tapes I received in my adolescence quite literally changed my life. The music was a link to a past, a present, a future. It was a link to a community.
-Road trips without mixed tapes will never be the same. We can have all of the podcasts that we want--all of the digital connections possible--and still, it will not be like the days of mixed tapes, driving down the road rewinding it to exactly the right spot so that you can hear that perfect song just one more time.
Even after all this time, I find that music saves me over and over again. It has always been songs that have brought me through darkness and difficulty, songs that have given me the strength to carry on when the task seemed impossible. Even now, when I'm outdated and far too clueless to know so many of the artists out there, when I no longer have space in my brain for band names and song titles, much less specific lyrics, I find myself clinging to the songs I know and love to give me comfort and guidance when faced with obstacles.
Firstly, I came to the startling realization that the last time I posted on this part of the website was the first day of November. While I've been delinquent across the board on the website lately (and painfully aware of it), this deficiency is particularly problematic.
Secondly, my husband and I are extremely excited about the upcoming arrival of our first child. We await July with eager anticipation.
This is not a post about that eager anticipation.
This post is about how once I began the full time task of growing a human, I became virtually incapable of using my brain for anything more than the most mundane tasks (in addition to all of the brain power I could/ can muster for the vital parts of my actual full time job).
Let's start with November.
Prior to November 1st, I had signed up for NaNoWriMo and set my goal. I am the kind of person who is fiercely driven to achieve goals, so this method works exceedingly well for me. (See my previous NaNoWriMo posts for more about how effective I believe that month to be.) I posted the word count updates on my blog by adding those cool little widgets that show the calendar and word count progress). I also told my class all about my plan and my progress.
November 1st arrived. I was ready. And also in the earliest stages of pregnancy (pre-positive test). I was feeling a little strange and queasy, but more so, I felt fiercely determined to succeed.
By November 15th, I was barely able to make it through the day at work, and the prospect of writing when I got home became increasingly slim. It was discouraging to say the least. I had never before felt so incapable of completing the simplest, smallest tasks. Add in a conference (that was awesome but utterly exhausting) and a week long visit from family (that was a blast but gave me a good excuse not to write), and suddenly I was spiraling toward the end of November with nothing close to 50,000 words.
Even when I did write, I was conscious of every word on the page. I felt as if there was a gigantic wall between the words that had always tumbled so freely around in my mind and the fingers desperately waiting (in vain) to type them onto the screen. I set aside time every day to work toward my NaNoWriMo goal, but much of that time was spent laboriously typing a few words at a time before exceedingly long halts in the progress.
The break from my blog initially came from devoting all of my "writing" time to my manuscript, but at 20,000 words, it became clear that I was spending far too much time hugging the toilet bowl and far too little time writing a story.
As I counted down to November 30th, I braced myself for the rather shocking reality that I would NOT meet my goal this year. I was devastated (but mostly too sick to care).
Then I told myself that I should extend it to two months instead of one. I had almost half of the word count, so the other half could come along in December. That plan helped assuage my conscience. But December was filled with countless obstacles--the most prevalent of which was the fact that between sickness and exhaustion, my work productivity had dropped so sharply that I spent any spare moments desperately trying to catch up on essays and other class-related tasks. My manuscript got put aside.
Here we are in February. The last day of February to be exact (which is what finally prompted me to post this after the ages that it sat in the draft folder).
My manuscript is out there, saved in the nebula of internet files that hold all of my documents... It's as a side item on a long list of side items--that is where this year's November manuscript remains.
I do feel discouraged in some ways--it's hard to cut back on things you're used to doing, and it has been especially hard to deal with my inability to write as easily and freely as I've always been able to do. However, I'm learning a little bit about letting go and accepting reality, which I'm sure will come in handy as we adjust our lives to the new addition in our family. I look forward to the day when new words come easily again.
It's here! It's here! It's NOVEMBER FIRST! My enthusiasm is bubbling over as I contemplate the month that stretches out before me. Aside from being host to Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Guy Fawkes day, "no-shave" November, Movember, and my birthday month, it is (above ALL else--imagine a drum roll here) that magical time of year when writers around the world drop everything else (or keep everything else, but still find a way) to write 50,000 words in a month.
The image to the left comes from the NaNoWriMo homepage, which is also where you can sign up to participate in this monumental annual event.
I'm doing a few things differently this year. Firstly, I'm doing my best to stick to the list that I created after my last novel. Secondly, I'm actually working (at least a little bit) on the whole "outline" thing that I completely skipped last year. I've at least made a list of some major plot events and created a brief sketch of my main characters. It's not much, but it's way more than I had last November. I now see the value of a road map, no matter how vague and inaccurate it may be. I'm still a pantser through and through, but I can now see the value in a tiny bit of foresight.
Some of my students are participating in the Young Writers' Program that NaNoWriMo sponsors. They're excited, too, and I won't be at all surprised if some of them write even more than I do this month. Here's to the journey!
Naysayers abound, but I personally believe that my participation in NaNoWriMo last year changed my life, and I'm so excited to start a new project this year. I recognize that this style doesn't work for everyone, but I'm the kind of writer (and person) who needs a bit of fire under my rear end to make me take the plunge, and NaNoWriMo provides just enough pressure and support to make an ideal situation for me. After participating last year, I now know (all too well) the hard work that lies ahead after the month is over, but the pressure and excitement that come with this month are enough to push that apprehension aside for now and celebrate this moment in time and the infinite possibilities that lie within it.
I'd love to say more, but I've got to get back to that novel! Happy writing to all of you who are starting this journey today!
The image to the left comes from B. Gardening, a landscaping company in Colorado that has a hilarious post on protection of your garden and the eradication of zombie garden gnomes. (I promise, it relates. Read on.)
This is a fun assignment we did in Creative Writing last month. The students wrote apocalyptic stories, and we decided on specific criteria that they would focus on in their stories. After much discussion, we settled on the specifics of:
Once we had decided on the criteria, I created a rubric that only focused on these four areas. The students got to choose their point of view, their main characters, and their plot events. However, they did not have control over the actual apocalyptic scenario. Instead, each student created an apocalyptic event and submitted those descriptions to me. The next day, everyone had to draw an apocalyptic event from the pile, and they were required to create a story around that event.
Here are some of the scenarios that the students submitted:
"that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have..."
© K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All thoughts and ideas are the author's and do not represent any employer.