Motherhood and Writing

One of my favorite parts about this strange blog space is the friendships I’ve formed because of it. One of my readers-turned-pals emailed me the other day and asked me how I think motherhood has changed me as a writer. She herself is a writer and we’ve often talked about the give-and-take involved in “the professional vale of soul making that a life in literature can become,” as Christian Wiman — one of our favorite authors would describe it. Writing is so influenced and yet influential.

I’m trying to embrace imperfection and sharing my response to that question is part of it. Typically, I’d try to turn my email into a blog post and it would sit, never-perfect, in my drafts folder for weeks. But I’m learning that an imperfect SOMETHING is usually better than the “work-in-progress” nothing. As Liz Gilbert says,

Done is better than good.

So here’s an imperfect but DONE email response to an excellent question. Thanks for asking and thanks for reading.

Being a mom has changed the way I write in that it has cracked me wide open. I used to think I had such a sensitivity to social justice issues – but wow, being responsible for another human in this world has magnified all of that: the hurt, the joy, the outrage, the heaviness…I used to feel so confident sharing my thoughts and opinions or lighthearted observations. But now – maybe it’s this election season or my heightened need to feel informed about issues…I am so much more aware of the darkness. I feel so much less qualified to speak on any issue – much less issues of justice or global significance. I feel the breadth and depth of human depravity with such sharpness, imagining the ways I need to protect my daughter from it or process it for her.

How do I explain hate to her?

How much do I let her see?

How do I cultivate kindness in her?

But at the exact same time, I am so much more aware of the need for and existence of the exact opposite. THE GOOD. All the staggering beauty I get to introduce her to and watch her delight in. BUBBLES. TRUTH. GRACE. RAINBOWS. KNOCK KNOCK JOKES. JUMPING. TWIRLING. THE BEACH. COURAGE. RESCUE. ART. MUSIC. AURORA FREAKING BOREALIS.

So for the past 19 months I’ve been living in -and trying to write from- this state of extremes. Like, I SHOULD WRITE ABOUT RACIAL PRIVILEGE. No, I’m not qualified. Yes, I am! I SHOULD WRITE ABOUT HOW GOD DELIGHTS IN US AS CHILDREN. No that’s stupid, how can I write about that when ISIS is wreaking havoc? SCREW ISIS, IF WE CAN’T DELIGHT IN BEAUTY AND SILLINESS THEN THEY REALLY HAVE WON.

And on and on.

Motherhood has changed the way I write because it has made me so porous and strong and vulnerable and responsible. Does that make any sense at all?


  1. Annie

    Loved this in email and love it here. And Elizabeth Gilbert is ON POINT.

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