Jumping Bean Brain

When I left the writers’ conference I walked the sidewalk of the convention center under I sunny sky, the first in two days. People sat in groups on the lawn, eating apples, wearing sunglasses. One man sat on a retaining wall with his iPad. He looked stumped, as if he were searching for just the right word.

I entered the parking ramp. I got on the elevator and could see through the glass windows the courtyard and green grass and the amicable weather we all wished for, and then, even though I was inside and knew the rules, I felt a jolt of surprise when the doors slid to the middle and closed. The beautiful day disappeared. The end. The elevator moved down into the concrete where the van and my life as a mom waited.

I knew I should transition. I should change brains. But I didn’t want to. The time for me to concentrate as a writer—as an adult—comes in spurts with weeks, maybe months of nothing in the interim.  I wanted to stay in the same room with writers and the people who publish and promote them. Being around possibility like that inspires.

On the freeway, I accelerated to seventy like everyone else, but in my mind I delayed. I hung on to my writer brain, the one now inspired to take those manuscripts off the shelves and revise them, the one capable of professionalism, intelligent conversation, and watching the news, the brain that analyzes ideas and maybe has an idea or two of her own.

At the various panels I attended I heard writers speak of the long journey to publication. Some said it took twelve years. Others said fifteen. They said that in hindsight it was for the best. Their work got stronger because of the rejections and delays. They matured. They found the best home for their work by waiting.

This year, I will celebrate fifteen years of being married. It didn’t occur to me when I married to hurry up and finish a manuscript. I had a new house to paint. I had to find a new job in a new community. I had plenty of time. But what if I would’ve taken myself seriously then? Would it finally be paying off now? Fifteen years from now, my daughter will be finishing college, an event far away and fuzzy, and so too, a published book.

Coffee beans jumping into white cup

a brain flitting from task to task

As I drove, I wanted to hang on to my writer brain because I wanted to get going, focus the lens on what could be attainable if I decided it so. I knew as soon as I stepped over the threshold of my home it would get easy again to delay. Most days I have the brain of a mom multi-tasking chores and activities and playdates and dinner menus. It is a brain without focus. I am a jumping bean in the box, moving from one thing to another without going anywhere. I like my writer brain that can sustain concentration; that can take notes, do research. Inquire. Ask questions. Create.

I got home late. My oldest daughter was still up. She filled me in on the 2 for 1 Airheads she bought at the YMCA Event that night and how her friend bought extra candy for her sisters. She had so much fun. For her, having money to spend at a concession stand is good entertainment. I tried to engage but I didn’t want to turn the sound up yet. I had words of my own still speaking to me.

I noticed the oodles of laundry folded on the table and how it will require five trips up the stairs to put away. I noticed the crumbs and gravel and debris on the floor. I noticed the dishes waiting. Michael asked me what I’d like to do the landscape the backyard. I resisted an answer. I resisted the brainstorm about paver stones and filling in the holes the puppy dug. I resisted thinking of seeds and pulling weeds and harvesting sugar snaps. I know once I start getting creative in the garden, I won’t create on the page.

My writer brain started her exit. I could feel her standing near the screen door like a guest with her coat on, saying goodbye after a nice dinner party. I asked her to hang on, to stay and play. But she could see I was busy, and being ever-so-polite, said thanks and walked back out into the night air.


This post is inspired by letter J in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. Thanks for reading. Scroll past the social media buttons to share a story or to comment on this post.


3 thoughts on “Jumping Bean Brain

  1. It’s really hard to find the time to write, I can really sympathise. Everything else always seems more important than sitting down and writing the things we make up in our heads.

    I read a couple of books that really helped me with that, so I’ll give you the titles to you in case they help you too 🙂 Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande was great, as was Writing Down the Bones. They’re both about getting into the habit of writing a little every day, even if it’s just a few words free writing whatever’s in your head at the time.
    And The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer was a real eye opener for me, as far as taking myself seriously as an artist. It’s taken me a long time to think of myself as a writer, but if you’re someone who writes, you’re a writer. That was a huge turning point for me in managing to take myself seriously enough to actually carve out time from my day to write.
    My cheat way around it is that I’m not claiming to be a good writer, or a published writer, but I’ve given myself the permission to be a writer, and to be a writer I have to write. The change of mindset has worked wonder for me.

    That said I don’t have children yet so I’m sure it’s also far far harder to find time for yourself with little ones in need of your attention, but I hope you manage it! Whatever stories live in your head they deserve to be told!


    • Thank you for this letter of ideas and encouragement. I have Brande and Goldberg on my shelves. But not Palmer’s book. I would love to check that out. I just bought Dani Shapiro’s book Still Writing At the conference. When I saw her reading, she presented the chapter on giving yourself permission to be a writer. It was good advice, and a good reminder to take writing seriously.


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