This, too, is my life

gal gadot as wonder womanFriday night, my family settled in to watch Wonder Woman for the zillionth time. I love that my boys love Wonder Woman and argue over who gets to be her when they play Justice League. I have wistful memories of my childhood best friend (and inspiration for my current novel) and the Wonder Woman mittens of hers I coveted fiercely. I love the anti-war message of the latest incarnation.

But I also find myself wrestling with other feelings. As I sat watching Gal Gadot, in awe of her strong legs and body, frustration with my own slide toward 40 and 5-years-post-partum body set in. Again (like I said, this is the zillionth time we’ve watched it). I’ll never be Gal Gadot.

In this week’s episode, Olivia and I talked about jealousy and how to deal with it. It’s such a common part of life, and it sucks. Not only is it unpleasant, it can spoil the good things, too.

I’ll never be Gal Gadot. But she’ll never be me, either.

We recorded this particular discussion on Thursday, so as I lay in bed that night after the movie, I decided to just sit with it. And I realized, yes, I’ll never be Gal Gadot. But she’ll never be me, either. So take that, Wonder Woman.


madeleine l'engle's summer of the great-grandmother (crosswicks book two) and yellow index cardsLast week, I also finished reading Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L’Engle. Listeners know how much I love the woman I call St. Madeleine, in all her complexity — much has been written on her revisionist approach to truth and memory, and it was sad to read her version of her children and know how different it is from their version of her (Gabrielle Zevin wrote in The New Yorker of her children “who love her deeply, but with a kind of desperate frustration spliced with resentment.”). She rewrote herself.

Anyway, I finished the book, and made some notes, feeling a little disappointed. Summer of the Great-Grandmother is about the summer of her mother’s death and decline, and is full of family history and storytelling, which while pleasant, wasn’t illuminating or inspiring to me right then. I wanted her to tell me a different story, to give me her life, but differently.

Madeleine looked back at me and said, not just “It was hard,” but also, “This, too, was my life.”

I tell a story often of a podcast I once heard. The host shared what was to her a devastating interaction with a long-time hero: She was in the process of trying to write while also raising her small children. At a book signing for one of L’Engle’s books, she asked L’Engle, “How did you do it? How did you write and take care of your family?” L’Engle looked at her for a moment then said only, “It was hard,” then went back to signing books.

This is a favorite story of mine because my reaction is one of joy and intense relief. If it was hard for Madeleine effing L’Engle, how in the world do I expect it to be easy for me?

As I was copying down passages from Summer on yellow index cards, I realized I had been reading the book for advice and motivation as a writer, and Madeleine looked back at me and said, not just “It was hard,” but also, “This, too, was my life.”


And it hit me — these things too are and will be my life, and that’s good. I don’t know what Gal Gadot wants from her life, but as I look around at mine, I would not trade it for anyone else’s. You can’t give up the bad without giving up the good, because they’re entwined. Nothing in our lives is wholly good or bad — kids are going to bring sleepless nights and fragmented workdays, but they’re also going to bring knock-knock jokes and spontaneous hugs and so much wonder. That delicious cake? Probably not helping me look like Wonder Woman, but SO DELICIOUS. A period of intense loneliness many years ago has wound its way through my current work, and allowed me to write about someone who isn’t me doing things I’ve never done, but feeling things I have felt.

This, too, is my life — not L’Engle’s, not Gal Gadot’s — and I’m the only one who makes it what it is, and it makes me.


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Episode 19 will make you jealous

Ha, not really! It is all about jealousy — what makes us jealous, what it means, what we do about it — and we get really honest about friendship and communication. Check out the full show notes over on the episode page, where you can listen and find links to subscribe.

What makes you jealous? What do you do about it? Let us know here in the comments, and don’t forget to share your responses to the January writing prompt (or any of the previous ones).

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Is it too late to follow my writing dreams?

Did you read this advice column by Roxane Gay in the New York Times? The one that says this:

The older I get, the more I have to say and the better I am able to express myself. There is no age limit to finding artistic success. Sometimes it happens at 22 and sometimes it happens at 72 and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. No, you are not too old to have a writing career, no matter your age.

I did read it, and then forgot it completely (I haven’t been online much the past couple weeks). And then one of our listeners sent it to me again, and reminded me that I wanted to write about it.

