Thoughts on a Life Decision

This post is not writing-related, except for the fact that it is an exercise in putting my opinions into words.  If you would like to skip reading today, I will not be offended as this is a bit outside the stated purpose for this blog. I was inspired to write this by a blog I read recently and also by several conversations I have had in the last few weeks.

I live in a community that values children.  It seems that starting a family young is the expected norm here, much as it is in many communities.  I am also of an age where most of my friends, acquaintances, and coworkers are starting or continuing their families.  This means that I am in a cultural place where my future as a mother becomes an occasional topic of conversation.

As much as it seems to shock many people, I am not going to have children.  It isn’t simply that I’m not planning to have children or am putting it off for a later date; I have actively decided that I will not have children.  I think that I’ve put more thought into my decision than most parents put into the choice to create offspring, and I’d like to share with you why.

Before we dive into my reasoning, I want to clarify something.  This decision is not related to my being anti-child.  I like kids, especially once they reach an age where they can tell me what they need.  I like interacting with kids, I like many of the same things that kids enjoy, and I love watching kids discover the things that I am passionate about.  I also like to give kids back to their parents at the end of the day.  🙂

My first reason for not wanting to have children is simply that I’m not interested in growing someone inside of me or dealing with a squally, messy infant.  This is a reality that I know about myself, and one that I am willing to embrace.  Changing diapers and warming bottles are not my thing, and there is nothing about pregnancy that appeals to me.  This is not due to some misguided thought that pregnancy is all pain and discomfort.  I have heard about the wonderful things from my friends with kids.  I know women who actually enjoy being pregnant.  For me, the good things don’t sound like something I need to experience, and they definitely don’t outweigh the pain and discomfort that I know are a reality of carrying another human inside of you.  And as I said before, I like kids once they can tell me what they need.  While I know people who love babies, once again, I am not one of them.

Beyond my lack of interest in pregnancy and babies is my unwillingness to give up the things I enjoy about my life.  I know you can take kids hiking and teach them birding and travel the globe with them.   I know that parents still have hobbies and jobs and lives.  But I also know that having kids means making sacrifices, of time and money and energy.  For many people, the sacrifices of devoting your life to another’s are more than worth it.  You are welcome to call me selfish, but once again, the value does not outweigh the sacrifice to me.  (For basically the same reason, I will not be getting another dog when Eli eventually passes away.)

On top of the bodily and self-serving reasons, there is the reality of global population growth.  This world does not need more people in it, and producing a new American means adding one more unsustainable footprint to our already burdened globe.  Even if I was intrigued by pregnancy and eager to divert my life into a child’s, I would still question the decision based on this reality.  What right do I have to add to the environmental problems of future generations?  Do I really want to bring someone into the world who is going to contribute to and ultimately have to face the climate and water and food crises to come?

I enjoy my life.  I find my work and my writing to be fulfilling, and the people around me to be a source of support and guidance.  There is no hole in my life that can only be filled by a baby, no ticking clock or burning desire to bring a new life into this world.  I know that this makes me strange in a world of infants and families, but I am content with my decision and know that I am making the right one for me.

Holiday Recovery

I had a great visit home with my family for Christmas.  Of course, I didn’t figure in enough recovery time, so I had to go back to work the day after I drove back.  This means that the end of each work day has included down time or tasks (like unpacking) that needed to be done.

Tomorrow I finally get a day off, and then hopefully my schedule will return to a semblance of normal.  Having taken on this giant writing project and also needing to send some more query letters for Dragon, being back to normal will be helpful.

It’s strange how a regular routine helps with writing, but I’m not the only person who recognizes this fact.

Have you recovered from the holidays yet, or are you waiting until after a crazy celebration to ring in 2013?

Changing the Words

When I have brain downtime around the holidays, I sometimes change the words to the classic songs of the season.  I have made work-related versions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on several occasions, and even created non-holiday versions of “Oh, Tannenbaum” and “Jingle Bells” in weird-mood moments.

Stuck driving 40 mph on the highway on my way home (courtesy of compacted snow and ice), I was struck by the line “in the lane, snow is glistening,” from “Winter Wonderland.”  My reaction was initially to reply that I didn’t want snow in my lane.  And thus a new version was born.

Instead of walking in my new version, we’re driving.  Slipping, sliding, and watching snow plows instead of frolicking, playing, and building snowmen.  It was funny enough to make my family laugh, although I will admit that their humor threshold is fairly low when it comes to me.

If you haven’t ever tried your hand at spoofing a favorite song, you should give it a try.  It will use your creativity in new and fun ways!

Speaking in Bad Grammar

I just finished reading a book that I got as a gift.  It was an interesting book; not my usual style but I did enjoy it.  The only minor issue I had with it was the occasional poor grammar, particularly in dialog.  It got me thinking about writing conversations.

The grammar issues were things that are fairly common in everyday speech.  For example, the first “as” in a simile was omitted in several conversations, as in, “His bathtub was big as a car.”  It doesn’t sound wrong, exactly, just a bit odd, even if it is technically incorrect.  Because it is heard in the everyday speech of some people, it is acceptable to include it in dialog.

But should an author write that way?  I understand writing really wrong grammar, or using excessive slang or clichés, to make a point about a character.  Does dropping in the occasional slightly incorrect sentence structure have the same effect?

I haven’t decided my exact opinion on this subject.  Do you have any thoughts?

That one difficult word…

You know what it is.  Everyone has one, although every person’s word is different. (You may have more than one; many people I know do.)

The word we’re talking about?  It’s the one that you always have trouble spelling, no matter how often you write it.

