Do You Know Your Why for Writing?

When you're stuck, go back to your why for writing. I didn’t write much this summer. I managed a couple of blog posts, a few pages in my journal. Not much else. I could blame it on time or my kids or wanting to take a break during the lazy days of summer. But really, I’d lost my why.

Do you know why you are writing?

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve spent time on blog posts for clients, emails, sales pages—pieces that helped them achieve their why. And I love that work. I enjoy helping people, many of them moms like me with littles at home trying to be present and get things done, reach their audiences and their goals.

Still I want more. I want to write about the things that matter to me. I want to tell you about the best frosting in the world happening in my kitchen right now and about how neighborhood can be like family. I want to talk about freeze warnings and my debate on taking the sure thing of an early harvest or the gamble of leaving some to keep growing. I want to use my words for food and family, gardens and grief. That’s why I started write • nourish • grow.

Roughly two years ago, I was trying to figure out “What’s next?” I had been a freelance writer and editor for 14 years, but the market was changing. My life was changing.

I wanted to do something different, but didn’t know what. I ended up having a chat with Megan Flatt, a business coach for mom entrepreneurs, who told me, “You can’t think yourself to clarity. You need to act.” So I acted.

I jumped into this blog with ideas about running writing + cooking retreats and writing for food magazines. I gave myself space to grow. And for a year, I played with that idea. I wrote about my garden and food and parenting and writing. I ran online writing retreats and shared weekly writing prompts (I’m not done with these things yet). It was fun, but not the job I needed.

But through that action, I discovered the work I’m doing now, the ghost blogging, the editorial calendar planning, and content creation. I found clients I love and a working rhythm that fits my life.

And in the midst of all that I wondered if I needed to start blogging about copywriting and editorial calendars and blogging. I felt ugh every time I thought about it. But I felt like I should. I mean, who was going to hire somebody writing about the changing seasons in nature and life and grief when they were looking to grow their business?

The people I most like to work with bring their heart to their business. They connect with potential customers and clients through story and real experience. That’s what I do. Sure, I’ll pay attention to key words and headlines, but I start with the audience and the why.

And while I am a copywriter and content manager, that’s not my why in this space. I’m not planning on writing about copywriting here.

I’m going to keep writing about love and loss and abundance and paying attention. I’m going to keep following the flow of seasons. I’m going to keep talking about creative writing as I make more space for creativity in my life. And I’m going to invite you along too, to act, not just think.

There are a lot of whys for writing. What are yours?

On no rain and not writing

I’m on my porch, listening to the sound or rain filtering through leaves, hitting the already wet pavement directly, splattering in gathered puddles. Taps and trickles, plunks and plops.

A green haze is creeping across the crispy grass that looked like it might never recover. The plants in my garden and along the sidewalk stand a little taller. I draw myself up a bit too.

I went to bed to the sound of gentle rain last night and woke to the same this morning.

It’s been a dusty summer of hopeful promises. Dark clouds gather each afternoon. The wind turns the leaves up. We pull in laundry, hold off on pulling out the hose. A few scattered drops. Rainbows, but no rain.

Glance at my garden, peak into my pantry. It’s been a slow season in many ways. Flipping through photos from three years ago, I find a lush garden, shelves piled high with pickles and jams. It’s all going slower this year. Some seasons are like that.

Production is slow and things are passing quickly—raspberries are done, my cucumbers are wilting, greens bolted early. I’ve stopped asking things to slow down, and just moving at the speed of this summer.

Back in June, I rejoiced in the rain that encouraged my seedlings, and I dared hope that a recently published essay would end a writing drought. My writing, like my garden, has struggled with a dry spell this summer. I got rain, but not enough. But I keep watering. I weed and check in. My yield may be small this summer, but I haven’t given up. I may not produce much fruit or many flowers, but sink my roots deeper and know I will thrive again.

As I’ve been writing, the rain grew in intensity, crescendoing to a roar. A river runs down the hill and the little puddles by the roadside extend down the street. Tiny droplets evicted me from my seat to one even deeper on the porch. I keep myself dry, but I soak it in. I come back to the page to see if my writing can green up like the grass, perk up like the perennials that had wilted by the walkway.

