To be a blogger is to spout your own brand of nonsense without regret, and possibly have a reader or two respond to your words. The act of standing on your soapbox with each post can sometimes make you forget the purpose of writing- communication. Obviously, the writer knows she is speaking to her readers, but can forget that communication means the readers also speak back. Working on a collaborative book can be a much needed break from narcissism, and a door to dialogue.
I recently had the pleasure of working with a group of women to write a collection of stories about the topic of motherhood. The idea was to write about the topic from a variety of angles- conception, struggles of new mothers, becoming a stepmom, maintaining adult relationships with our mothers, etc. I have worked on collaborative projects before, but I did not anticipate the opportunity for connection through creativity that this book provided.
After the birth of my second son, I found myself isolated at home. It was very difficult to attend activities outside of the house. With two small children, I seemed to always have one child needing to take a nap- and as any mom knows, you do not mess with the nap schedule. I needed a way to talk with other adults. I began writing letters. Not “hey, how are you? How’s the family?” kind of letters- I wanted to communicate something of importance to the recipient.
After writing more than seventy letters, I began to write short stories about my experiences as a mother. When I got into the habit of writing on a daily basis, I found that I craved the outlet. The laundry might pile up, the dinner might be leftovers, but I needed to fit writing time into my schedule to feel accomplished in my day.
The experience of writing had such a profound effect on me, that I asked other mothers to join me in writing. I started by approaching the ladies in my support group. I got a few bites, but knowing we were all relatively new moms, I wanted to branch out and approach the subject of motherhood from a broader perspective. I hit up a writer within my crafting circle. Then I approached my mother, as I thought it would be interesting to see the subject written from multiple generations. I finally made an open post on Facebook. To my surprise, one of my friends from high school got on board.
Facebook is such an interesting phenomenon- everyone has 500 virtual friends, but very few actual ones. Deanna and I had lost track of each other after high school. We were great friends throughout her senior year, but when she left for college, I still had my senior year to complete. Like many people, we reconnected through Facebook. We exchanged the obligatory “what have you been up to” emails. We “liked” each other’s status from time to time, but that was it.
In all honesty, I thought our lives had diverged quite a bit, and we’d have nothing in common anymore. She graduated college, married a military man, had a son, and earned a living teaching communications. I went the hippie free-love route, partied my way through my twenties, finally settled down and am now starting to think about a career. She would post about activities from her church group. I would post fart jokes.
I had other women volunteer to write for the book who never followed through. I anticipated Deanna to be one of these people, but I should have known better. I don’t think she has ever committed to a project and not given 100%.
We began exchanging story topics and bouncing ideas off of each other. To my surprise, I discovered we weren’t so different. Not in the “we’re both moms, we both want the best for our kids” kind of way- although that is true. But I learned she still gets my jokes. I can talk to her and she immediately knows where I’m coming from. When you grow up with someone, there is a level of comfort that occurs through shared experience. I may see myself as this completely different person from who I was in high school, but underneath the tattoos and rebellion, there is still a core person that remains unchanged.
Of course writing allows you to communicate with readers, but the act of writing collaboratively allows that dialogue to broaden even further. Because you are not just spouting your nonsense- you are exchanging ideas and nurturing their growth.
Through this project, I wrote with one of my best friends from high school, who I had barely spoken to in twenty years. My mother and I were featured in the same book for the first time in our lives. I got to put my name alongside a published author’s. I got to have a hand in women writing and publishing for the very first time. That’s quite a journey for one little book.
I am invigorated by the experience. It feeds me and makes me want to write more.
We have all heard people proclaiming that each person has a purpose in life- it is up to each of us to find out what that purpose is and do it. I used to think this was bullshit spouted by people with spectacular jobs. I mean, the world needs CEOs and blockbuster actors, but it also needs janitors and fry cooks.
But purpose has nothing to do with money. It would be nice if we all got to make a living doing what we loved, but something exceptional occurs when you do something merely because you love it, not because you are being compensated. I believe I am here to facilitate creativity- my own, as well as others. There are few things that make me as happy as finishing a project and getting to share it with the world. Today was one of those days. I am smiling, joyful, and content.