What am I?

I’m attempting to implement a more disciplined writing schedule for myself. Seeing as how it’s been about a week since I’ve added anything new to the fictional work I’m in the middle of, I would take any schedule not defined as “sporadic” at this point.

 

I’m a closet introvert with occasional people-pleasing tendencies that can cause my self-esteem to wobble, so I’m prone to battling some pretty ridiculous mind games. I’ve had a few things published, giving me great joy, but there’s always that little, persistent voice saying, “You won’t be able to do that again. That was a fluke.”

 

Part of the problem is that, for me, my writing practice and eventual product can’t easily be categorized. Is it my job? Well, I don’t make enough to support myself or add much to my family’s expenses with the proceeds of my books. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I pause, wondering how pretentious it would sound to say I’m an author. Is it my hobby? Hobbies are great, but that sounds too casual. It doesn’t adequately express my attachment to this process. Is there such a thing as a jobby? Anyway…

 

Unless I place an appropriate value and priority on my writing plan, I will always push it to the back, that dark, overlooked room in my brain where I list things like: clean the top of the refrigerator or dust the ceiling fan blades. Those are tasks that I should do but other things just seem more pressing.

 

And then there’s the ever-present fear of failure and humiliation. When you write something and put it out for anyone to read, you invite all kinds of criticism. It’s like you’re saying: “Here’s something I’ve created and I love and I’m proud of. Please pick this apart and tell me I stink.”

 

Another possible hindrance to choosing words for sentences and sentences for paragraphs, is the Fame Dilemma. Am I doing this for the sake of art and the chance to create something brand new or is it so I can meet Oprah? In certain circles, ambition is a dirty word, especially for women (hopefully that becomes less of a cultural issue with each passing decade). This desire for success seems innocent enough until it starts to feel wicked and vulgar, and I question why I even attempt to get anything published at all.

 

Such is the battle being waged upon my psyche.

 

I say all this because I’ve been thinking a lot why I started a blog in the first place way back in 2011. Originally, I wanted a place to update friends about our adoption. The 4+ years that slogged on without our son home made me rethink the purpose of my blog and ultimately find my voice. I grew to love my voice and find joy in refining the language that spoke to the hearts of others.

 

So every once in a while, when I’m in an Ideas Desert with no words to make sentences and no sentences to make paragraphs, I feel false and empty. I plop down on the dry ground of that metaphorical desert floor and weep into my hands because all of my thoughts are jumbled and imprecise. My emotions are high and my understanding is low. And I’m afraid the fairy dust has dissolved and the magic is gone.

 

But eventually, I discover something new I want to say and my voice returns. And I write, not because I want money (though that would be nice) or fame (is that Oprah calling?), but because words have become my favorite medium. I like to try them out, chewing them in my mouth briefly before choosing the best one for my taste. I like constructing sentences, long ones with plenty of descriptions and short ones with abbreviated emphasis. I like to look at the jagged margins where I can watch my paragraphs building a story or a series of thoughts like a staircase.

 

I like writing, and I’m going to try to employ this quote from the legendary tennis star, Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Whatever this is, it is mine.

 

My name is Abby and writing is my jobby.

Family Reading Night

At the end of February, I was given the opportunity to speak at a Family Reading Night at my son’s elementary school. I spoke for about 20 minutes about different types of book genres and my writing process. I showed the kids (and their parents) examples of the books I’ve written. The kids were great listeners and asked really smart questions at the end.

 

Before the second session started, I asked my son Ezra, who was born in Africa and added to our family almost 2 years ago, to pass out bookmarks I had brought for all of the kids in attendance. Three elementary-aged girls—two younger white girls and one older black girl—sitting at my feet, waiting for my talk to begin, noticed my black son calling a white woman “mom,” so they asked me about it.

 

“Is he your son?” asked the older girl, probably a 5th grader.

 

When you have an adopted child of a different race, this is a normal question and, in my experience, not usually meant unkindly, so I’ve found it’s best to just answer honestly and without a lot of details. You can always elaborate if they need more information.

 

“Yes,” I answered.

 

“He looks different than you, like you’re light and he’s dark,” one of the younger girls, a 1st grader, commented.

 

“He was born in a different country, but he’s in our family now.” I wondered if they would ask the uncomfortable question: what happened to his real mom? That’s the one that makes my chest tighten up and causes me to scan the room to see if Ezra heard the question, so I can read his face. As a rule, adopted parents prefer to be considered real (It’s not like I’m invisible or anything), but I have been around the block enough to know that vocabulary sometimes fails us, and what people say isn’t always what they mean. In other words, it’s not helpful to assume people are judging the whole adoption/race thing and get yourself all worked up.

 

But these girls didn’t ask the dreaded question, so I didn’t have to talk about the sad events in Ezra’s life with perfect strangers. Instead, these precious leaders of tomorrow had this discussion:

 

1st grade girl: Did you know that a long time ago dark-skinned people couldn’t go to school with light-skinned people? But Dr. King told them that was wrong.

 

5th grade girl: Yeah, Dr. King wasn’t president but he was still really important. He told us that we’re all the same.

 

1st grade girl: That’s why it doesn’t matter if your son looks different than you.

 

5th grade girl: You can love everybody.

 

The other girl who had been silently listening to this enlightened discussion finally spoke. She said, “I’m excited about your talk but I feel like I’ve already learned a lot from you guys.”

 

I jotted down the words they said before I left the school, because…come on. That’s amazing. When you start thinking we adults have really made a mess of everything, say a prayer of thanks for the kids at John Pittard Elementary School.

 

We can get along. We can talk it out. We can learn from the mistakes of those who came before us. When kids are shown loving, mature examples of empathy and given a chance to spend time together in this kind of atmosphere, they will figure out how to make the world a better place.