This week at 4Mothers we are participating in a blog hop about why and how we write. We were invited to participate by Kristina Cerise at Defining Motherhood, whose blog is one of my all-time favourites. I love the combination of the polished and provisional in her posts: she begins with just a word, and it’s a word that could take her anywhere, and I’m always curious to see where her essay will go.
I feel like I have a bit of a split personality in answering these questions. I do two kinds of writing: this blog, which is fun and effortless, and essays, which take a lot more out of me and are, therefore, often left to languish.
Why do I write what I do?
I write essays about motherhood because reading essays about motherhood saved my sanity. For two years after having my second son, I was unable to read for pleasure. I was still teaching university English, and at the end of the day, I was just too tired. It felt like grief. Then I read Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work, and it was so filled with exactly the right phrases for so much of my joy and trouble as a new mother. I wanted to make sense of that joy and trouble with my own words. I get enormous and indescribable joy from reading. Writing is … less joyful. What I’m aiming for is the sense of satisfaction of having worked something out. I’d like one day to achieve the sense that what I write is as important to me as what others write. I’d still much rather read than write, not having reached the point of believing that what I can write could make a reader as happy as I’ve been made by others’ words on the page.
I write a blog about being a mother because I love the community it makes. I love the women I write with, and I love that it’s introduced me to so many other women to admire. I learn a lot from this community.
How is my writing different from others in my genre?
What am I working on/writing?
In addition to this blog, I’m also working on a collection of essays about how becoming a mother brings us back to childhood, in good and bad ways.
How does my writing process work?
When I’m writing an essay, I begin with just the kernel of an idea, an image or a phrase. This was true of my university papers, of my doctoral thesis and of the essays I write now. The main idea is always the last thing to appear. It’s counter-intuitive, but my thesis is always the last thing I write. (This is not advice I would ever give to my students.) When the paper comes together in the final stages, it feels like magic, and I have to make myself believe that the magic will work every time I set out to do it. I begin with an enormous amount of procrastination and doubt and work towards faith and a final product.