I shut the top lid and press “on.” The old coffeemaker grumbles awake and begins brewing several cups of my favorite blend.
From the adjoining breakfast nook, my daughters are bickering—something about whose turn it is, or isn’t, to use a certain stamp. I poke my head around the corner. “Share, girls,” I say.
My older daughter crosses her arms. “I have been sharing,” Grace says. “She hasn’t.”
Rather than pleading her case, my younger daughter says, “Mommy! Hold me!”
I give Anna a hug and then settle her back beside her sister. “Girls,” I say, “there are a million things you can do in here. Color. Play with your Shopkins. Finish your cereal, maybe. Do something while I pack up your book bags.”
My 3-year-old frowns. “I don’t want to go to school today,” she says.
“You’ll have fun once you get there,” I reply.
She shakes her head. “No, I won’t. I want to stay with you, Mom.”
“I don’t,” Grace announces, for the record. “I want to go to school.”
My coffee better be ready soon. “Look,” I say. “Everyone has to go to school today, because Mom needs to write and Dad is working too. So…” I gesture to the crayons, construction paper and myriad amusements covering the table. “Please do something while I get your things ready for school.”
Anna sighs, but picks up a crayon. I return to the kitchen.
For all I have to do to secure my writing time—the two different school drop-offs, snack and lunch preparation beforehand, the pleading (and, occasionally, yelling) for the girls to get along and remember to brush their teeth and, of course, find their shoes—I wonder if it’s even worth it. Especially considering that the majority of the writing I do now—essays submitted to literary magazines (and not always accepted), short fiction that I self-publish on Amazon, every post on my website here—is creative, a.k.a. not that lucrative.
The coffeemaker sputters to a stop. I pour myself a cup. Outside the window above the kitchen sink, the sun rises. The thought flickers across my mind, again: Is this even worth it? Or should I do something different?
“Mom. Look, Mom.”
Anna’s voice draws me back in. I turn; I look.
She’s smiling, proud. And she’s holding up a piece of blue construction paper, marked here and there with lines of crayon. “I wrote a story too,” she tells me.
I take in a breath. Then I smile; I kneel down. I look at the paper. “Wow,” I say. “You did.”
“Just like Mom,” Anna says. She drops her story at my feet, then runs off.
I pick up the paper—my daughter’s story. She wrote it because I write stories. She sees something of value, something worth mimicking, in storytelling. Just like when we visited the local firehouse for a field trip, and the girls spent the rest of the day pretending to be firefighters.
I hang her story up on the refrigerator, with Grace’s soccer-picture magnet from last season.
I could never not write creative nonfiction, or short fiction. I simply love telling stories, both those that are true and those I make up. It makes me happy when someone reads something I wrote, and lets me know it moved them in some way—made them laugh, or encouraged them during a difficult time.
And during difficult times in my life, writing has been healing to me. Either in helping me to make sense of my journey and to find meaning within the pain, or in escaping, for a moment, to a world of my own making. Often it’s easier to give fictional characters’ “Aha!” moments, rather than to stumble across our own.
I pick up the paper—my daughter’s story. She wrote it because I write stories. She sees something of value, something worth mimicking, in storytelling.
Originally, I submitted a version of this essay to a literary magazine I really like and read. Yesterday, the editor let me know it wasn’t a good fit for them right now. During dinner that evening, I shared with the girls what she said.
“What was your story called?” Grace asked.
I told her: “Look, Mom: I Wrote a Story Too.” (Based on a true story, as all good stories are. 😉 )
Grace smiled sympathetically. “Awww, that sounds cool, Mom.”
I smiled back. “Thanks, honey.”
Eventually, every creative type has a come-to-Jesus conversation with him- or herself. Is what I’m doing worthwhile?
I’ve been thinking about this, and the answer is—like many of the answers I arrive at—yes and no. Pros and cons for everything, shades of gray everywhere. But for sure, more “no” than “yes,” friends.
I want to contribute more financially meaningfully to our family’s life. E-book royalties and token payments for magazine pieces, while holding out hope for a big break à la Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, don’t go very far toward summer camps and retirement savings.
Worth and value can be subjective, and are, but bottom lines don’t lie.
I’m excited, then, to dedicate more time to seeking out the kind of contract work I’ve done before, proposal editing and copywriting. I’m good at that stuff; I can do it. Fingers crossed, I can do it from home.
I’ll still do the creative writing I love, just more on the back burner.
Yet…Anna’s story still hangs on the fridge.
Kids…love…stories. We grow up, and we still…love…stories. We tell stories every day—from our quickest conversations with our neighbors, to our end-of-day heart-to-hearts with the ones who know and love us best.
I believe there is unity, and understanding, and love in storytelling. Deep down, we all might believe that.
That’s why I’ll never give up on it.
In the meantime…if you know anyone who could use some editing or writing help, send ‘em my way. 😉 ❤
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.