I was working on a blog post on Monday that started with:
I’m having the best day.
Silly, silly me.
Fast forward a few hours and I was at CHEO with ten-year-old Niamh who was having an asthma attack. We were there for four hours and left sometime after 11pm, with her breathing in control, but with her still feeling very miserable.
Exhausted, it threw off the cheerful mood that I had been feeling since the previous Friday. Karma, huh.
But I still want to tell you about the few days previous because they really were fantastic.
On Sunday evening I was on a major high from my weekend away with my writing group. We had organized a writing retreat for ourselves where we stayed at a spiritual retreat near Calibogie for two nights – away from our husbands and children – where we had the peace and quiet needed to write.
I worked on a short story that I had been inspired to start writing on Thursday, and by the time we left for home on Sunday afternoon, I had a complete draft of this story totalling 5,500 words. It is still rough and needs a lot of editing, but I have the entire story written.
Sometimes when I have a little time to myself in which to write, the words won’t flow, but on the weekend I was fortunate that they did and so I came home feeling refreshed, rested, competent, buoyed, enthusiastic, and content.
Sunday evening I reassimilated with my family, and one of my daughters drew this:
Of course I had a tear or two, and I patted myself on the back for the second time that weekend, not only for being an awesome writer, but also because I figured that I must be doing this parenting gig right too.
Monday morning I was up early, and before I left for work I read the draft of my short story through in its entirety for the first time, and I didn’t hate it, and didn’t cringe while reading nearly as much as I thought I was going to.
This in itself is huge because the more I read about the writing process, the more I realize that the first drafts of stories written by even really great writers usually need an awful lot of revision. On the CBC’s Canada Writes website, I found this exerpt of a piece written by Stuart McLean, who in my mind has completely mastered the art of writing the short story:
You should know that my first drafts are probably not much better than your first drafts, and my ideas are certainly no better than your ideas. The difference is I don’t expect my first drafts to be any good. In fact, mostly I expect them to be lame. What I do expect is, that if I keep at it and write draft two and three and then show draft four to my editor Meg and incorporate her suggestions into draft five, that maybe by draft six or seven, when Vinyl Café producer Jess Milton starts fiddling with it, that we might come up with something… well, that will be good enough. The idea we started with is not nearly as important as the fact that we started – and most importantly, kept going. The most important thing, then, if you want to be a writer, is to find something to get you going. What usually works for me is a deadline. Sign up for a writer’s class, join a writer’s group, look into the Young Writer’s Group online, volunteer for a local paper… do whatever you have to do so that someone somewhere is expecting you to hand them something. That will get you going. Make it as good as you can make it, and then show it to someone and listen to what they have to say and then go at it again.
It was a bit difficult to face the work week on Monday morning because my mind was still on my writing and all I wanted to do was spend the day editing my story. I was even hoping that the cold that I was coming down with would be enough to keep me home for the day, but too bad for me, my immune system is razor sharp after the bombardments of the past few years of having children enter the school system. Alas, I was well enough to go to work.
It was however a perfect spring day and my bike ride to the office helped to keep my mood high.
And then – the icing on the cake – my French oral language results arrived in my inbox. I had gotten the result that I have been working towards for the last two years. Fluently bilingual public servant here, folks.
And so, all in all, it was a pretty spectacular few days.
Which was much needed for this usually tired, and let’s face it, cranky, full-time working mother. It is weekends like the one that I just had that make me better able to handle when my daughter suddenly has difficulty breathing and I have to pack her up to CHEO in an instant. We all need these breaks from the everyday so that we can deal with the normal events that make up life of a busy mother, wife, writer, government peon, person. Let’s take the time that we need, without guilt, because it is a really healthy and good thing to do.