Goldilocks and the Three Mares

I’m composing this post during hour eight of my daughter’s 4H horse show. The drizzle of earlier has vanished, the sun emerged long enough to thaw my fingers, and as I pen this, I’m crouched in manure-fragrant mud with a rust-roughened fence at my back.

Why here? Why now? Well, in a way this is my gesture of defiance. All weekend I have been awash in insecurity about my writerly abilities and been unable to find words under more auspicious circumstances. Don’t ask me why. I wouldn’t know how to answer. It’s just one of those times where the same qualities that seemed like strengths a few days ago now feel like leaden anchors — my age, my life experience, my very Jan-ness.

Adding to an attack of the Imposter Syndrome, I worry if I can’t do this now, how will I manage with the coming fragmentation of my time? After all, tomorrow I’ll have a sick Frank at home, then the ToolMaster plans to take a rare flex day; Molly’s grad looms in the near future and will quite rightly take priority; in less than eight weeks the school holidays begins, accompanied by the inevitable and welcome disruptions to my writing schedule. For a person who always begins her best work in quiet and solitude, these threats seem monumental.

But the incipient truth is, I’ve become a bit of a princess with my writing. A Goldilocks. This coffee shop is too loud, that ten minutes too short, my caffeine withdrawal headache too insistent to write. Everything’s just “too.”


I say enough.

Babies are birthed draped in the red and green of blood and meconium; sometimes their first breath is of their own shit. The best sex doesn’t always happen when perfumed and shaved. The purest words need not wait for black tie events — nor should they. Especially if attendance requires me to enter a shoe store.

I know this to be true, because as my pen bites into the paper, and as I brush a tiny spider from my face, I am at peace again. A sparrow whistles agreement. He announces Goldilocks has found her Just Right.

How about you? Do you make excuses for non-production in writing? If so, are you prepared to leave them behind? Where is the absolute weirdest time or place you took a stand and followed your creative impulse?

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23 thoughts on “Goldilocks and the Three Mares

  1. Good for you!

    I really relate to this one. My kids are too small, or too loud, or too sick, or need me too much right now. My house is too messy, or too loud, or too cold or too hot. My husband is too busy, or too far away for me to concentrate on anything but missing him, or too happy not to be at work for me to sit down at the computer and steal those moments away.

    I seem to let others, other people, other circumstances, dictate my writing. But I have plenty of excuses for myself… I’m too tired, or too awake, or have too many things to do, or my hands hurt WAY too bad to try to type.

    I struggle with that, as my current wip takes form in my mind’s eye. I hear soft whispers when I am alone, and know it is a character trapped in my head, trying to make herself known to me.

    I applaud you for recognizing these distractions for what they are. I hope you put them out of your mind, find a perfect place, and are able to let the story flow. You deserve it.

    We all do. 🙂

  2. Isn’t it amazing what different forms fear takes on? All in an effort to make us doubt our writing abilities so we’ll set it aside. I’ve fallen into that same hole, thinking conditions have to be “absolutely perfect” so I can write, only realizing later that some of my best writing has been when life is its most chaotic.

    Maybe we need to focus less on the actual WORDS and more on what we have to SAY. That’s really why we want to write, I believe, so we can share ourselves and the way we view the world. That’s why I enjoy reading your blog posts, because of the way you see things and share them. 🙂

  3. Let’s make a pact: let’s make today about letting those whispers grow into shouts. (Can you tell I’m in a poetic mood, LOL?)

    Donna C, you’re right, I often make it about the vehicle rather than the story. (Except for the days when I make it about both.) And yes, fear really does come in many guises.

  4. Good for you, Jan – and kudos to your daughter and her horse, too, for surviving a long day.

    A few years back I agreed to be a bus monitor for a local ski club, so our son could ski free. I’d take the bus to the hill, spend an hour or two helping out, then have a couple hours to myself before we boarded for home. What more glamorous place to write than a ski lodge, right?

    The reality: I sat at a picnic table in a chilly cinderblock cafeteria, where kids clumped past in their ski boots and laughed at my vintage Powerbook ($10 on Craigslist). I did get some writing done, but then fell to the siren call of work.

    That’s my Goldilocks issue: I have to recognize when I’m using work as an excuse, and when I legitimately must put the writing aside.

    I’m glad you found a way to send The Imposter packing. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  5. Thank you, Jan, for a lovely post, because I had a horrible writing weekend. ;-D It helps to know it’s not just me.

