Entries in Writing (6)


Never Was a High School Cheerleader

That’s not entirely true. I was a high school cheerleader for one mortifying afternoon practice. The new girl at school, I was [what’s the sports word for “cast”] on the JV team. That was generous of them, really, since I was horrible at it. I probably wasn’t that cheerful either, since I was bummed out that I couldn’t be with my awesome new friends who were on Varsity.  They are still amazing, so don’t picture fake, popular cheerleader chicks— picture a talented fashion designer and a topnotch video effects producer, each with a heart the size of the earth and a killer sense of humor. When I realized I wasn’t going to get extra hang time with those two and I got asked to assistant stage manage a professional theatre company’s play, I swiftly ducked out of letting anyone else put their Ked on my right shoulder.

This November, I have felt like a whole cheer squad, kicking my shins up to my nose with excitement for the feats of writer Jennifer Gandin Le as she approached and crossed the 50,000 word finish line in just 28 days + an hour or two. She had 30 days to finish and even though she was knocked down for the better part of a week by a sick baby, she came back strong and added a couple thousand extra words to her novel on top of the 50,000 word challenge. This was all part of National Novel Writing Month, and lucky for me, Jennifer cheered me on the whole way to that purple “winner” bar.

We conspired to encourage each other when I was in her hometown for the Austin Film Festival. We had been members of a diverse and impressive writers’ group in New York from its beginnings, so the kinship was already there. I don’t think I realized, though, how meaningful and encouraging it would be to share the lonely task of writing with someone thousands of miles away— neither of us really knowing what the other was writing (my word count included bracketed questions and notes to self like the one in the first paragraph of this blog), just knowing that we were doing it.

By the way, we also chatted about this blog over the best queso and margarita in Texas— and had a good laugh about how what “she does” may not actually be this. It’s a challenge to share more words here when you’re already trying to write a novel, a play, and a couple of screenplays in a single year. I’ve continued to think about this space though, so you may find me here again on another day when I have share-able thoughts that don’t fit in one of my story worlds. My favorite experiment on How She Does It was curating posts by other creatives who amaze and inspire. So… if that’s you, let us know. We’re more than happy to cheer you on too!


Sorry, Tina

I guess Tina Fey would find me incredibly rude.  Just as I began asking women how they manage the many aspects of their life (creative, personal, trivial), she proclaims in the New Yorker, "What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? 'How old are you?’ 'What do you weigh?' No, the worst question is: 'How do you juggle it all?'" 

So, I'm sorry.  I thought it was a compliment-- to consider all the women I know professional jugglers, as I work on my 5-prop throw while treading a unicycle. At least Deborah Siegel (writer, thinker and new mama of twins) does.  In fact, her blog is what drew my attention to Fey's objections to my query.  

I do think that if we're not asking each other how we manage, then we're silently wondering it.  Or we're whispering it over a quick bite.  "So you're home with your toddler two days out of the week.  Do you get any work done on those days?" I asked a friend.  See, so rude.  And guess how she responded.  "I was going to ask you the same thing!"  

I'm waist deep in rewrites and new writes and also teaching two classes, so I try to get as much done as possible in the span of a questionable nap.  (If I work too late at night, I get creatively wired and can't sleep at all.)  I've also set up a mini table and chairs in my office (thanks, Grandma!) where Francesca can do her "work." Luckily, her feet don't quite reach the floor, so she can climb up there, but has to ask for help to get down.  

I told my friend that I also have this dream that a few of us could be in one room, working, while our mini-mes play together. She loved the idea so much that we tried it out within the week, and... Success.  My child tried to feed hers like she was a doll, but we both agreed that we actually got a lot of work done. It was a huge feat in some ways, especially with my border collie mut trying to steal letter cookies instead of helping to corral the girls.  We have yet to do it again, but that's only because of all of the other wrenches that get thrown into the juggling act. And I know we will.

I'll try to keep taking a moment away from it all to reflect.  Excuse me if I ask you to divulge as well.



In the Dark

The sound of my dogs panting and intermittent bouts of thunder, but nothing else.  No fans or stereos.  No ice maker or whirring dishwasher.  Not even the faint buzz of overhead lighting.  I never noticed before, but candles flicker silently.

A storm has taken out my electricity.  I put my one-year-old in bed and found candles and flashlights in time before the sky and all the houses I can usually see went completely dark.  This is the makings of either a very scary movie or some sort of personal awakening.  I am so used to electricity, so used to instant sound and light, my espresso machine if I want to do some work or the television if I want to turn off my brain.  Now I’m buzzing with all the electricity that isn’t flowing through the house.  

It’s only eight ‘o clock—plenty of time to see what it would have been like to write a couple hundred years ago.  Minus the laptop that still has some juice in its battery.  And the Ben and Jerry’s, which I salvaged from the dark freezer.  But the lack of wifi, the glass of red wine and candlelight—surely this is the stuff of writing years ago in its most romantic sense.  Forget the mastiff licking ice cream off my hip.  (It’s dark, remember?)   


My Day

It’s my first Mother’s Day as a mom, and one of my gifts is to not be with my baby.  As strange and even unsettling as the idea seemed at first, all seems right with the world as she naps at home and I sit at a Starbucks with the latest draft of my screenplay spread across my desktop.  Her daddy made sure that we celebrated well last night and this morning, and now he’s making sure that I am not only a mom, but also my whole pre-mom self.   I used to brag that I could write with my baby on my lap, but now that she’s just about to crawl and really taking the whole world in, I want to take her to the zoo and to the art museum and to watch the ants crawl in our backyard whenever she’s awake... and the I quickly do freelance work while she naps.  That leaves my own writing feeling a bit neglected.  But not this afternoon.

Minutes before curtain at my play a couple of weekends ago, I said to the director and good friend, David, “Is it strange that I’m so relaxed right now?”  He shook his head, even though he looked a little surprised.  It was their opening night after all.  I continued, “It’s just that when we were at your place twenty minutes ago with both babies wanting dinner and three minutes to get myself ready, everything felt so chaotic.  Now, people are about to see my work, and I feel like I’m at a spa.”  Having stayed home with his little girl for the first 8 months while also work full-time, he totally got it.

On this special day, I’d like to say that I love being a mom.  I love it more than I ever could have imagined.  I also love doing what I do, and I just want to express relief that there’s a tiny bit of room in this crazy world for both.  Now back to that script.




This Ride


Sounds like you figured out how to make sure that writing didn't come last today.  How did you do it?  My to-do list so often overwhelms me.  Sometimes I subvert it by deciding that all I'm going to do with every free second is to write.  Other days, I barely manage to open my e-mail.

Do you ever feel like the day starts out like one of those amusement park rides that fakes you out?  You know, the one where you're headed for what looks like a breezy trip downhill and then suddenly you're jerked to the right, pulled to the left, and before you know it you're upside down.