If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

I have a lot of time to think these days, but very little to sit down and write. A newborn is all-consuming, always needing something from me. It delights me, but leaves me mentally drained.

I’ve been trying for months to write something on my battle with breastfeeding, jotting notes down in my phone as I stand off to the edge of the sidewalk, hoping the lack of motion won’t wake the baby.

Tonight, I decided, would be the night I’d finally sit down and turn my gibberish notes into something great. This would be the topic that I’d finally turn into a Facts & Arguments, a goal I’ve been secretly chasing for years, despite barely having written a thing in the last two.

First I had to read a few old essays to re-familiarize myself with the format. Then the guidelines. Then I had to read the F&A my friend Leslie wrote several years ago because I remember it being quite good. It is good, and it makes me self-conscious about what I’ve written so far.

I start to feel the doubt bubbling up inside. I look back and my notes and wonder “do I really know what I’m writing about?”

I sit for a while trying to figure out what my point is. To help, I look at Facebook. Someone has liked a particularly cute photo of my baby and it makes me feel proud – I have no control over how cute she is, but I take credit anyway.

Perhaps what I’m writing needs more research. Instead of writing it’d be best if I googled some history instead.

It’s past my bedtime now. Maybe I’ll write tomorrow.

Grief and publishing

So, I’m in a magazine. And that is completely amazing.

It’s what I’ve been working toward and what I’ve secretly wanted since I was a kid. Even better, it’s in a magazine that I respect (despite my non-religiosity). So I’m excited, and grateful, and proud of myself (but not to worry, still completely critical).

But I’m also filled with some conflicting emotions.

The piece, which I started writing very shortly after my friend Tiina died in January, is about how I dealt with the online reminders that appeared almost immediately after her death.

I started to write it to organize my thoughts and to expel some of the horrid feelings I had. When I did, I felt powerful. I felt in control of my feelings.  I also realized I was on to something — if I was having this problem, surely others were too.

But I put it down for many months until I came across a call for pitches for Geez Magazine – a fantastic, ad-free quarterly out of Winnipeg. They were looking for articles about technology intersecting with people’s lives. It fit.

So long story short, I pitched a version of my article (with some additions including interviews), it got accepted, and I was off to work to write the most important thing in my career. My first.

But writing about the death of a friend isn’t easy.  I was filled with conflicting feelings of pride and guilt.

It was no longer just about processing my thoughts. Suddenly, it became an artifact.  I was manipulating words into the best possible pattern and inserting punctuation to emphasize emotion with the most impact — an important process as a writer, but weird as a person.  I was worried I’d lose my friend’s memory on the page.

That’s not to say it wasn’t sincere. Every word, and every feeling was true. And when I stop worrying about the structure of the writing and sit and remember my friend, my heart breaks all over again.

It’s been 11 months since Tiina died. I feel calmer now – though I still can’t bring myself to visit Victoria –and I’m glad that my memory of this big occasion will also remind me of my friend. I can’t help but feel guilty about profiting (ever so slightly) with a story about so much sadness, but I’d like to think she’d be okay with it. I hope I’m right.