Sometimes Time Spent Not Writing is Necessary

I left my husband because he wouldn’t read the stories that consumed me. OK, there was more to it than that—marriages rarely dissolve over just one issue. But it was a big issue for me.

My mother—who had herself been a single mother of two toddlers (my brother and I)  and knew about such things—warned me that my writing time would evaporate if I left my husband. I’d have to do everything on my own. I’d have to go back to work. I’d have more than a little bit of stress.  I told her she was wrong—of course I’d still find time to write, and besides, I didn’t plan on being single for very long.

I left my husband and wrote and worked and started school and dropped out of school again and wrote some more. And then I ran out of words.

For about two years, I couldn’t bring myself to write much of anything besides text messages and Facebook posts. You could say I was journaling, except the receptacle wasn’t a Word file but a cell phone, and most of the words I wrote were lost as I broke cell phone after cell phone—a total of six in  my first year as a single mama.

The few essays I wrote in those years were tangential monstrosities, one idea chasing the next off into the sunset like poorly-behaved dogs, never returning to the place they began. They were pretty representative of my attention span at the time, but they weren’t good writing. The world did not miss out by my discontinuing work on them in any way shape or form.

 

I needed to get my own head together before I could write anything coherent. You see, I met my first husband when I was 18, married him at 20, divorced him at 26. I was single for only 9 months before meeting my next ex-husband-to-be. I spent fifteen years (cumulatively) married to two different men, and now that I was single again, I had to find my way back to my authentic self. I had to find out who I was when I was alone, and I had to figure out how to balance being a mother with being a human person with passions and needs of my own.

I had never really been alone before, and now I had two children in diapers relying on me to keep everyone alive and relatively happy. And I did—I found a house with my parents’ help. I took a job that didn’t pay well but that I enjoyed and was good at. I kept my children alive and we played zoo animals and Thomas trains and made things out of playdoh.  I was creating the life I wanted, but I wasn’t writing.

When I started writing again, I had more focus. My circling thoughts still ran off but now they came back around to their starting point eventually.

I embraced the chaos that was my life in short blog posts, and I made myself post three times a week no matter what. From there, I was off and running. I finished my undergrad degree, sat down and wrote 300 pages about my first marriage,  realized they were crap and threw them away. I went to grad school, where I wrote even more and I started to get better at it.  I started writing things worth reading.

The chaos is mostly under control—OK, that’s a stretch—I’m still me, after all. But I’m happily managing a balance between writing and children and personhood. Two years wasn’t that long in the scheme of things, and all of us—including my stories—are better for it.

 

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Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at www.LaraLillibridge.com

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