A Bedtime Story

“I have a good story to tell you tonight,” I said to her.

“Yay!” She snuggled closer to me, pulling the comforter up.

“Ok, this is how it goes...”

Clover knew it was time. She had filled the role of Unschooling Mom for over a decade, and even though she would keep that role, her kids were needing her less and less, so she was ready for something different. And with several things lining up to make such a change possible, she knew she had to jump at the chance.

Little did she know how scary that jump would be — what fears she would face in the freefall.

“Is this a scary story?” she asked.

“No, I promise it’s not scary,” I said.

“Ok, continue.”

Clover was creative. She was funny and caring and she liked to be around friends. But, lately, Clover was finding it hard to start working on her normal creative projects. Things she used to have no problem starting. Whenever her kids were preoccupied for a bit, she’d try to make some progress toward her goals, but something always seemed to get in the way.

Sometimes it was the laundry, or a really good book she couldn’t wait to get back to, or a text conversation with a friend, or... a child would probably need help soon, and, well, it was usually just easier not to even start. But this left her kind of sad and wondering what was wrong.

She realized that there were several elements that weren’t lining up for her to even consider beginning a creative project — uninterrupted free time, energy, and motivation. She often found herself with one or two of those elements, but finding enough of all three at the same time... well, it didn’t happen often — which was actually another factor, consistency.

So when an opportunity to do something new came along, she took it. Clover was going to focus on being a writer — a secret wish she had but never thought she’d actually get to do.

“Aw, she never thought she’d get to be a writer?” she asked.

I smiled softly, “There are some things people want to do but have to put off until later or they believe they can’t do those things.”

“That’s sad,” she said.

“Yeah, it can be...” I continued with the story...

Those first few days she spent in her backyard office were very difficult. She started by working through the book, The Artist’s Way, trying desperately to recover her creative spark. This would be her third attempt, with the previous two attempts failing almost instantly. She hadn’t really been ready until now.

The first exercise she did from the book was called Morning Pages. Every day she sat down and wrote three long-hand pages in a journal, all about what she was doing and thinking and feeling. It was a tough process for her because she loved finished products. She couldn’t wait until she had a book she wrote in her hands. But that’s not how this type of thing worked for her. She didn’t simply sit down and write a book on her first try, even though that’s what she wished for.

Day after day, she’d sit and write three pages of word vomit.

“Word vomit?!” the girl giggled.

I laughed with her. “Yes, word vomit. Why? What’s wrong with that phrase?”

“It doesn’t sound like a good thing,” she said.

“Well, that’s what it felt like. It felt like she was just throwing up all her guts and deep dark secrets onto the page.”

“Ew, maybe don’t say that in the story,” she covered her ears for a moment.

“Ok, I’ll change it.”

Day after day, she’d sit and write three pages of whatever came to her mind.


“Yes, please continue.” She patted my knee for emphasis.

And day after day, she told herself, “But you aren’t writing anything yet! You don’t have a project started.” Never mind that she had already filled 60 pages in a notebook, but her mind had decided that if she wasn’t writing for a specific creative project, all the writing she was doing, “didn’t count.”

“That’s so silly! Why would she think what she was doing didn’t count as writing?” she asked me.

“Yeah, I know, right? Well, it can be tough for a person to see how valuable the process is when they are so focused on wanting a product.”

“Does this story have a happy ending?” she asked.

“Let’s keep going and see.”

She gave me a skeptical look but nodded and I continued...

Well, Clover, bless her heart, kept coming back, day after day, and wrote out all her fears, all her insecurities. All the, “Who are you to say you’re a writer?! What about your kids? They need you. Your grammar isn’t even that good. What do you even have to say that the world would care about?” It was a nasty business, but she took it all with grace.

Eventually, the negative voices got quieter and quieter. She moved them from her mind to the page. Clover talked to others who were going through the same thing and they helped her see that all of the work she’d been doing was actually helping her become unblocked. Finally, she was able to start a few creative projects, but now she knew not to focus on any sort of end product.

Her creativity started to flow. She was already volunteering at a non-profit, and when a chance to become a Co-Editor of their online magazine and press came up, she only hesitated slightly. Even though she had already self-published a short story as a gift one year, and had a background in Graphic Design, Journalism, and Photography, she still wasn’t confident she could do it. But years of not feeling good enough can take a while to undo.

Now, she still comes up against her doubts but she recognizes it’s all part of the process and mostly she’s just happy she can help others share their stories. The end.

“That was about me when I’m older, wasn’t it?” the girl asked.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and hugged her tight. And as I drifted to sleep, I could still feel my loving arms around me.

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