Q&a: Panicking Over a Project

March 25, 2013 by L.A. Walsh  
Published in Motherhood

My advice to a young writer with a dilemma.

Dear LW,

I am a high school junior with a problem and a fast approaching deadline. My creative writing teacher has assigned my class a two part task of interviewing the “most influential woman” in our lives and writing a news story on them. It’s making me panic. I know that I want to write about my dad’s wife, but know that if I do it’ll cause friction between my mom and me. I wish my mom didn’t know about the assignment, but my cousin is unfortunately in my class and has already begun to interview my aunt. My mother is expecting the same treatment as her sister and keeps asking me when would be a good time for us to talk. I love my mom, but Gwen definitely has more influence on my life. She’s helping me look at colleges. She has always listened to my problems and helped me de-stress. We share many of the same interests. I know that I’ve only known Gwen for eight years and my mother gave me life, but I feel like if I do this project on my mom I won’t be able to fully hide my disappointment and I’ll end up hurting her anyway. Please help.

Julie

Dear Julie,

First things first, take a deep breath and slowly let the air out as you shake out your hands. I would also suggest you gently roll your neck and shoulders, but that’s not mandatory. What is the purpose of this exercise? You need to loosen up your body and let the stress out before your mind can be open to any advice.

Julie, as you know, your situation is truly delicate. Not because of Gwen or your mother specifically, but because you’re dealing with sisters. One gets something so naturally the other needs to have it too. It is super frustrating, but, to the best of my knowledge, completely unavoidable. You and your cousin need to come up with a better system!

Joking aside, it comes down to what matters more: unstinted creativity with the chance of family friction or family peace with the chance of personal regret. Does this project matter enough to risk this becoming something your mother holds against you? Or can you accept that there will be other projects and set a time to interview your mom? Personally, were I you, I might casually ask her if this project would matter as much to her if your aunt hadn’t been booked by your cousin. If it’s simply a case of keeping things even, I’d ask her who she’d pick as her influential woman. If it’s someone you both can agree on (and they are living), why not interview that person together? It would certainly make for a richer news story and would still show your mother that she is important to you. On the other hand, if she confides in you (or if you simply get the feeling) that this interview matters more to her than keeping the sisterly competition going, let the interviewing commence.

In life, Julie, you need to learn to pick your battles. You also need to learn when to follow your creative instinct and when to make your mom happy. I’m sure Gwen would be an interesting subject so why not interview her when you’re en-route to a college tour and save the material for a later date? You undoubtedly will have a similar assignment in the future and will feel relieved to have this work already done and waiting to be used. I know you may still feel disappointed and that is perfectly natural. No one is ever thrilled when they can’t have their way. However, you need to shake that disappointment off as you did your hands and focus on the love you feel for your mom. There will be other projects. Stop panicking and go talk to your mother.

Best of luck to you!

LW

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