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Writing and Parenting

June 2, 2013

This spring I applied for a fellowship for writers with kids. I didn’t win, but thought I would share here the statement I submitted on what it’s been like to write since S. was born:

My son, S., is seven months old. He is good-natured, extra-long, bright-eyed. He is long awaited. He is a surviving twin who will learn, through my essays and poems, about the sibling he (we) lost. My son is also, to my surprise, a catalyst in my writing life. While pregnant, I worried I would not have the time, energy, ideas, or inclination to write. Yet many mornings, no matter how little I’ve slept, I wake at five—when even the cats are asleep—to generate a new piece or revise one on the front burner. When S. is napping, I tweak a sentence, add a metaphor, expand a detail. When he’s awake, I read to him from my favorite journals: Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, River Teeth. He doesn’t understand why I repeat lines that astound me or gush over lovely, precise descriptions. But he likes the sound of my voice when I’m delighted. I find myself eager to involve him in my writing life, to say: this is me, I am your mother, and this is what I care about.

Recently I engaged in a challenge with a friend and fellow MFA alum. My friend is ten months into a self-designed exercise of diligence and, possibly, insanity: write one complete short story draft each day for a year. She encouraged me to give it a try, but I hesitated. (I balked.) I was preparing for a new semester, tending to S. on my own as my husband was away on business for the month of January, and struggling with De Quervain syndrome, a form of tendonitis also known as “Mommy’s Thumb.” But my friend, pinpointing the fact that I am a writer, said: “You have no choice.” I completed seven drafts in seven days. Four of them referenced S. I read my drafts to him while he tried to grab his foot, something he’d just discovered. While I read, he stared at the foot, concentrating, then reached out for it, only to get so excited he kicked it away. He tried again. And again. I admired his doggedness. I tweaked, added expanded. Again. And again. At the end of each day, I had completed a draft. I had no choice.

Another friend, encouraging me from the sidelines, reminded me that we are mammals. Our environments change. Spouses go away, jobs begin, health stumbles, babies are born. We adapt. We write. We have no choice.

From → Life

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