 

How do we slow this season?

Peonies and each school year go so fast. Can we slow things down?My peonies are in their glory, bursting from tight round knobs to fluffy, frilly fullness. For days before they burst forth, I peeked in on them. Not yet. But the knobs swelled, the ants got active. And then one day last week, I watched the first unfurl. As I went back and forth pulling weeds, getting compost, hustling to get the ends of the vegetable garden planted, I saw it loosen and spread its petals.

Since then I’ve barely had time to glance at them. I cut a few to bring in with their showy color and scent. But it’s been a whirlwind of end of year school activities and appointments and work deadlines.

I want to slow it all down.

I want to enjoy the peonies while they are here, before they make way for morning glory and sunflower and lily. Before them lilac and forsythia seemed to rush by this year. Or was it me rushing. Or was it time speeded up again.

Yesterday was the last preschool pick up I’ll do. Ever. I’ve been so focused on all the things that needed to be done—the field trip permission slip to sign, remembering to pack a lunch, helping out at field day, special snacks, teacher’s gifts (not done yet)—I lost sight of this transition.

Four years ago, I brought my big girl to preschool and my little one tagged along, so eager for her turn. She washed hands, created her own sign in on the board, burst into an activity. She couldn’t wait for her turn to stay.

Two years ago, I hugged her goodbye in her classroom. Her turn finally. The past four years did not feel that fast, but I look up surprised that we are here, ready to say goodbye to her preschool for good.

She’s moving just next door to kindergarten. We will see her teacher’s still. But I won’t see them each morning and hear how things are going. I won’t watch as my little girl washes hands, hangs up her bag, rushes to the board to sign in. I won’t chat with her or watch her with her friends as she starts her day.

She can’t wait for kindergarten. I’m excited too. The long swaths of the day from the morning bus stop to the afternoon squeak of bus breaks is alluring. What will you do? Work. Write. Run, maybe. Yoga. Take care of the errands that never seemed to fit between preschool pick up and bus time. It can fill so quickly. Right now I’m trying to breathe into it, not let it get filled to fast with any old thing. Right now, I’m realizing what we are done with.

No more preschool or preschool payments. No more drop offs and pick ups. No more playing in the park at noon or lunches together. No more naps.

But she is riding a bike and picking out words she knows. She is going on her first overnight with my parents next week.

Each ending a beginning. Last year my big girl was devastated by the end of the year. Little girl doesn’t seem to care about this ending. She’s already looking ahead, wanting to keep up with her big sister, wanting to do the things she Peonies will fade to lilies and sunflowers. Preschool to kindergarten to first grade. Slow down.can’t do yet.

She raced through these years like the forsythia and lilacs and peonies this year. We’ll come back to this space again next June, transitioning again. We’ll say goodbye again next year, closing the door on kindergarten. The peonies will bloom again. I’ll wait for them. I’ll savor them, be sad when they go. And I’ll love the lilies that bloom and the curving garlic scapes and the tall sunflowers towering over me. Can we just slow it all down a little?

The Last Breakfast Before Big Change

I was supposed to be hungry—NPO after midnight—the day my son was born, but instead I had a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.

Oozy yolk, melty cheese, crisp bread. Eight years later, I don’t remember if it was homemade bread or a sesame loaf from the bakery down the street. I do remember how my husband cleaned up the counter methodically before he got started cooking, as he always does.

He moved without haste as if it were any other day. But then he still thought our baby was going to be born the next day.

Henry was to arrive by planned c-section on a Wednesday, three weeks before my due date. Given the plan and those 21 days shaved off, I was pretty smug that I knew when my baby would be born. His birth one day earlier than planned would be the first of many lessons about expectations.

Late Monday night, I started spotting. A little anxious, though not alarmed, I called my doctor who said to call back if I had any cramping or contractions. I fell into the uncomfortable, fitful sleep of late pregnancy.

I felt a jolt and woke with a start. What was that? I think it was a contraction. Wait was it?

I waited and waited. Almost an hour. And then again.

I debated if I should call my doctor. Two contractions an hour apart. But my doctors had impressed on me that I should not go through labor, and after the spotting had said to call if I had any contractions.

