Jane Rutherford has an excellent article on the Scribophile Writing Blog. The title is Writing Bootcamp: Writing Whenever, Wherever, Whatever. Whenever I’ve gone to a writer’s conference it never fails that I come away feeling guilty. Every workshop stresses that a writer needs to set a writing schedule and stick to it. I know there’s validity to that statement. As an artist I would tell my students the importance of spending time in the studio every day. Even if you didn’t paint that day, get into your workspace, spend time in there, draw, prepare painting surfaces, clean up the space, and just do something. Eventually, after putting in the discipline of setting aside the time the painting ideas will flow. I know that discipline works no matter what the creative medium is.
However, I am in a season of life where I simply cannot plan like that. Work might call and ask me to come in, or my in-laws may call with a crisis that cannot be ignored. If I find myself with an afternoon free, I most likely need to mow the lawn. Which brings me back to Ms. Rutherford. She observes that the popular technique of setting a writing schedule and sticking to it sounds great, but from experience she knows it can be rather difficult. Just seeing a professional writer say that in print was a massive relief. Her advice? Instead of setting up a schedule that won’t work and feeling guilty for not following it, write whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can. That advice is flipping brilliant in its simplicity. Be it writing or painting, just do what you can. Have a notebook or sketchbook with you at all times and do what you can, when you can.
With that in mind, I’ve pulled out a manuscript I’ve been working on for a few years and once more started working on it. It is in very rough form, but I’ve polished up about eighty pages (with the help of an editor) and it’s time to start working on it again. It’s my story of caring for my mother who was a very difficult woman. I stopped working on it because of all the things that were happening in my life and I had started to believe that my story doesn’t matter. Recently, I ran across a quote by Frederick Buechner that reminded me that idea was wrong. He said, “The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story”. My story matters. The story of forgiveness and care giving is something other people need to hear. We’re all in this together and we all need to share our stories.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.