My New Work in Progress

I guess that title is a little misleading. I mean, like a lot of writers, I have a lot of balls in the air. Seeing one project all the way through to the end before starting another seems almost quaint. For anyone keeping score at home, I currently have:

One novel I’m continuing to sub—I’ve had three full manuscript requests for this one, so I’m trying to stay optimistic that it just needs to find the right publisher.

A second novel that I’m getting ready to sub—query letter, summary, synopsis, etc. I’m hoping it’s ready to start sending off by the end of the month.

A third that is currently in limbo. I wrote a first draft that I feel *really* good about, and I think with some of the usual tweaks and rewrites could be something really special. I will probably tackle the second draft of that after…

A fourth project that is just a nugget of an idea right now. I’ve jotted notes and have a general outline in my head. I need to get it out on paper, mostly because I feel like I need the freedom of writing a first draft before I buckle down and start getting real with editing and rewriting.

None of that, however, is what this post is about. I have yet another work in progress, and it’s arguably the most important one of them all. Let me back up a few days.

I was in my garage, tidying up and rearranging boxes and whatnot to make some more room for things we need to store out there. Among the boxes of “stuff” we still haven’t unpacked since we moved last summer were four trunks. My dad insisted I take these four trunks with me when I moved out of the house years ago, and I have schlepped these trunks from address to address from California to Kansas, for the better part of two decades now.

I knew they held old things—I think my grandpa’s sheriff’s uniform is in one, photos and mementos, things like that—but I honestly couldn’t remember ever looking in them. I was hefting them around (and they are heavy) when I stacked the last one on top of the other three and said to myself, “What the hell is in these things, anyway?”

I opened the latches and lifted the lid.

Newspapers. Photos. Greeting cards. Yearbooks (my mom’s). And right on top, my baby book.

I opened the baby book half-interested and casually flipped through it and my jaw dropped. It was packed full of writing. It had some of my baby teeth taped in it, a $2 bill, silver dollars from my great-grandma, and entry upon entry upon entry. I went back to the front of the book and started to read. As I read my mom’s cursive writing about what I was like as an infant, I was completely overcome with emotion.

It was such a complex mix of emotions, none of which I had anticipated. So many of the family members my mom wrote about are no longer around, including her, which hurt to think about how much they would all love my son if they could see him. But on top of that, I felt some guilt.

Here I was, decades after it was written, seeing all the time my mom took to document these special moments from my childhood (I had to get a tetanus shot after stepping on a nail when I was around six, and came out of the hospital saying, “Whatever that nurse did sure hurt my butt.”), and I look at my 18 month old son and realize the time has flown by and I haven’t done anything like that for him.

Don’t get me wrong, I have hundred of photos, and video clips of some of his first laughter, one of his first walks across the living room on his own, etc. but…looking at that baby book, the stuff I was doing suddenly didn’t seem like enough.

And so, with that, I began yet another writing project: writing letters to my son, to look back on someday and see what he meant to his mom and me, and how much he’s loved. I’m not sure on the frequency with which I’ll write them—monthly seems about right, maybe more often if something especially significant happens.

I’d love to put together a baby book for him, too. My wife has a locket of hair from his first haircut, so we’re on the same page there. But either way, with the letters he’ll have something to look back on and hopefully feel a little of the gratitude I felt when I saw how much time my mom spent writing about my early years.

Besides, what’s one more writing project on the pile, right? 🙂

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