Friday, May 4, 2012


By Susan

Remember the old vaudeville act? Where the entertainer tosses plates upon sticks and gets them spinning? All of a sudden, he's got five or six plates balancing and whirling at electric speed. His wrists flick and twitch, touching the rim of each platter, keeping plates balanced and in motion as they sit atop delicate sticks. And he moves frantically, never allowing a sphere to slow its spin, and the plates merely whirl away while our actor races from plate to plate, keeping the objects in motion.

Moments before, our entertainer had been standing silently, calmly, simply smiling at the audience. Now he's a frantic hot mess trying to make it look effortless. The plates simply spin.

Yeah. That’s me. I've been standing around smiling for a while, now. Months, actually. Since I stopped working full-time and committed myself to The Novel, sure—I've signed with my agent and endured pain-staking and critical edits. But it's nothing like my life before, when I juggled children and a commute and full-time work and a spouse and everything else that comes with being a working mom. For six months, things have been cool. I've stood on the stage and looked out over the audience benevolently. Mrs.-Peaceful-Stay-At-Home-Writer-Mom.

In a very short period of time, everything has changed. The show has begun, and all of my plates started spinning. Now I'm the one racing back and forth across the stage.

A month ago yesterday, our home was hit by a tornado. Thirteen days after the storm Brilliant Agent suggested a new story line, one to weave through my existing story, one that could change the trajectory of my tome and launch my story to a different level. And then two weeks ago, I received an answered prayer in the form of a magical text from across the sea, followed by a gift of reconciliation for a friendship I thought long gone.

Next, a new seed began to sprout in my brain regarding a dream of mine—one that hinges on the sale of The Novel and involves a trip back to Ghana, and in my agitated super-busy state I decided that now was the time to make that dream a reality. Phone calls, emails and meetings ensued. Realizing my over-worked state, I decided that now was the time to begin a fasting-diet, where I attempt to replace food with walking, quiet time, prayer and meditation (wish me luck!) This week, I completed applications for summer writing workshops—thinking that might make me take myself seriously as a writer. All the while, contractors have come and gone in the name of the tornado, replacing my roof and joists and windows and gutters and siding and fence and gates…. Well, you get the picture.

My plates, once resting in the cupboard, are now spinning furiously, all while I seek a sacred place to do one thing: write.

The new storyline in The Novel keeps tugging at my heart. Brilliant Agent was right in her suggestion. In stolen moments I hunkered down to write, feeling like it wasn't enough. Yet I kicked out almost twenty pages of new words last week in the midst of my plate-spinning. New words on white paper! I've looked around my new-ish home and it is good. I see the new sub plot and I am pleased. Things are falling together, like the Big Bang of creation where order comes from chaos. In one big cruel April, all my plate-spinning actually paid off.

I realized that in these frantic bursts of busy-ness, I got things done—including my writing. The days of the smiling Mrs.-Peaceful-Stay-at-Home-Writer-Mom are over. I do better when I'm at my busiest. I write more, I think faster, and it all comes together. I don't need another plate to introduce itself into my act, but somehow I know those additional plates are coming. What can I say? Bring it on.

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