5 Things I Learned About Writing (And Life) from my Mom

Your mom is the first person who gets to see you at your worst: naked, gross, kind of bloody, screaming. They look at you and for some reason, they don’t run away from that horror show. And they stick around and deal with years of crying and pooping and crying and bleeding and crying and…well, that was my experience anyway. Even though you may not realize it at the time, your mom teaches you things, and those things affect what you choose to do and make with the time you have.

These are just a few of the things my Mom taught me that I have found have impacted my writing. You might learn a thing or two as well.

1. Life is too short to do stuff you hate. Whenever I think that I’ve made the worst decision ever, Mom tends to tell me about how she almost became a nun. We talk about all the steps she took to reach that goal and how, once she was there, all she could think about was leaving. Never be satisfied with misery just because you think you owe it to yourself to wade through the muck. Come at writing and working from a place of joy. If that place can’t be found, time to look elsewhere.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Over the years since I moved to Pittsburgh, I have had to call my Mom and commiserate over bad times. I can call my Mom in tears, and usually before the end of the call, we’re laughing about whatever is going on. Nothing you’re doing – whether it’s a memoir about the worst time of your life or a set of poems about death and despair – is so bad that you can’t take a second, smile and realize that you’re alive.

3. Come at it a little at a time. The other day, I was talking to my Mom about how to organize my home. We are both packrats, and I always marvel at how everything seems to have a nook or home at my mother’s house (“That’s organized?” she asked me, laughing). However, she gave me this advice and it’s made a world of difference. It’s so easy to fall into being completed overwhelmed, but that’s only if you come to the mountain and immediately cry because you’re not at the top. One step at a time. One word. One sentence. That’s all it takes. You’ll get there.

4. You can’t always be in control. This one is always a doozy for me. I’ll be sweating and screaming about something – anything – and after minutes of sound advice, my Mom will finally say, “You have to give it over to God.” And I’ll make some inappropriate noise at that, and she will tolerate it, because she knows she’s right. You can’t always have your ducks in a row (look at Youtube; those things are always falling into holes and grates and getting blown over by fans, etc). Sometimes you have to sit down at the screen and say, “Okay, God/universe/Muse…I don’t know what’s happening, but let’s give it a go, huh?”

5. Live life with joy and spontaneity. Some of my fondest memories are of the random things my mother and I have done together: trips to the beach or to a bookstore or even to a fancy mall. You don’t need a crazy trip to Hawaii to get your creativity going or rejuvenate your energy. All you need is the willingness to step out of the normal day-in-day-out of your existence. Have a little adventure. You’ll be a better writer…hell, you’ll be a better person. I know I am.

Thanks, Mom.

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