When I first started this blog, it had two purposes. One was just to keep a record of our time in Mongolia and share that with people who might be interested. More people have joined me in this than I ever thought was likely when I first started out, and it’s been rewarding. And a lot of fun.
The other was as a rough draft for a book. Someday, sooner rather than later, I’d like to retire from teaching and just write. I have enough self-awareness to know that I have a very difficult time dividing my attention between teaching and writing on a substantial scale. Sure, I can get up on a Saturday morning and write a quick blog post. But while I’ve started working on the book, I have only been able to work on it when I have chunks of free time. Which is not right now. It will hopefully be soon. (Plus, I am still typing with one hand, so everything is slower now.) Over the summer, over our longish winter breaks (which I screwed up this year by breaking my shoulder). Bit by bit, the book will emerge.
Also, the topic of the book(s?) is a moving target. There is very likely more than one now. I still have the original idea: How a solo mom and her teen relocated to Mongolia for what is now turning out to be several years. I’ve talked to enough people to know that some version of this is interesting (not just to me), and I’m still very attached to it as a project. But learning that we are both ADHD/autistic last spring has cast a lot of things in a different light. There is also a book there.
Another thing I’m struggling with is what has often been, at times in my life, crippling self-doubt and self-gaslighting. (I was just reading about self-gaslighting in autistic adults this morning, and it resonated tremendously. It’s a result of the gaslighting we experience when we tell people we are autistic: “But you don’t look autistic/act like my 5-year-old autistic cousin/etc.” We hear it enough that we start to do it to ourselves. But I’ve been doing it for decades, and it’s not just something autistic people do.) I have been wanting to write something for a long time, and about 10 years ago I had a few ideas for books that I never started for a variety of reasons, mostly because when I talked to a friend about my ideas, she always came back with, “Someone already wrote something like that.”
I realize now that the correct response to my friend—and myself—should have been, “Yes, maybe, but I haven’t.” Instead, I felt profoundly unoriginal. Who would care about a PhD student in her late 30s having a child on her own through artificial insemination? People have already written about that, apparently (though I couldn’t find those books when I was actually doing it; most of the books and articles I found were by or about infertile couples—not the same thing at all). People have already written about travelling internationally as a solo mom with an infant/toddler/young child. And so on.
Yes, maybe. But I haven’t.
People have written books about living in Mongolia, maybe with their kids, even.
Yes, maybe. But I haven’t.
So yes, I still want to do that. And I feel like there’s room in the world for a book like that. There’s certainly room in my heart and mind for it (if not in my current work schedule). But I also have a growing need to write about our neurodivergent experience, because that’s been a big part of my personal journey for the last year. Maybe it can all be one project, but it feels like it could be two. Or several.
And I’m reluctant to write much at all now because typing with one hand is awful. Well-meaning people have told me to use voice-to-text, but they don’t know how I speak, only how I write. I may write clearly, but my speech is another story. I don’t talk good. Seriously. I don’t speak at all like I write. The words that live in my head don’t come out of my mouth. Anyone who has taken a class from me knows this. It’s not pretty. So voice-to-text works well for simple things, but not for blog posts and books.
For me, writing is a fundamentally creative process. I used to write everything by hand and then type it. This was a practice I started in the days before home computers. But that was 25 years ago. I still take notes by hand in meetings and lectures and such. But my creative practice has changed. It now happens through a keyboard. If my injury were permanent, I would re-train myself. I would work on trying to speak my texts (though you’d think over 25 years of teaching would have done something there, wouldn’t you?).
With any luck, though, I’ll have my left arm back, well enough to type anyway, in about three weeks. From what I’ve read about my injury, it could take up to a year to get my shoulder back to normalish. But typing doesn’t require much range of motion. I’ll have the extra time-demand of physical therapy, but Emerson will be (hopefully) wrapping up their three-time-a-week scoliosis treatment, so I’ll be shifting from one to the other. Hooray.
So, when is the book coming out? When it does, I’m afraid.
Sometimes the question gives me flashbacks to my grad school days: When will your dissertation be finished? I took about two years to write that puppy, though the bulk of it was written in five months of concentrated effort. I had a delay or two because of dying and disabled parents (ironically not so much because I had a baby, which is what many people assume; I was back to work within a few weeks of the birth, though I shouldn’t have been). My father died of cancer the year I was to finish my PhD, and that was much more of a setback. Emerson was a baby, and that was challenging, but my father dying at only 74 fundamentally altered my world, and I took over caring for my disabled mother as well. For any PhD student, the question, “When will your dissertation be finished?” becomes stressful enough, but when you are dealing with major life events, it is a particular source of anguish. A reminder that your life is not your own.
Things are different now, of course. Writing is my side gig, as they say, and it’s a volunteer gig, so there is less pressure. The question, “So when is the book coming out?” is more a welcome expression of interest than a demand for an expected and necessary deliverable. People care! They want to read more! Of course, those people may lose interest in my story in the waiting for it. I feel bad about that. But the story is still there and will be there until I have the time to put it into book-like form. And there will be people who care when it’s done.
I started this transformation to a book a while ago now, and what I’ve done holds up (which is more than can be said for my teenage stabs at science fiction or my 20-something efforts at short stories). So I think it will happen. But it may have to wait a bit, because the demands of my job at MIU are pretty heavy right now, and they fragment my mind.
So, hang in there, if you have a mind to, and in the meanwhile, I have dozens of ideas for blog posts to tide you over. And a heartfelt thank you for sticking with me. It means more to me than you know.
And, for your amusement, this is what I look like going out with my arm in a sling.