In the conversations Meghan and I have – on the podcast but especially off – we often talk about feeling like we have started late, or that particular nostalgia-for-what-never-was feeling (there must be a German word for that) of reading about a writer who is 22 and accomplished and amazing. That feeling that makes you feel like it’s not worth trying.

Which, of course, logically: what?? First of all, we aren’t old. Second, if it took me 70 years to tell a really good story, that would also be okay. But a lot of celebrity writing culture glorifies the young writers. Every year, it seems, an entire generation of new writers is born, at age 20-whatever, and they are breathlessly hailed as the “new [insert famous writer here, like Nabokov or Roth or whoever].”

(By the way, that is also completely okay. It’s awesome if you figure out what you want to say and how to say it when you’re 20-whatever, and I love being in awe of so many talented people.)

One part I liked of the column was this: “The writing world was passing me by.” Because that’s what it does feel like, right? That there is a writing world, and they don’t even know you want to get in, and if they did, they’d completely laugh in your face.

That’s why I especially liked her advice, which was to measure your success in a way that doesn’t depend on other people, on the people in the writing world (we could call it a writing bubble):

Sometimes, success is getting a handful of words you don’t totally hate on the page. Sometimes success is working a full-time job to support your family and raising your kids and finding a way, over several years, to write and finish a novel.

Let’s all just chant her last line to ourselves and each other every day this year:

You are not a late bloomer. You are already blooming.

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9 tips for being a writer at Thanksgiving (or any holiday)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the United States, and that means travel, family, friends, houseguests, late nights, and lots of food and drink — all things that can wreck your writing routine. In this week’s episode, Olivia and I talked about ways you can make sure you don’t feel like you’ve been derailed but don’t have to lock yourself away in a hermitage (unless that’s your thing — it’s totally my dream life, so I’m not judging).

So whether or not you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, whether or not you’re closing in on 50,000 words for the month or are stuck at 500, all of these can help you stay connected to your writing when life around you gets out of control.

top tips for being a writer at thanksgiving or holidays

1. Stay engaged with the craft

It’s hard to stick to a firm schedule when you’re traveling or tired. Instead of pushing yourself to write during down time, try reading or rereading your favorite book on writing. We love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is great for quick shots. In episode 11, Alicia de los Reyes recommends On Writing by Stephen King.

You could also try a podcast or two. We cover our favorites in episodes 3 and 12, and you can check out a handy list on Instagram.

2. Take notes

Keep track of those great ideas! I carry a notebook with me most places, but always at least have an index card or some post-its. You can also record a voice memo or take a quick note on your phone. Even if you don’t have time to do anything with the idea right away, you’ve saved it for later.

3. Use jet lag

Waking super early (or up really late) because of jet lag? Take advantage of the time when others are sleeping and use that time for yourself and your writing.

4. Decide ahead of time

Be honest with yourself about how what you’ve been able to do in the past, and make a choice about how much — if any — you’ll write during the holiday period. Not writing feels a lot better if you are doing it on purpose. Making a plan ahead of time can also help you get back to your routine after Thanksgiving.

5. Whatever you do is enough

Even if you don’t decide ahead of time, that’s okay. It’s totally okay to do nothing, and it’s okay to change your plans. You are okay.

6. Help out your future self

Write a note to yourself about where you are so it’s easier to re-engage after a break (planned or unplanned). This is a helpful practice to use every day, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by what you haven’t done yet.

7. Be gentle with yourself

Holiday gatherings are hard, even with the happiest of families and friends. Don’t add more stress by beating yourself up over what you are and aren’t writing. You don’t need to catch up if you miss a day or three — just start where you are and do the best you can. You’re doing great!

8. Honor your feelings

If you’re finding yourself getting anxious or desperate to get some words on paper, sneak away for 15-20 minutes. Take a walk, or go find a quiet room. No one will notice, and even a short break can be all you need.

9. Only share what you want (and don’t apologize)

We’ve all been there — the well-meaning (or not) question about your writing. “Are you published yet?” or even just, “How’s your writing going?” Think about what you want to say and direct the conversation there. Chances are, the person is just trying to connect with you, and not looking for all the details of your agent hunt. Even if they are, it’s okay not to answer and change the subject. You don’t have to apologize.


That’s it! What’s your best advice for balancing writing and holidays? Let us know, and if you try any of our tips, we’d love to hear how it goes!







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