My word is dilemma.  I can’t ever remember if the I or the E comes first.  It’s pronounced DAH limma, so shouldn’t it be spelled DELIMMA?  Nope, the I comes first.  Weird.

What’s your word?

When the words don’t work

Today I started working on the next section of Mara’s story.  I’ve figured out how she’s raised, but I haven’t written any of it yet.  I thought it would be a good project for this afternoon.

The first sentence wasn’t bad.  The rest were mediocre at best.  After two paragraphs, I gave it up as a poor job and decided to come back to it later.

Perhaps the holiday music playing was distracting me.  Maybe the discomfort I have with the situation I’m writing is inhibiting me.  Most likely, it’s because I haven’t fully developed the concept yet and I was writing prematurely.

I know what’s going to happen from a broad strokes type of approach.  I haven’t really considered the little details, so writing them is more challenging.  The biggest difficulty is point of view.  I want the first impressions of the girl to come from others, before she starts to develop into her full personality.  That means writing from the point of view of the wife of the slave trader, at first, and then from at least one (and probably more) of the women awaiting sale.  At the same time I need these women to be fairly anonymous, so I don’t want to develop their characters too deeply.  Their lives, simply by the situation they find themselves in, make them somewhat invisible to society.  They are also non-entities to Mara when we switch to her point of view, due to the way she was brought up.  I want to create that feeling with the reader even when we see things from their eyes.  Thus the challenge: get into their personalities enough to write from their perspective without really revealing anything about them to the reader in the process.

No wonder I’m having trouble!  Perhaps articulating this challenge here will make it more approachable; at least now I’ve figured out what I’m facing.

Some blogs to share

Today I want to share a couple of science-related blog posts that I enjoyed recently.

Bad Astronomy on has an interesting discussion about the much-hyped Maya Apocalypse.

This video is a great take on the planet Saturn from a very excited British guy.  (He’s also got a fun one about the moon!)

Why? Because Science has a fun recipe for a diamond, if you’d like to make your own.  (Hope you have a lot of time!)


I am not dead – a blogging poem

I am not dead.

I thought perhaps you’d be worried.

After all, I did not post yesterday.
I almost missed today.

But what would my readers think
Were I to miss two days in a row?

especially so soon after another skipped day

That would make six this month
and it’s only the eighteenth.
One third of my days not written.

So I thought maybe you’d be worried.

That I had died
Or taken ill
Or had some other tragedy befall me.

None of these is true.

Life is busy.
Days are short.
I find myself pulled by the usual things that get in the way.

But I am not dead.

In case you were worried.

Finding Motivation

Now that I’m digging deeper into Mara’s story, I need to figure out the motivation behind a major event in her life.  (It’s one that comes with a certain creep-factor, which makes the process unpleasant.)

As a day-old infant, she is sold to a “flesh trader” in exchange for drugs by her prostitute mother.  (I know, right?!)  This has very straight-forward motivation.  The problem is not her mother’s reasoning.

The problem is the cost of raising an infant, and the high risk of losing that investment.  I need to figure out why she is kept. I can see a slave trader taking an infant if he has a childless couple on the hook, wanting a baby, which is probably what I will include.  That deal will fall through, to make the story work.  Now I need to figure out why he invests in raising her rather than finding another (less savory) buyer.

Here are the reasons that I’m considering so far.  First, it’s possible that he forgets about her because she is a particularly quiet child.  His wife simply raises her with little notice until she’s old enough to be on her own and added to the rest of the collection.  Another option is that one of the adult women he has in his “stock” recently lost a baby, so he gives the baby to the woman to nurse and raise.  The third option is that he figures that he paid such a small price for her (comparatively) that it isn’t a big deal if she doesn’t make it.  In that case she’d probably be raised communally by the women he’s holding for sale.

The one thing I’m watching out for is a surrogate-mother situation.  I don’t want Mara to be attached to anyone as a child; this is an important part of her character development.

I have to admit, trying to get inside the mind of a slaver who sells children is not a pleasant task, and it’s creeping me out.  The sooner I figure this out and write the scene, the better.

Storymatic Character Sketch

Last week I mentioned The Storymatic, an insanely fun game that I purchased.  Tonight I’m going to do writing practice, as I’ve done before, in the form of a character sketch using the game as a prompt.  So you can play along at home, here are the cards that I drew: runaway (gold), person of a different size than most people (gold), engagement ring (copper).

She sat, anxious, on a hard bench in the train terminal.  As she sat, she twisted a ring around her finger.  The stress of the last several months had made her lose weight, and her already tiny fingers were now even smaller, forcing her to move the diamond from her ring finger to her middle finger so it wouldn’t fall off.

The jeans and hoodie she wore were incredibly comfortable, and her feet were hugged by well-worn trainers.  Near her sat a small backpack and a duffel, neither of which held anything fancier than a sundress.  In three days she was supposed to be getting married, in front of 450 of her family and friends, but the challenges of pulling off something so large had finally worn on her and she had snapped.  Where most people would be a mess of guilt, or perhaps afraid of the repercussions, skipping out on this occasion finally felt like the right decision to her.  A ponytail and her favorite necklace were the fanciest she liked to be, and the pressure to fulfill everyone else’s fantasy had been too much.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned to the man next to her.  Like her, he wore comfortable clothing and traveled light.  He met her eyes and smiled.  “I’m glad we decided to elope,” she told her fiance.

“Me, too,” he replied.  Before they could say anything else, the announcement for their train echoed through the station.  They stood, picked up their gear, and linked their hands as they walked toward their adventure.

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