I love writing contests.
If I’m not using the opportunity to tighten up a old story, then I’m off creating something new.
And, once in a while, a contest sharpens my focus; it turns my perspective from outward to in. A contest I recently entered did exactly that. It gave me reason to examine – again – why I continue to write, despite the obstacles in life that could easily sway me.
In celebration of She Writes‘s first year anniversary, E. Victoria Flynn hosted a Mother Writing contest. We were asked to write, in 500 words or less, an essay on being a mother writer. The deadline for the contest came during the early days of summer vacation, and my first thought was: Mother Writer? Impossible. Still, I wrote.
Nothing was lost by thinking back on my Writerly beginnings: blogging about my children. From those short posts, I moved on to my first writing class, my first published piece, and my first attempts at writing fiction.
Thanks, Victoria, for hosting a contest that put Mother Writers in the limelight and gave me a reason to look inward for my own affirmation.
The Whole of Me
Mother and Writer. There are days when, like opposing forces, these two sides of me sit miles apart. They each refuse to accept the presence of the other. When I turn to write, I feel the pull of my children; when I go back to my children, I feel an unyielding persuasion to write.
“What’s the point?” I ask myself, exhausted from the struggle of trying to keep both identities in balance. Still, despite my frustration, I refuse to give up on either: as a mother I can’t, as a writer I won’t.
In Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Margaret Atwood lists several reasons that answer the compelling question: why do it? The answers that resonate with me trace my own journey to becoming a Mother Writer.
“To set down the past before it is forgotten.”
As a new mother, I recorded details: of birth, the first day of school, and the first tooth lost. Details alone, though, never conveyed the rise and fall of my emotions. A date stamp would not remind me of the out of body experience I had when my daughter was born. A picture alone wouldn’t express my own anxieties about sending my son to school. And marking the day the tooth finally fell out wouldn’t hint at the number of days prior when repeated negotiations to “let mommy pull the tooth” failed.
I wove details into stories, so that I might remember the power behind each moment.
“To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be ‘a writer’ unless I actually did some writing.”
Writing about life with my children reignited my love of storytelling. I looked back at my stack of old journals and a well-worn spiral notebook filled – when I was fifteen years old – with stories of girl meets boy.
I always wanted to be a writer, and I realized that to become one meant I had to take action. So, I started a blog, I submitted stories to journals, I shared my secret with others. I became a Writer.
“To cope with my depression.”
Lord Byron said, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
My bouts with depression, though never debilitating, distract me from life. Being a mother pulls me back into the moment. Writing helps me stay there.
“To bear witness….”
To bear witness to my children that in the midst of life, of being whoever we are that day – mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend – we do not have to suppress our creative selves. In fact, embracing my creativity enhances every aspect of my life.
I don’t earn money as a writer or a mother, but each of those daily experiences makes up the whole of who I am.
*Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. xx. Print.