My writing day is full of non-writing, but plenty of color and poetic moments. And non-poetic moments, lovely and unlovely. I take care of our toddler, Henson, am a freelance writer and editor, teach English part-time online, and poetry finds its way into the gaps. While poetry used to occupy more of my daily routine (as a constant), in my momdom, it’s a land of fits and starts. (High five to all the artist-parents out there! And also high five to spouses and co-parents! And family members who babysit!) But it feels more important than ever to write. And my style and practice have definitely changed. I’m actually expecting our second son at the end of the year…I know I’m in for even more changes, and even less control. (This has been a huge part of my lessons as a human, artist, and Virgo.)
Wake up with toddler (who’s two and a half), who giggles himself awake earlier than usual. I’m fine with this since it means a non-bonkers (for him) bedtime. Total night owl, like me. (Instant karma’s gonna get you…) He requests to go downstairs, so down we go.
We watch weird kids’ shows (right now, my son loves Little Einsteins and most PBS shows) and have our morning beverages (him—milk, me—coffee with hazelnut creamer). I check my email and Twitter on my phone. My husband, Marcus, heads to work for the day, and kiddo and I have breakfast.
We get ready to meet one of my friends at the park. It’s gonna be a lovely day, not too hot. Bring on FALL. I shower while Henson plays in his room and runs amok upstairs.
We head out to the park, singing in the car. We listen to some Sesame Street songs featuring celebs—I experience secondhand motivation from Janelle Monáe’s “” And I notice that Macklemore really mailed it in on his (a couple of missed rhymes and skipped opportunities for cuteness that Sesame Street usually NAILS; see Feist’s for how it should be done). This kind of thinking still falls in the creative category, in my mind…I often think about how kids’ media is frequently made for two audiences simultaneously (children and their adult caretakers). It’s intriguing to think of stories and language in this way.
Outdoor play time at the park. We see one of my best friends (since 8th grade!), and she graciously wanders the park with us. Swings. Train. Ducks. Bridge. Statues. More ducks. Henson hugs two dogs and tries to hug all the ducks.
We drive home and kiddo falls asleep in the car. EARLY NAP FTW. Once we get home, I transport him inside, and grab my laptop. IT’S ACTUAL WRITING TIME. Sometimes this is grading time, but for once, I am gloriously caught up, and have graded all of my students’ narrative essays. (They were lovely—pieces on what brought the students to their current career, nursing.)
I start by working on this piece about my Writing Day itself. Then I duck out of this document and get to work on my current project—a long poem/essay thing that does’t know what genre it wants to be. It’s “about” flowers, empathy, storytelling, and politics. It’s been a very slow process as I figured out what it would look like. I feel that it’s over halfway done, but am not quite sure where it’s heading. I’m on page 12—yesterday I added one page. My mom and stepdad took Henson to the zoo and I had some unexpected free time to work on it. It was my birthday yesterday, and that felt like a huge gift.
I have found myself on Twitter somehow. This piece I’m working on requires research and frequent Googling. It’s both good and bad…it leads me down the internet rabbithole. I don’t think that Twitter is a waste of time (necessarily). For me, it’s frequently a place of helpful and intriguing ideas. And I leave it when it’s too much of a distraction. But for example, the other day, I asked about how other artists handle the balance of creativity and research (especially when their language starts to feel dry). I’m trying to get back to the magic and strangeness of this piece. It’s sort of working, so far.
Henson’s going to wake up soon. I stop working on my project for now and save it. I’m so much more of a plodder, a slow writer and thinker these days. I used to write so much, and my poems were all short. I’ve slowed way down, and my poems keep getting longer. I’m okay with this. It reminds me of reading and writing in philosophy classes in college.
He’s up! That’s it for my concentrated writing time. For the next couple of hours, we play with the puzzles in his room (letters and numbers are a recent obsession of his), and I do some household stuff (arranging air conditioner repair, laundry, dishes).
My sister drops by with a birthday present for me (my birthday was the previous day). We hang out and play for the next hour or two.
My husband’s back from work! Cue to toddler rejoicing, pizza ordering and eating, family singalong party (we’re partial to The Greatest Showman soundtrack and Queen these days), toddler bathtime. Delightful and decidedly uncool Friday night.
Toddler watches a show on his iPad while my husband and I have tea and chat. I do some Paging Columbus (the literary series that I run, along with poets Paige Webb and Anisa Gandevivala here in town) promotional work—I post to and answer an email from one of our featured readers. Our events are bimonthly (we moved from every month to every other month a few years ago), and I take a lot of time and care with them. I’ve been running this series since 2011, and it’s been a constant source of joy and community for me. We’re very excited about the September event—all our events are themed (the theme of this one is “Wide Open”), and we feature 3-5 writers and artists who share poems and prose loosely connected to the theme. Our line-up for is fabulous—Zoë Brigley Thompson, Juan Armando Roxas Joo, Elissa Washuta, and Bianca Lynne Spriggs. Ohio is bursting at the seams with talented and kind writers…I’m grateful for this. It’s been very important for me as a writer to become/remain an advocate for other writers.
Toddler FINALLY falls asleep. I put him to bed and watch an episode of Castle Rock with Marcus. Head to bed around 12:15 or 12:30, new baby kicking and shifting in my belly.
Hannah Stephenson is a poet and editor living in Columbus, Ohio (where she founded and co-runs the literary event series Paging Columbus). She is the author of Cadence (winner of the 2016 Ohio Chapbook Prize from the Wick Poetry Center), In the Kettle, the Shriek, and series Co-Editor of New Poetry from the Midwest. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, 32 Poems, Vela, The Journal, and Poetry Daily. You can visit her online at The Storialist (www.thestorialist.com).