Embracing the Backburner

Early this year I had decided I was going to publish four poetry collections, one themed for each season.  The winter and spring segments were easy in the sense that half, if not over half, of the content was already written or in the making of.  The summer and fall collections however were going to be basically all new material.  ‘To Want the Winter’ and ‘Dandelion Picking’ were published in March and July respectfully.  ‘To Want the Winter’ saw the most attention as it was my re-debut after an eight-year hiatus from writing consistently.  ‘Dandelion Picking’, geared toward parenting, saw less traffic but it is still just a month fresh.  Somewhere between publishing the winter collection and then the spring collection I picked up my paintbrush again after the same almost eight-year hiatus.  Just like with writing, a passion long stuck in hibernation was thawed suddenly.  I have become jolted into a new creative world that I intend to make a career.  I am a writer and an artist.  This is what I do now.  The only thing limiting me all these years was myself. The typical feeling like I’m not good enough to call myself those titles and the weight of parenthood keeping me busy elsewhere.

Breaking free of those internal creative constraints that told me I had to write a certain way or create art a certain way has been very liberating and the results are right there on the page or canvas. I have a fairly good balance between these two creative endeavors currently.  When writing block hits, I draw or paint. When I’m feeling less colorful on canvas I write instead.  When I have nothing to do for either I try to blog or find places to submit work to. On top of getting back to the art desk we have decided to homeschool our boys for at least another year, and I will also be returning to classes in a couple of weeks as I finish up my English major degree.  Big changes this summer fell upon us and I have come to the realization that my old mindset and habits were creeping back in.  Taking on too much, fearing I will get burnt out, half hearting what I could, and not feeling good enough in myself with the rest will ultimately lead to letting go of something. I want to do all of these things.  They are passions and commitments I feel strongly about.  I am still returning to school, I will be homeschooling the boys, I will be creating art simultaneous with writing but what is the rush to get to that burn out?  I had to start thinking about what I could do, the timeline to manage it in, and if all these things were that important to me that I also need to give myself some grace. 

When deciding to homeschool again I felt this sense of relief that I get a do-over from our wild random first year of homeschooling last year.  Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed about the idea of taking this on again I just keep reminding myself that I get another whole year to be at home enjoying the happiness of my boys learning and growing.  I plan to embrace it all this time now that we have the dreaded “first year” done.  The task of housewife, student, teacher, mother, writer, artist, etc is a scary idea to take on.  Fear for my new creative career being put on the backburner hurt my soul and it at first triggered the urge to rush projects or procrastinate them entirely. But what’s wrong with the idea of the backburner?

For me it’s the mindset of letting things be forgotten, lost, and never picked up again. I’ve wrote almost consistently this year about how I wasn’t going to forget who I was and what I love again but with many tasks at hand I have to be able to embrace the breaks or downtimes from projects as well to give myself breathing room merely to avoid the burnout or the dreaded procrastination (especially those made up deadlines in my head biting at the fear of not being “good enough… in a timely manner”). So I’m bracing myself for the fact that somedays, weeks, or even months some things may be on the backburner. So what? As long as the backburner is turned ON and I’m stirring it now and then. At the end of the day, I must set boundaries, with myself.  I’m good at taking on too much and just saying forget it to some of the things I take on…and letting them die slowly over eight years.  Who is my boss anyways?  Me, right?! 

Once diving into these things, I realized none of the extras I’m tackling takes away from my writing goal I initially set for myself this year. Instead, they will aid in inspiration and creative practice. When I first set the deadline of four collections in 2021, I was internally considering selling my bulky art desk and supplies as I hadn’t found that part of me yet, we were going to take the kids to public school, and I went into the goal knowing absolutely nothing about self-publishing either. Now that I am halfway through this goal, I have just come to the conclusion that unless I force it under heavy personal expectation and stress, the goal wasn’t feasible from the beginning.  So, I am slowing down.  Retracting my original goal.  Telling myself I create my own deadlines, telling myself ‘no’ when those doubts creep in, and setting boundaries with forcing projects.  I feel I am compelled to write for the next two collections with more authenticity and power as I take my time to do so.  Which means I may not meet my goal of the full Words of the Seasons four-part series coming out in just 2021, some may spill into 2022, and who knows what will come my way between now and then. I have many writing projects on my mind and maybe letting the last two parts marinate while I explore other creative projects and full heartedly soak up these fleeting moments with my kids will help me keep that backburner on, stirring occasionally of course.

Published by elizabethridge

A poet and author from Iowa. Just trying to make feelings into words and make it mean something. Or nothing. You read and decide

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