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Writing and Courage

Some of own picture books
For three years or so (2007-2009?) I was part of an online picture book writing group, an outgrowth of a children’s “listserv” that still serves up occasional messages from members. The “Friday Ideas Group” was the brainchild of Darcy Pattison. Each Friday we selected a prompt, derived from various sources, to generate picture book ideas. I still have a file of my own fits and starts, some of which I still believe capable of a fleshed-out life. Part of the genius of this group (thank you, Darcy) was that it was an “easy” way to organize what for many of us were only moments of free time a week into actual writing time. The prompt was already there—and there was mild accountability as we reported to each other. There was also feedback, encouragement and support. We might have lives filled with jobs, family responsibilities, and work-for-hire writing projects, but this was our time, a commitment to ourselves. Occasionally we would share what was going on in our lives, and express apology or disappointment at ourselves for not having come up with the story starts that were our goals, for having “failed” ourselves and the group. After a week of more than the usual number of self-recriminations, hard times shared, and apologies for not having anything to share (the dog ate my ideas), I wrote a message to the group, the subject of which was “Musing About Courage.” It does me good to read it again. I hope it does the same for others. (original message, December 1, 2007, Musing About Courage, edited) What I notice is that we all have our own time and tides—moving in and out of work, out of hardship, out of success. Sometimes our writing is our work. Sometimes it is our respite, our self-expression, our medicine or salvation. Sometimes it’s only our dream. Other times it becomes just one more way we beat ourselves up, when it feels like one more failure or disappointment in ourselves. And so I just want to say—let’s don’t do that. Let’s not add self-recrimination to the burden of not getting the writing done we wanted to do, we dreamed of doing. We’re still writers. I’m still a mom even when I’m not actively parenting my kids. I’m still a writer even when my output is down. Neither my kids nor my writing work are ever far from my thoughts. Sometimes that has to be enough. I admire and appreciate all of you for the times you write and share, for the times you read and share, for the times you read and plan to share but don’t quite get around to it, for the times you give up, and retreat, for the times you decide to start all over again in this moment. It takes courage to keep writing, to whisper “I’m a writer” into the unlistening night. Thank you for your courage.
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