I Write to Learn

coffee-569178_640This 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?

It’s mine.

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.

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10 thoughts on “I Write to Learn

  1. Thank you Natalie, on a few fronts, for this piece – your open sharing has helped me get to know you a bit better; has put me in connection with Kristina Cerise; and gives me the chance to rave again about why we women give our negative inner voices so much air time! We need a trash can for our collective self-doubt.
    Hugs, Beverley

  2. This passage had me reading and re-reading with lots of nodding and appreciation for your ability to capture my feelings in your 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.”

    You made at lease one reader very happy and should feel very satisfied for having worked something out. Thank you.

  3. This is a great perspective. I know what you mean about not having time to read for pleasure. I felt that way about writing for years. As a book editor, I never made time for my own writing. Writing about motherhood has allowed to find my own voice again, and already I’m starting to meet some other great moms and bloggers, and learning a lot from others’ points of view. Thanks for sharing this!

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