This Mom Needs an Editor

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club (hosted by Lyla Lindquist) on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)

*****

In Chapter 20 of Rumors of Water are twelve ways to “strengthen the structure of a work.” I was about to use these ideas to edit one of my works-in-progress but instead found ways to edit my character, my parenting, my teaching.

I’ve said it before: this book is not just about writing. It is about life.

Barkat lists twelve excellent suggestions, but I’ll start with just one.

SELF-EDITING MONICA

First drafts:

1. “Why did you keep playing swords inside right after I just told you to do it outside?”

2. “You’ve been doing these ordinal-number problems perfectly the past four lessons. Why can’t you do them all of a sudden?”

3. “WHY ARE YOU COMING DOWN HERE WHEN I TOLD YOU TO TAKE A NAP?!”

Search for pet words and delete them (Are you a the man or a that woman? You might be.)
– Barkat, p.98

After reading the chapter, “Goodbye Purple Clovers: Strengthening Structure” I realized:

I am a why mother.

But now I can take a red pencil to the words and tone of voice that daily come out of my mouth.

Revisions:

1. Stop what I’m doing. Give them my full attention and my eye contact. “Hey guys, did you hear what I just asked you?”

2. “What part of number five do you not understand?”

3. “It’s only been ten minutes since you went for a nap. If you can’t fall asleep, just stay up there for a good, quiet time. I’ll call you when it’s over.”

It’s a small beginning, but maybe in this way I can “strengthen the structure” of my life and character. Another time (soon), I’ll pick up the second bullet point.

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5 thoughts on “This Mom Needs an Editor

  1. The book is about life AND writing, and that’s why I liked it. Of course, my daily life is much different than yours or L.L.’s, but you and she make me think about it more intentionally. I don’t just need an editor for my mom-ness; I need a storyteller.

  2. “Why” has to be one of the most oft asked parenting questions, and probably the least productive. What is the satisfactory answer to a question like “Why on earth did you open all the old paint cans and pour them out all over the basement floor and then walk in it and track it upstairs?”

    And yet, I keep asking it. (That paint thing didn’t really happen. At my house anyway. Yet.)

  3. This was really good, Monica, thank you for writing it! For working it through and coming up with better alternatives to practice. I don’t think I have much self-awareness, but I value other people giving me insight.
    Today Ravinia and I went out to eat at Summerland Beach Cafe with the puppy because it is dog friendly and we sat on the porch even though it was lightly raining, and we ordered both the granola and the Eggs Benedict that she wanted plus a cinnamon roll I wanted, and we shared it all and did a little schoolwork. I hadn’t made her pick between what she wanted so as to save money, as is my wont, but afterward, as we drove to her PE class, she reflected on being too full and that we paid a lot of money and next time we should share just one meal so as not to be stuffed and to have more to give to the poor. Tonight at bedtime she apologized to God for eating too much. So I’m the give-in Mom (sometimes) who waits with bated breath and celebrates God working in my little one’s heart. Or else I’m the worrying mom…gotta pray more! It works if I discuss things with her too, take the time to explain but I can’t when I’m too rushed or burdened.
    Monica, thank you for praying! Thank you. God’s blessing, you are.

  4. This was a funny post…. We say so many things so often that simply don’t make sense.

    Kind of like th things that I keep telling myself

  5. Ha! I ask those why questions all the time. But sometimes I remember to be a what grandma and ask the girl, “What are you *supposed* to be doing?”

    I thought we were writing on structuring, too. But I skipped and went on. I may go back. ;)

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