I Am, We Are

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As a writer, most of my work is done alone. It is just me, my computer, the wild horses running through my head, and the blank page staring back at me. Part of me wonders if it is this solitary, independent, and introspective side of writing that continues to pull me under its spell.

But there is also part of me that loathes this side of writing – the lonely side – as well. The doubts start to creep in. The blank page starts to look like an insurmountable brick wall. The world starts to look a little scarier than it did before. And I want to run, screaming, away from this calling to put words down on paper, to create something lasting out of the fleeting impermanence of life.

Whenever I feel myself turning away from the scary side, however, whenever I feel myself slipping into a what’s-the-point kind of hopelessness, something draws me back into the hard work of the craft. And that something is not autonomy, but rather community. It is the solidarity of community that empowers me to run toward – not away from – the brick wall and then try to break it down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, about how we have a way of finding each other when we need each other most. One day last week, I was feeling particularly dejected about the future of my writing career. Just when I was starting to get all wrapped up in the woe-is-me spiral of frustration, I got an email from a fellow writer who I had met in one of Jena Schwartz’s online writing groups and her words of support were like salve on a throbbing wound. I felt nourished and uplifted. Similarly, last week I met with a writer I knew through an online class offered by the Her Stories Project. Over iced coffees, we talked about writing and motherhood and Facebook. Once again, I felt nourished and uplifted.

On the one hand, both of these encounters were so eerily well-timed that it seemed as if the gods might have had a hand in it all. On the other hand, the serendipity didn’t surprise me at all; this is, after all, the power of community. And just like there is something nourishing about a few well-timed words of encouragement, and something uplifting about coming together in a shared craft, there is something magical about what happens when we find – or build – a community that expands the scope of our world. For three weeks in July, I gathered together with a group of people who simply wanted to show up, create, and share. Some people shared their words, some shared their photos. One day I even shared a picture I had colored. (It’s no secret that I’m a little addicted to coloring.) And over the course of only three weeks, creative lines were stretched and lasting relationships were built.

Buoyed by the deepening and tightening of relationships that can be forged by creating together, I have been trying to create with my children more. Part of it is a selfish quest, of course. I like to color and write so, of course, these are the activities I like to do with my boys. But there is also a more altruistic goal, as well: I want my children to experience the joy and connection that comes from sharing a creative endeavor, whatever it might be.

A few months ago, I bought a couple 642 Things to Write About books for Jackson and myself. For a few weeks, we wrote in our books at night and then we would read what we wrote aloud to each other. Not only was it fun and good writing practice, but it also helped me know and understand Jackson a little better. And I like to think that maybe it helped him know and understand me a little better as well.

But for the past few months, we’ve abandoned this routine. Summer called and we answered, leaving behind anything that might be considered “educational” in favor of the swimming pool, the lake, and baseball games. Lately, though, I find myself longing for that practice again. I miss the camaraderie that came from participating in a joint creative activity, and the bond that was forged by sharing our work with each other.

Last weekend I was bound and determined to reignite our shared writing practice in some small way so, together, we wrote “I Am” poems. Poetry is not something that comes easy for me and once I finally convinced Jackson and Teddy to sit down and write with me, I think that the project was harder for me than it was for them. Nonetheless, we completed the project and it was as rewarding as I remembered. I promised both Jackson and Teddy that if they wrote a poem, I would share their poems on my website, which thrilled and motivated them. So, in keeping with that promise, below you will find each of their poems. And in the interest of solidarity, I am sharing my “poem” as well, cringing, and with Mary Oliver’s mantra of “you don’t have to be good” running through my head.

I generally shy away from anything that might be considered “advice,” especially parenting advice. After all, what the heck do I know? I’m just fumbling my way through this thing, learning as I go, like the rest of us. But at the risk of making a suggestion that looks dangerously similar to advice, I would encourage parents to find something kind of shared creative activity to do with your children, whether it is scrapbooking or photography or writing, cooking or gardening or coloring. It will be messy and complicated and it will be so much harder than when you do this thing, whatever it is, alone. But it will be worth the effort. I promise.

And whoever you are, whatever your situation or season, I encourage you to find some way to create something, anything, whenever you can. And, better yet, find a community in which you can share your work. I know you’re busy. I know you’re scared. But trust me, the reward is worth the risk; the prize is worth the price.

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To learn more or register for the In Your Mind’s Eye writing workshop or the Creating Together creativity workshop, click here.

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I Am (by Jackson Organ, age 8)

I am extreme and amazing.
I wonder whose next birthday is going to be.
I hear the fans cheering at the football game.
I see Babe Ruth hitting the called shot.
I want to see my cousins and rest of my family more.
I am extreme and I am amazing.

I pretend to be on American Ninja Warrior.
I feel good when I make someone else feel good.
I touch Anthony Rizzo’s bat.
I worry when I tell a lie.
I cry when my pets die.
I am extreme and I am amazing.

I understand how to write a poem.
I say I like my UU church.
I dream that I am in Minecraft.
I try to get better at baseball.
I hope I make the MLB.
I am extreme and amazing.

I Am (by Teddy Organ, age 5)

I am naughty and nice.
I wonder what plants grow.
I hear waves crashing.
I see a bush.
I want lots of toys.
I am naughty and nice.

I pretend to have two imaginary brothers who are ghosts.
I feel sad and cool.
I touch a cupcake.
I worry when I tell a lie.
I cry when Jackson jokes me.
I am naughty and nice.

I understand that there’s gold.
I say that I have gold.
I dream that I have another dog.
I try to catch birds.
I hope to get candy.
I am naughty and nice.

I Am (by Christine Organ) **

I am a water baby, born under the sign of Cancer.
I wonder where the water comes from, where it goes.
I hear rain and rivers and waves.
I want to drink it all in.
I am a water baby.

I pretend I am a dolphin.
I feel the water move through my fingers.
I touch the fin of a whale.
I worth that I will drown.
I cry when the fish swim away from me.
I am a water baby.

I understand I need air and land.
I say the water is too cold.
I dream I am a mermaid.
I try to jump in, to make a big splash.
I am a water baby.

** Note: inspired by one of the exercises in the Creating Together creativity workshop

"Mama’s

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6 Comments

  • Christie, each of these poems is amazing! Seriously! I love that you write with your boys. Writing isn’t something my son enjoys so we’re drawing a lot these days. I wonder if he’d write a poem with me. What an amazing idea! I’m so glad that you were uplifted and inspired when those ugly voices wanting to whisper that it’s all impossible threatened to become louder. And I’m so glad I know you!!
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…Had I Only Known: The 12 Things I Wish I Knew Back ThenMy Profile

  • Christie,
    Loved meeting you too! Such a great experience to create this writing community! I love the idea of creating with our kids. Each of my children is showing different avenues of how they want to create. I want to help nurture that, and I’m going to use some of your suggestions here. It is great advice or whatever you want to call it. ; ) The poems you and your kids wrote are amazing! Thank you for sharing! Look forward to ice coffees together soon. xo
    Mimi recently posted…What I Wish I Knew Before Overnight Camp Began…My Profile

  • This was lovely. Blogging has taken me on a journey I never could’ve predicted. At first, it was just another way to get my writing out. And yet over the years I’ve met the most wonderful bloggers and friends. Its easy to feel lonely in front of the computer everyday. But what a joy to have such wonderful companions out there, even if you never meet.

    • I can completely relate. There have been so any unexpectedly good surprises about blogging. Some unexpected downsides too, but mostly good surprises.

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