Day 3 of #1000wordsofsummer 2020

The Hierarchy of Needs

Good morning.

Black lives matter.

Today you will write 1000 words. You have the choice between the empty page and the full page. A choice to build something out of thin air. Choose fullness. Choose a sense of completeness. An abundance of words, yours if you want. A thing you can do for yourself, for free, today, now. Choose to write.

Today’s guest contributor is Liz Moore, author of four books and faculty member of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Temple University. Her most recent book is the remarkable Long Bright River, a novel about the opioid crisis in Philadelphia. It was a “Good Morning America” book club pick.

Liz shares her life with us:

“I'm going to write about writing while quarantined with two kids under four because 

A) that's my life right now, and

B) it's the most pressurized form of writing I've ever experienced, and

C) it might apply to you whether or not you have kids. 

I've always worked full time, except in grad school, when I worked part time on top of school. From 2005-2016, I learned to balance work and writing, which primarily meant learning to write when tired, and developing the stamina and discipline to stick to a writing routine. 

In 2016, I had my first child. She taught me to balance work, writing, and newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

In 2019, I had my second child. He taught me to balance work, writing, newborn-induced sleep deprivation, and toddler mood management.

Then 2020 happened. In 2020, there is no longer ‘balance.’ There is only chaos. I published a novel on January 7th and headed out on book tour immediately. No writing occurred. In March, the book tour came to abrupt halt. My husband and I both continued to work full-time from home, but now we had two kids under four at home with us all. The. Time. For a month, my cold streak with writing continued. 

In April, after several emotional breakdowns in a row, I resumed writing. It no longer felt like a luxury. Instead, it felt foundational — something situated near the sturdy bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I missed writing specifically, I missed the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth and routine that writing brings me. For me, writing is a shortcut to feeling like myself, remembering who I am and what I hope to bring to the world. It brings me peace and well-being like nothing else does, even when it's going badly, which it is, most of the time. It's just the act of doing it that calms me.

So I made the decision to use the very few hours I have to myself (typically, one or two per day, sometimes only at nap time) to write. This means that I don't clean, or cook, or do e-mail correspondence, or shop for what we need online, or do taxes, or talk on the phone, or sleep, or mess around on the internet, or anything else. I just write. (The rest of the tasks get done by my husband or by me on weekends, when we can swap off childcare for longer stretches.) Some days go terribly. Some days go better. I'm working on several writing projects at the moment and I try to rotate them, so on Monday I'll work on Project A, on Tuesday I'll work on Project B, and on Wednesday I'll work on Project C — and so on. This is not ideal, because I can't get completely into the groove with any of them, but I'm inching forward on all of them. 

And most importantly, the time affords me some brief moments of well-being in the middle of what has otherwise been a very challenging time. 

I don't know what lesson to take from this, and I don't know what you'll take from it. It's a weird time. I guess what I've learned is that writing always bobs like a buoy to the surface of my life, no matter what else is going on around me. I'm glad for that.”

I believe in you today, and every day.