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Suck it up

When I was younger, I would write constantly. In my juvenilia, I have dozens of novel beginnings – never the ends. I filled countless Composition Books with stream of consciousness scribbles grappling with big feelings and real events that never evolved into something someone would want to read. I took writing courses where I started what I thought would be life-altering screenplays, novels and feature stories. But never, ever, did I finish them.

I don’t mean that I got to the end of a draft and then got stuck on the polishing and revising. I mean that I would write a bit, enough to share my 20 or 30 pages with the class, then spend my time polishing that first bit over and over. I never moved forward.

It is an experience not uncommon among those who wish to write.

Now this did not mean I never finished ANYTHING. As a student, I wrote all manner of research papers, both long and short. I wrote up research reports for the Urban Institute and for various producers I worked for. When I interned in Hollywood, every day I wrote several “coverage” or summary reports on scripts that had been submitted.

But if it was MY work and there was no external deadline, well, it was not going to get finished.

But becoming a mother changed that.

I know there was a time when women who wanted to write had to choose between being a mother or being a writer. And some women may still feel this way. One of my inspirations as a writer has been Madeline L’Engle and she wrote MANY times about the guilt she felt trying to do both and not being able to fully serve either.

But, despite the time sinks, interruptibility and constant neediness you are answerable to as a mother, I found that I gained the most important quality that both mothers and writers have in common. The ability to JUST SUCK IT UP.

I remember that when I was younger and busy with my work and social life, I - like many others before me- would say “Gosh I’m so tired. I’m exhausted when I get home. How can I fit a kid into this?” It’s a question I still get from childless friends who complain about their lives being so full and at the edge of exhaustion: “How do you do it?”

The secret, as every parent in the world has discovered long before I did, is: YOU SUCK IT UP.

Yeah – you’re tired from work, from trying to help a friend move, from cleaning the house, from a long commute, from being up all night with a cranky baby. But dinner still has to be made. Children still need a glass of water or a story before bed. The baby spit up on the floor and the dog just puked on the rug. There’s a mound of laundry on the floor. And someone’s got to deal with everything. And that someone is YOU.

Your only choice is: TO SUCK IT UP. Just do it. Don’t whine about it. No one is listening anyway.

Now what I’ve found, as I’ve built up my SUCK IT UP powers to their full potential is that it’s the same quality a WRITER has. Don’t feel the muse knocking at your door today? SUCK IT UP. Write anyway. Feeling tired or distracted? SUCK IT UP. Write anyway. Reading what you wrote yesterday and feeling that you deserve to have every knuckle broken for typing copy that bad? SUCK IT UP and keep writing anyway. Have you gotten to the end of your piece? No? Then SUCK IT UP and finish the damn draft.

Just SUCK IT UP and write. There is no other way.


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