    Sometimes I wonder if I can do this too! Trying to squeeze every moment out of the day to find time to write or edit . . .

    Some days I just want to scream and others I can wax poetic about the whole thing. This weekend was a screamer so it was nice to come in and find you were able to wax poetic. I especially loved “Babies are birthed draped in the red and green of blood and meconium; sometimes their first breath is of their own shit. The best sex doesn’t always happen when perfumed and shaved. The purest words need not wait for black tie events — nor should they.” Beautifully said.

    And your daughter is lovely.

    Thanks for the post!

  6. MJ, I could see boundary-setting would be a particular challenge, given that you require the same tools for work and fiction. Knowing you, you’ll figure it out. Maybe even crochet a barrier. 😉

    Teresa, thank you. I don’t know how my brain works, but when those metaphors arrived, they just felt so right. Glad they made sense to you. And keep on keepin’ on. You are very close.

  7. I think writing is the only part of my life I don’t fall prey to this in. Sure, I get Impostor Syndrome, but not in a way that keeps me from producing. (From improving, maybe, but not producing.) Now if only I could trust myself about money and finding a job….

  8. Jess, if you have any insight about what made you immune to the Imposter Syndrome, I’d love it if you’d share. And good luck with the other issues. Y’know, if we combined and averaged each other, you’d pretty much have the perfect human being. 😉

  9. Maybe it’s just the time of year for Imposter Syndrome…
    I dunno, but I’ve been having the same issues of doubt and procrastination. I think I’ve moved past it, for now, but one never knows. Maybe April is a bad month for writers? All the curses of writing seem to have been going around lately!
    Anyhow, congrats on sending the Imposter packing! ^_^


  10. I procrastinate like crazy, but I think I know that, so I blame it on myself, lol. (and, hey, sometimes the coffee shop IS too loud–bring your earplugs, just in case!) Great post, though, and spot on, as always. Love the sex and birthing analogies! 😀

  11. Thank you for the kind words, all. My daughter read the post out of curiosity once I told her I’d used her photo. When I asked her what she thought, her nose wrinkled and she said, “Too emotional.” She’s not a writer, though, and I’m glad some of you understood what I was attempting to say.

  12. Jan, this was so beautifully put–you absolutely have a gift (and if that inner princess gets too insistant, you just send her out in a field naked… she will remember what’s what). And I’ve been going through the same exact (and relatively unusual for me) self doubt. I think the Tart must be in retrograde–we just need to wait a short time and we will be back on a more natural trajectory.

  13. Thanks, I needed this post. I’ve been putting off my writing way too much lately. I’ve done some small projects, but I stopped writing my big book altogether. You name the excuses, I’ve used them – tired, the kids melt my brain, fear of not being able to finish, fear of success (a strange one, but it does plague me at times), immersed in “research,” etc.

    I need to take the advice of Sean Connery’s character in “Finding Forrester.”
    “No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

  14. Hart, can I at least give my princess a paper bag? Thank you. And yes, let’s hope the Retrograde stage passes quickly, o-agented-one.

    Jim, thank you for your kind words, and LOL about the brain-melting. I hope you dig in and find your first draft mojo, and soon.

  15. I SOOOOO make excuses about writing and they all seem to start with “Too….” I’ve got two books that gnaw in the back of my head (one almost finished and one barely started) and I keep saying, “I’ll get back to them when (Fill In The Blank).” Thanks to Jim for the Finding Forrester reference–that was a nice kick in the butt. 🙂

  16. Jan I didn’t see your reply! you are so right. the world could not contain our awesomeness. My secret is that I am the most lazy AND bullheaded person ever, at once. I am way too lazy to do anything ELSE like clean my house or find a job but I am bullheaded stubborn about writing so I don’t HAVE to clean my house or find a job. In such heavy doses, there’s no other choice but to power through and do the darn writing.

  17. Jan I have to tell you that what little I have read from your site I have enjoyed. It has certainly made me think that while I’ve known you for years, I really don’t know you at all. This small insight into your mind has been a wonderful experience. I hope you continue to brighten all of our lives just a tiny little bit with your entertaining words of wisdom.

    1. Garnet, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you! Knowing each other well would be a lchallenge, since we’ve had about 4 hours a year as adults in the same room. Looking forward to rectifying that in the near future.

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