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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Friday, June 23, 2006

Burning Up the Distractions

When we were at our writing retreat at Santa Sabina a few weeks ago, one of the things we did was to write down All the Things That Keep Us From Writing. We scribbled it all down on origami paper, and then folded them into paper cranes. Then we made a very impressive bonfire and tossed in the birds, which crumpled, turned colors, stood stoically without moving, jumped around and curled up before melting into little embers. All very dramatic.

But I've been thinking of it ever since. I am involved with so many things these days, all of them Good Things, but all of them things that I do Instead of Write. (this is why Novaren at Distraction #99 is my new soul sister!)

organize and host a regular author-reading series out of my home
teach writing
read other writers' manuscripts
write this blog!
coordinate a family camp for adoptive families with children of color
run a household with two kids, two dogs, a spouse and an 84 year old mother
edit fiction at Literary Mama
Sigh. I am loathe to give any of these things up. Which puts me in the conundrum of having worked on two book length manuscripts in twelve years, and completed neither.

When I was in my twenties and first moved to the Bay Area, my best friend printed up a set of 500 business cards and gave them to me. Each one featured a beautiful little frame of curling vines, and in the center, one simple word: No. The point of the cards was to hand them to Unsuitable Suitors, of whom I seemed to attract a lot at the time.

I could really use those cards now. But would I really use them? Do I want to? I thought of actually getting a teeny tiny tattoo, in the likeness of those cards, with that small but insistent word. Maybe on my wrist, or in the crook of my elbow. Somewhere tender, to remind me, and somewhere visible.

It's only one syllable, really, but it's the hardest one for me to utter.

In the meantime, I've decided to try my utmost to really only say yes to things that matter a LOT to me, and to really start using the N word on nonsense that I will only end up regretting. I've done a bit of that lately, regretting things, and wanting to tear my hair out over them, and I am going to try and really at least PAUSE-- at least to a count of ten-- before I say yes again.


Blogger melanie said...

I always get a pang in my gut when I think I should say no, and know it would feel BETTER to say no. I think part of me feels "no" is indulgent.

I guess in a way it is, but if that's the case, so be it. Sometimes NO is the cheapest, yet most gratifiying gift we can give ourselves. I love the "no" cards, and I like the tattoo idea. I would get it done on my fingers, below my knuckles.

Friday, June 23, 2006 8:27:00 PM

Blogger Susan said...

I think I believe the same thing, Mel - that "no" is indulgent, it's selfish somehow.

Friday, June 23, 2006 8:30:00 PM

Blogger Quit Bloglin' Me said...

No, I'm sorry. I can't say no (as in, "I'm just the girl who...").

I'm sitting here, reading blogs, feeling guilty for not having gone over someone's poetry ms yet, for not having reviewed a book I said I would, for not being able to find my way through to a poem I'm trying to write.

All this because I cain't say no!

I hear you, sister.


Saturday, June 24, 2006 12:04:00 AM

Blogger C(h)ristine said...

my friend R here and I were talking about how we are such recluses at home. i think it is our way of saying "no," to things. not that i'm that great at it. but by the number of times i've said, "i have to work on my novel," as a way to protect my time...you'd think i'd have finished writing mine by now, too!

Saturday, June 24, 2006 11:52:00 AM

Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

For me it's not about saying no to other people so much as saying no to all the other things I want to do like reading more blogs, teaching writing, editing more, tutoring more, etc. I feel like a slacker when I don't take on many students or editing jobs, but it's the only way I can have time to write. I've also purposely NOT applied for teaching jobs in order to get my book done. It's tough making choices, but otherwise we have no one but ourselves to blame if we don't achieve what we want to achieve.

Sunday, June 25, 2006 11:59:00 PM

Blogger Green Fertility Marie said...

Congratulations, Sus,

YOU (your blog, at elast) are a reason-not-to-write. But I learn so much!!!

I think I also get addicted to instant feedback, any news on my book? No? Let me apply for something! etc. etc. Writing a novel takes a long time and lots o' patience. I can see why some people get addicted to researching.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:19:00 PM

Blogger Nancy Swett said...

The things I spend my time doing that end up making me want to tear my hair out are submitting to friendships that don't nurture me, submitting to boundless expectations, and conforming to the suburban "norm" too much. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out things that don't matter much. The time I take for writing is basically sneaked (snuck?). But don't feel sorry for me. I'm working on it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 7:57:00 PM

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