5 AM. I called and woke her up. After reminding her about my case, she told me to come in for monitoring at the hospital at 8 AM. They’d check me out before my scheduled appointment at the office.

I quietly went upstairs and packed a bag and then I waited, letting Brian sleep as long as he could. Then I shook him gently and explained the change of plans.

“Do you want a fried egg sandwich for breakfast?” he asked.

I was hungry as I was so often those days, and we had a busy day of bustling from one appointment to the next. I was having more contractions, and I suspected that we weren’t going to wait until the next day to have this baby. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat before surgery, but my doctor hadn’t said I couldn’t. . . .

“Yes.”

So he wiped down the counter and cleaned a few dishes and sliced bread before heating up the pan for the eggs. All the while, I waited  to get going.

I enjoyed that sandwich thoroughly, though I ate it quickly. It’s one of the last memories of before. At the time I watched Brian impatiently, wondering at his need to clean the kitchen before he started working, but looking back his unrushed approach was part of the normal of those last moments before life changed.

Henry was born that day. When the anesthesiologist asked when I ate last, I admitted to the egg sandwich as I signed consents and got an IV put in. Soon after Henry entered this world. Brian held him in the OR and chatted with the anesthesiologist about hiking in the White Mountains. Everything was OK, or so it seemed.

After Henry died, I fumbled around on his birthday for a while, trying to figure out what to do. One thing I settled on a few years in was making my self an egg sandwich for breakfast, a nod to the memory of the day he was born. These days we are just as likely to have cake and sausage for breakfast, a tradition that Henry gets included in though he wasn’t here when it began. Henry’s birthday is coming up. I think I’ll an early egg sandwich anWrite with Me Wednesday: Tell us about one meal that made an impact on you, whether it was because of the company, the food, or an aha at the table. d second breakfast of cake.


I’ve listened to a few episodes of the Plan Simple Meals podcast recently, and host Mia Moran ends each episode with this question:

Tell us about one meal that made an impact on you, whether it was because of the company, the food, or an aha at the table. 

She inspired me to start thinking about all the meals I could pick to tell about. It’s Wednesday—Write with me.

Tell me about one meal (yes, just one) that made an impact on you.

Rain for the Writer’s Soul

Watering the writer's soulWhite-gray morning sky and the icon on my desktop said rain. I didn’t have to water the seeds I planted last week—the mesclun, spinach, arugula, kale, and peas, the carrots, radish, and beets that came later.

I love spring and summer rain because I don’t have to water my gardens. I love the rain because sometimes I need a day to catch up on errands or inside projects, things I don’t want to do when the day calls me outside.

The rain will sink into to the dry soil. It will help open up those seeds and wake up the peepers.

I’ve been in a writing drought. I’ve found myself resistant to writing. My notebooks are filled with what I’d consider grumblings not writing. I’ve sent out letters. I’ve abandoned my blog. The half written article and the not quite right essay get shuffled from place to place.

I tried writing prompts, but instead of new words, I thought of ones I’d already written.

“I’m tired of my own story,” I thought.

Back in January, an editor had nudged me to submit an essay we had talked about. The timing felt terrible, but I did it. The digital edition came out earlier this month, and the magazine itself, arrived over the weekend. With it came responses—an email from a friend, a call from a neighbor, a FB message, comments on the digital version, emails to the editor. Gentle rain.

Each response reminded me that one of reasons I write is to share experience—to connect.

Writing is discovery and self-understanding.
Writing is capturing memories—or letting them out to let them go.
Writing is communication and sharing.
Writing, over time, allows us to notice patterns and change.
Writing, whether letter or essay or blog post or book, is expression.

The writing in my pile of notebooks and the nested folders on my computer matters. Writing is in part about the process. Writing shared matters in a different way.

This is why I’ll struggle with the stubborn essay on my desk that isn’t taking shape and find my way back here again, why I’ll keep trying to find a home in the world for an essay that did come together, why I’ll keep coming back here even when it feels like it’s been too long.


Whether it’s writing or something else you’re feeling stuck with, go back to your whys.

Tell me about your why.