creativity

Lessons Learned in Covid City

It turns out that Covid City is not just a column to write during a short period of life in lockdown. Instead, it is our new reality for a long time yet. In the weeks since I last posted here, I have learned four crucial things for surviving this new life:

  1. It’s all about creativity. 
  2. Sleep is necessary. 
  3. Meditate as much as possible.
  4. Take the joy when you can get it. Don’t question it, just be in it.

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Big news: after a two-week spell of intense quarantining, Dave and I drove our crew to my in-laws where we finally got some back-up childcare. As I watched L jump out of the car and run off through the yard with his Papa Bob, I felt something physically shed away from me. Dave and I were EVERYTHING for these kids for five weeks straight. All of it. I hadn’t realized how weighty that was until it lifted.

We can’t completely move here for a few reasons and so the plan for now is to go back to New York when we have to and then wait and see if/when we can return. But even if we don’t end up coming back, having a few nights of real sleep has been transformative. Dave and I started quarantine as sleep-deprived parents of a new baby; in the past month, I hit a level of exhaustion I didn’t even know was possible. 

Of course there are challenges. No situation in Covid City is easy. Figuring out how to share space when all of us are in MA has been stressful. Parenting and grandparenting at the same time is weird. We’re all very different personalities, too, with different and often conflicting needs. Things are not lining up with the six of us like they have in the past, and I’m feeling confused by it. But there’s such a deep current of love underneath it all, and, as with everything, we will adapt.

78b36acb-cf00-4285-99a8-d2c429f06949And no matter what tensions may arise with our new arrangement, the fact that Dave and I got some space to ourselves changed everything. Yep, that’s right: Dave and I spent the past two nights alone in Brooklyn while other people took care of our kids. We slept, talked, drank, watched tv, had sex, meditated, chatted with friends, got all dressed up and played some music. We even ate candy in the living room and left the wrappers out on the coffee table and then the next morning, nobody tried to choke on them and nobody threw a fit that we got candy and they didn’t. I miss my kids – a lot actually – but this time to focus on other parts of myself (while eating candy with abandon) has been glorious.

This space has also allowed me to reflect on the past five weeks and think about how we can improve the indefinite span of quarantine left ahead of us. I opened this post with the lessons I’ve learned through this time of reflection. Now I want to leave you with some of my recent joys:

  • I rediscovered my passion for writing fiction and it has felt wonderful.
  • L turned five years old, and Dave and I completely rocked the whole birthday-in-quarantine thing. Gotta admit, the fact that he was genuinely happy all day long was super satisfying.
  • M talks! He says hi, mama, and dada. In that order. (I beat Dave, ha!)
  • We’re getting into a new musical project! James Kurk, the friend I have known for longer than anyone else, sent over loads of tracks for us. We had a Zoom brainstorm all together and now Dave and I are making some weird sounds over here. Connecting to creative people in creative ways is my new motto for quarantine.
  • Fiona Apple released her new album and it’s perfect for right now.

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Trusting the Process

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I wanted so badly to be done with my novel, to send my manuscript off to agents then try to forget about it until one day, that magical email from someone just dying to represent me popped up in my inbox.

Yet I stalled on emailing any agents. I blamed my delay on nerves and fear, told myself to push through it, finally sent out three queries. But then I stalled again, despite the spreadsheet of 20 other agents’ contact info sitting in my Google docs.

I kept telling myself to stop making excuses. It’s been five years already! Send it out, let it go.

Finally, I meditated on it and listened to my gut: “Don’t rush, Becky. This is your one chance to find an agent. Ask another reader for comments. Give this book all the time it wants.”

It turns out that my new reader not only caught a handful of errors (look at those post-it notes!) but also made a comment that led to an enormous breakthrough on a section I’ve never felt 100% about. I am now back to work, and it feels great.

Another breakthrough: The agents will be there when this book is ready, whenever that may be. And even then, no one may want it! But I believe in Bone Girl, I believe in the process, and I will see my book through to whatever end is in store for her.

To all my artist friends out there: enjoy your acts of creation, no matter how long they may take.

P.S. That glimpse of gorgeous artwork is brought to you by Letisia Cruz!

Happy 2019 + New Publication in Gateways, an Anthology!

I’m thrilled to share that a revised version of my essay, Our Mothers Have a Way of Shifting the Universe, has been published in Gateways, an anthology of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction from alumni of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Click here to order your copy!

As I reflect on 2018, I can honestly say that I am ending this year in happiness. The first half of it (and pretty much all of 2017!) was hard and painful, but things have balanced themselves now, and I feel that my family is finally emerging from our period of darkness. And despite all the crazy challenges this year brought me, it also brought more creative publications than any year before, and this makes me ecstatic.

Of course I’m grateful to every editor who has seen something in my words and deemed them worth publishing, but I am even more grateful to all of you who read what I write and encourage me to keep going. Part of my creative process is motivated by an impulse within me – a need to express, to tell my truth, to attempt to answer to some greater calling – but a huge part of it also comes from the joy of communicating with y’all. Knowing that you make the choice to sit with my words, to think about and even respond to them, is such a gift. THANK YOU.

I’m eager to see what 2019 throws at me, and I sincerely hope you stick around for the stories. Happy New Year to all!