Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Writer. With an asterisk.

There are a few things that I know about myself for sure.

My name is Clare.

I am married to Bill.

I have four kids. Charlie, Henry, George, and Annabel.

I write this blog.

I would jump in front of a train to save my children. I would maim/kill/seriously injure/castrate/behead anyone who tried to hurt my children.

Yes, I said behead.

And I know you would do the same thing for your kids. When would it be necessary to behead, you ask? Probably never. But jump inside of my head for a minute and I'm sure I could come up with a scenario that would require me to take a samurai sword and chop the head off of a bad guy in order to save my child. That's just how my brain wanders sometimes when I try to be two steps ahead of my children and I worry about what bad things could happen to them, and how I would be required to save them. To say that I have a vivid imagination is an understatement.

I like to go off on tangents. See above.

I like tuna fish and french buttercream frosting. Just not together.

I think Taylor Swift is overrated.

I am a sister to five amazing women.

But in this list of things about me, I don't know that I would ever say that I am a writer. Writers are people who have degrees in English. They have Masters Degrees in English.They wax poetic on topics that they have studied extensively. Their writing is full of intellectual prose. I, on the other hand, am a mommy blogger who writes about poop and pee and my messy kids. I talk about how I have learned how to make my armpit fart as a result of having little boys.

And an armpit fart and a poop joke do not a writer make, so I guess I would call myself a writer*. A writer with an asterisk.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I wrote in the description, "I am not a real writer. I just play one on my blog."

Lest anyone think that I was going to get all Ernest Hemingway on them.

Sure, I know a thing or two about sentence structure. I know what a run-on is. I know the proper uses of your and you're and there and their and to and too. I know that proper writers do not write statements like, "My minivan has crumbs on the floor, smells like a rotten sippy cup and every time I turn a corner, a stray Matchbox car rolls from one side of it to the other."

No. A real writer I am not.


At least I thought so. Then I heard of a conference called the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop coming up in April through another mommy blogger I went to college with named Janet. (Her very funny blog is called Muffintop Mommy and you can read it here.) But Janet is a real writer. She wrote for our college newspaper, so she has some street cred. I have a degree in Elementary Education, which, although I no longer teach, it is a profession I was proud of. (And now that I am on the flip-side of it as a parent, I am still in awe of teachers who do it well and do it right. It's truly one of the hardest jobs in the world.) But although I could teach English to my students, I just never thought of myself as a writer.

And Erma Bombeck? Despite the fact that she passed away in 1996, she still remains the pre-eminent humor writer about all funny things related to parenting and motherhood. She is the yardstick by which many humor writers are measured.

I immediately scoffed at the idea of attending this conference. I could find a thousand reasons not to go. It's four days away from my family. Bill would have to take off work and deal with the kids all by himself. The sun might explode while I was away. But Bill simply said, "So what. I can handle it. I think you should go. I want you to do this for yourself."

Yeah, but, "What if..." and I imagined about ten different scenarios that seemed about as likely to happen as me waking up tomorrow in Buckingham Palace as the newly-crowned Queen of England.

So why my self-doubt?

Because it is a conference for humor writers. Funny people. Humor writers are people who write for Conan. 30 Rock. The Soup. Is a humor writer a stay-at-home mom who does laundry, pays bills, fills the dishwasher, carpools, and as an outlet, occasionally sits on her couch with a laptop and writes musings about this wonderful, hilarious, frustrating, messy job called motherhood?


Then, as I sat up in my bed with my laptop on my knees, researching the conference that I so wanted to attend, but was trying to find every reason in the world that I shouldn't attend, I had a mini revelation. An inspiration if you will.

And here's the part where I take you inside this over-loaded brain of mine to let you know how my thought processes work. Put your safety goggles on, people.

You know how one minute you're cooking dinner or bathing the kids or cleaning the playroom and you'll suddenly have a random stray thought or memory and you'll think, "Why the heck did I just think of that?" You're stirring the pasta on the stove and out of the blue you will think of that one 'very special' episode of "Facts of Life" when Tootie ran away to New York City and Mrs. Garrett saved her?

No? Just me?

I told you my brain was over-loaded.

Anyway, as I sat there in my bed with my laptop, Bill long asleep as he gave up trying to convince me to, "just go ahead and sign up for the conference and STOP OVER-ANALYZING CLARE," my finger was poised on the mouse and ready to click "send," on the expensive and NON-REFUNDABLE admission fee. Once I clicked "send," there was no going back. It would be like admitting I was a writer. A humor writer. A humor writer who had enough street cred to cavort with other humor writers at a conference for humor writers.


And then one of those aforementioned stray thoughts popped in my head. It was just a random status update that one of my Facebook friends wrote a few weeks ago, and although I didn't comment on it at the time, I remember thinking it was very cool. It was written by Danielle, a very nice girl that I went to high school with. We had classes together, and although we weren't particularly close, I do remember chatting with her from time to time. She wrote as her status update earlier in the month, (and I went back to her page just to check and make sure I got it correct) "So, tonight was my first night of Ballet Class. Yep. That's what I said. MY first night of ballet class in I don't even know how many years. It was awesome. :)"

How cool is that? And that is why other moms inspire me.

Now forgive me, Danielle, as I don't know your dance background, but I am assuming that you were not a professional dancer before becoming a mom to your beautiful daughter. Were you a dabbler in dance? Kind of like how I consider myself a dabbler in this writing thing?

Because here's the thing. Bravo and many kudos to Danielle for not saying, "Dance classes are just for my daughter. I can't possibly take dance classes myself." And it reminded me in that moment that we're never too old, or too much a mom, or too busy with the minutiae of life to go after what we enjoy. We should try to do the things that make us happy. The things that enhance who we are. Why should kids get to have all the fun?

It's such a simple thought. Yet why didn't I think of it on my own?

Then, just like that, I clicked "send" on my computer.

Screw you, self-doubt. I don't have time for you.

That is yet another reason why I sometimes think that Facebook is the bees knees. Sure, there are plenty of times when I learn stuff about people that I wish I didn't know. (Like dude, I know I haven't seen you in years, and we're not exactly close, but I did NOT need to know that you have heartburn after that Chipotle.) But there are plenty of times that I get a good laugh, or learn something that inspires me or makes me think. And although I am not sure why I even remembered her status update, or why it popped in my head, I do know that I was motivated by someone that I haven't seen in nearly a decade.

So thanks, Danielle.

In the meantime, I'm going to go for it, and maybe one of these days I'll work up the courage to call myself a Writer.

Without an asterisk.

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