Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Writing After Midnight

Night is wrapped around me like a blanket as I sit in front of my computer. The computer stares back, taunting me.

“Come on,” it says, “I dare you to be creative.”

I wearily type a sentence, and then quickly delete it. The PC’s hard drive growls at me as if to say, “See, you are indeed too tired to create.”

Fortunately, it is at that moment when my newborn baby, my tiny hero, unknowingly rescues me from the heckling computer. Her shrill cry cuts through the malleable night air. My muse beckons me.

My creative processing used to come to me with ease. Anything and everything was inspiration. I would write every day, committed to my craft in the way that some are to their fitness regimen. I wrote short stories about adventurous, independent women. I drew from my illustrious past and filled in the blanks with my imagination. I made up lives I wished I could live, escapades that I could only dream about. My characters could do everything that I was afraid to do. However, since the baby was born, I no longer connected to those characters. Motherhood had apparently sent my creativity on hiatus.

It wasn’t that I stopped writing in those first few months. I wrote for work. I continued to write freelance for several magazines, but that was it. Because motherhood made me feel a bit like a foreigner with culture shock, I stuck to what felt easy and safe. I thought a lot about great things to write; I just couldn’t find the time or energy to do it. Enthusiastic ideas came to me during sleep. I would awake in the middle of the night thinking that I would need to remember to write about it. Then, morning would come, and while feeding the baby, I would groggily remember that I awoke in the middle of the night with a great idea, but couldn’t remember what it was.

All of my free time, what little of it I had, was dedicated to my new daughter. I wondered: would I ever feel creative again? When would I have time to cultivate my imagination?

About two months ago, I started to use minutes stolen from sleep. I wait until the baby and my husband are snoozing. In dim light, I sit and scribble feverishly in a scrappy notebook. I call it my “daily creative purge.” I do not read what I am writing. I shut off my inner critic and I simply write. Slowly, my creativity is coming back, not like before, but better.

In this first year of being a mom, I am compelled to write about that journey. My new characters are mothers – working moms, stay-at-home moms, old moms, new moms, and moms in-between. Initially, I couldn’t figure out why I was so drawn to writing about motherhood, about the amazing bond between a mom and her child. It’s so obvious to me now – I am following the two most common dictums of writing: write about what you love; and write about what you fear the most. My baby has become my muse. Motherhood is my ongoing adventure. And, in discovering this, I have tapped into a fresh source of inspiration.

In our busy world, it is easy to get caught up in the motion. We are almost constantly accessible to the world thanks to cell phones, e-mail, voice mail, and other techo-necessities. Yet, we so easily ignore our inner creative calling. Whether it is writing, painting, pottery, or music, we must make time for our imagination and give life to our dreams. Write after midnight, paint at 5:00 in the morning, sing at dusk – whenever you have a few minutes to yourself, don’t waste them thinking about what you could be doing – just do it.

And, as I write this, the soft coo of “ma, ma, ma, ba, ba, ba” is breaking through the soothing white noise of the monitor – ah, my muse is awake…

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