Small Worlds

Writer’s block isn’t real. Well, then, what do I have here? I have a very small world, is what. My world right now is job, home, wrangle with teen (he’s been 16 for a month, and the surly switch flipped), talk to my husband on the phone, and… and big old mental blank. My world has gotten more constricted, and I can only hope it’s temporary. I’ve been at the new job for a month. Friday was my last day of training, and after this it’s all me, only me. Not the first time I’ve had a job with a lot of responsibility – I’ve owned my own business, and I don’t mean just Sanderley Studios – but it’s never easy.

I’m hoping, and friends are encouraging me, that once I’ve settled into the new role, and learned to balance the research (it keeps wanting to follow me home, but I’m not salaried (yet) so I’m resisting those urges) that I’ll find time to write. It’s been four months since I got down here to Texas, and I’ve been having a good time, coping with all the changes… and not writing. A little, here and there. Blink, and you’ll miss it. I haven’t even been blogging, because so much of my brain is locked up around work and I can’t talk about that in detail. I could bit… er, complain about the trials of trying to get a house on the market when evidently nobody wants to work. I’ve been trying to spare everyone the whining, though.

It’s the little things that upset my equilibrium right now, and that annoys me, which doesn’t make it easier, which is a vicious cycle and I know it. I need to stop pedaling and get off. Last night it was a. not having even one of my sifters (I had two) and b. running out of sugar. Now, I know why I don’t have sugar. I chose not to buy more because we were going low carb. I don’t want to talk about how much weight I’ve gained in the last three months. It seemed like a good idea at the time, right up until I was baking for the writing group, and came up short by a third of a cup.

And there is where I’m going to drive a stake in the ground, tie a ribbon on it, and start looking at the positives. The silver lining in the cloud might be a moonlit mountaintop, yes. Or it might be the joys of cooking and baking for adults instead of my children. Desserts can be less sweet and it will be applauded. We have mature, sophisticated palates (stop laughing, it could be true) and we don’t need the extra sugar anyway. The flour needed sifting not for lumps in modern grinds, but to make it aerated for better mixing into meringue. Weigh it into a bowl and hit it with a balloon whisk, mixing in the cornstarch better.

The cookies turned out perfectly, always a nice thing on a first-time recipe. At this point in my life, when I’ve been baking for four decades, making a recipe sing even while improvising my way around the kitchen isn’t a big deal. I’m only a decade into my writing career. In that time I have moved from New England, to Ohio (where we moved again just three years ago), to Texas. I have graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science (and decent grades, if we pretend Calculus never happened). I have taken on a career, and a month ago landed in a dream job… again. My job title has been ‘Scientist’ fulfilling a childhood dream to become a scientist – that little sun-bleached blonde had no idea what that really meant! – and now it has Research and Development in it. I have ten novels in print, and I’ve lost track of the short works. I wrote a children’s story last year, after years of insisting I couldn’t do that. Three of my children are out of the house, independent, and holding their own. The last one is working hard at getting there. My husband loves me enough to shoulder a massive project and endure a seemingly unending separation from me, while anticipating leaving behind his childhood stomping grounds and parents when that does end.

I’m not good at counting my blessings. I need to get better. I’m realizing, as I write all this out, that it’s not a stake I’ve got here. I’m standing on a hilltop, my hiking stick fluttering next to me, my sunhat hanging down my back, while I’ve got my hands on my hips staring up at the peak in front of me. So high above me. It’s been a long, winding path to get here. I can’t quite make out, for trees and fog, the shape of the journey ahead. What I can do is glance over my shoulder while taking a breather, and appreciate just how high up I’ve come from that starting place. The one where I crawled out of the foul black mud, just ahead of my demons, and belly-crawled until I could stand up on my own. Sure, I’m tired. Still, I have energy. I’m looking forward to taking the next step, and the next…

The writing will come back. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling myself stories. I wrote poetry, before fiction. I’ve written essays that changed my life since I was 14. That’s a post for another day and probably not this blog. Heck, this post is writing. Might not be useful to any of you, but it’s letting me get some mess out of my head and sort through it. Kind of like dropping a load of clean laundry on the bed, folding it, and putting it all away neatly. From chaos, wrinkles. From concerted effort, calm.

