Be Proud of How You've Survived

Writing in the year of struggle and distraction

Hello, writers. How are you faring this week? Are you in a place where the weather got a little warmer? Did you step outside this week and take a breath? No matter the weather where you are, did you look around and say to yourself, in wonder, it’s been a year since my life changed?

I’ll always have an easy anniversary to remember the pandemic: my first baby was born just a few days before the lockdowns began, the borders closed, and life changed for everyone, everywhere. For me, life was changed, forever, in this crucial way. All of my parenting experience has been gained in isolation; all of my daughter’s life has been lived in isolation. We celebrated her first birthday, and Zoomed with her relatives, only one of whom met her in person when she was a week old, and I realized with wonder that I was proud of her — her growth, her milestones, her accomplishments. But I’d neglected to think about being proud of myself.

All alone, my husband and I learned to care for her; we skated, woozily, on a haze of sleep deprivation; I pumped and breastfed and walked, ceaselessly, through the night making shushing sounds; I recovered from the physical trauma of birth without a doctor’s check or a physical therapist (all were cancelled in the early days of the pandemic) or a follow-up visit; we somehow cobbled together a routine, and found ways to laugh every day, and read her books and took walks and found ways to incorporate normalcy into the routine. Somewhere along the line, I resumed writing, and finished some short stories that I’m proud of, and found ways to save parts of my brain for writing again even as life and parenting hungrily demanded all of it, all of it, more, more of me.

I worked hard. I slipped through some sort of a crack in the seemingly insurmountable wall of what was coming at me. And spring is coming.

Too often we forget to be proud of our labor, all the things we’ve done to keep our writing alive in this impossible year. We’ve scratched out a sentence or two in the early mornings, or sat up in bed even when we were very, very tired, and tapped out a new idea on our phones in the dark bedroom glow of their screens. We wrote. We did our best to live. We kept the creative spark alive along with our bodies and minds.

Writing News

• I have short stories forthcoming in New Letters, Story, and an essay about my pandemic parenting experience forthcoming in the Hindsight anthology.

Teaching

• I’m teaching courses on Novel Outlining and Finding Your Ending with Grubstreet.

• I’m teaching a summer fiction intensive at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.

• I’m teaching a Launching into Your Novel course with Catapult.

Podcast News

• I interviewed the novelist Kirstin Allio.

• I posted new episodes about trying a roving perspective and using the ABDCE method of story structuring.