I miss hiking. Texas summers make that inadvisable, but you know, there’s fall and winter and spring, and adjusting my expectations for the new climate I’m in. Mentally, it’s time for me to take stock for a moment, then take up my staff and…

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

(Header Image: Fresh, not too sweet, Savoiardi which will go into a tiramisu today)

16 comments

  1. I know I said this before, but Welcome to Texas! A suggestion for the answer you will inevitably be asked a zillion times, (as soon as you open your mouth); “I’m from (fill in the blank), not Texas, but I got here as fast as I could,”

    1. I’m from Alaska, and it’s been a long, strange journey.

      One of these days I’ll get down to your neck of the woods. Two of my daughters are living near San Antonio for the next year.

  2. The atmosphere swirling around seems to be designed to block writing. As do new responsibilities. Things are sort of shaking out to Day-Job-Normal (subject to change on almost 0 notice), and I hope to get a bunch of stuff done this year. Keeping in mind that Murphy gets both the last laugh and veto authority. 🙂

  3. There are some irreal writer’s blocks out there and they work as well as the real thing would.

  4. I was having the writing block on anything else but one story while working hard to finish a book. Now I have the block of “the story is finished and my head is empty”. Which is great, because I have 2 stories to edit for print (Find those last fifteen typos, and try not to introduce another one in the corrections!), and then one story to edit for print and get both print and ebook released, before I return to the initial edit & out to betas for the one still cooling off.

    But I have a husband who loves me, and is willing to do the print formatting for me, and good friends who put up with me, and when the latest round of summer crud went round, for the first time, I managed to miss it. And soon I’ll have a book out, print editions on the older ones, and the latest out ot betas. I’ll worry about the writing then…

    …or it’ll come back sooner and be inconveniently demanding I write instead of everything else I have to do. It’s all good!

  5. Sarah (ATH) got me thinking this morning about “moving,”

    I determined that a genuine, full “move” is always more that geographic — its moving into a new life as well. It’s what *defines* “move.”

    I moved 10 times by age 20, 11 times in the next 20 years, and 8 more times in the final 40 — including Peru, England, Lithuania and Vietnam. Most of them entailed abandoning all the stuff accumulated since the last move, especially moves made by air.

    So I’ve had 30 different lives in vastly different environments, races and cultures, never “fitting in” to any of them.

    Which life is “me?”

    1. That’s . . . a truly fascinating question, and I suspect one that only you can answer.

      I was once asked how I could be so many different things (at that point I was in graduate school, and had worked as a lab tech, pilot, mechanic, semi-professional musician, office manager, and translator. Always more than one at the same time.)

      I said that it was because I had a solid core inside me, certain beliefs and values that never changed. I knew what I was at heart, and that served as a foundation for everything else.

      1. Thanks for your reply! Thought about it; result:

        I’ve usually worn multiple hats as well, same as yours (except pilot — I was a hitchhiker) First job in service station where I learned how to fix anything. Supported myself up through college (10 years) with music. Gave it up after the Beatles broke up. I had 5 jobs when I lived in Dallas. But it’s not the same as having many serial lives. I’ve been fired or quit every job; lives remain forever.

        I was raised in San Diego by Southern Gentleman father and Northeren Bohemian mother, so I’ve always had a strong sense of honor coupled with a raging free spirit. No “solid core.” Only God’s Grace has guided me through it — even before I believed.

  6. > going low carb

    “It’s like bread and water, except without the bread.”

    Sugars and wheat are added to almost every foodstuff, even when they don’t seem to have any useful purpose. Trying to avoid (or at least minimize) those is difficult, even without food allergies complicating things.

    1. Oh I don’t know. I do pretty well on meat, veg, eggs, cheese, nuts… now, what I’m doing is a little more complex: low carb, restricted calories, intermittent fasting. I did this most of last year and it beat just low-calorie hands down for me, as I have to drop below 1000 calories a day to lose on that and am miserable. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone! I’m a sample size of n=1 after all.

      1. Of course it doesn’t work for everyone – nutrition is complex and people are different! If you have low blood sugar or insulation resistance (like my wife probably has), intermittent fasting makes life VERY difficult for all those around you (don’t ask how I know).

    2. I know a woman allergic to soy. She dreads seeing “NEW!” on packaging because it means — they added soy.

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