You can't force it

When writing feels like a to-do list, that is to say something that I should or ought to do, rather than working through an idea that's piqued my curiosity or explore a new curiosity, then I know it's time to step back and consider redirecting my energy elsewhere. I've adopted this more compassionate approach to myself and my writing especially during this early part of motherhood where lack of sleep, multiple demands, and inconsistency are completely to be expected, and self-care, as I was kindly reminded this weekend, is also often lacking when it's most needed.

It's a careful check and balance though. Am I putting off writing because it's hard? If it's hard, is it because I don't have the time and energy to devote to it or do I need the assistance of another reader? Do I need some fallow time - to read, cook, do something else or nothing at all, including listening to the body's plea to take a nap? It's not an excuse to take time away from writing, but all muscles need a time to rebuild after working hard.

The same is true, I think, for mothering. There's no luxury of "taking a break"(even a physical separation doesn't turn off the mothering mind), but there are innumerable tasks - cleaning bottles, pumping, setting up a toy/activity, laundry, storing or donating clothes you just used for two months - tasks that can be put off. And it's to everyone's enjoyment often when they are. Often there's energy after a "break" from the to-do. The to-do is also, I recognize, often self-inflicted. Like the image of the tortured writer driven to forego sleep, driven to drink, unhappy except for the art, there's more than one way to write and be a writer. There's more than one way to mother and be a mother.

You can set up the "perfect" conditions for writing. You can have a schedule, a desk, a cup of chai, a moleskin notebook, whatever, but that doesn't make a true difference. It doesn't make a writer write even if it's comforting. The late 19th century French artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painted many of his paintings on cardboard in brothels and in bars. If you desire to create art, you will find the means to do so.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge1892, National Gallery of Art

The first poem I wrote after giving birth was on a Starbucks napkins after realizing: 1) I had just wasted time at the MD DMV; and 2) M was still with a sitter, and thus the "imperfect" conditions to NOT go home and quite literally break and write. A desire bubbled up and I seized it. After many many revisions, it's one of my favorite poems I've written since M's birth.

Likewise, you can set up the "perfect" condition for a baby to sleep or eat. As I write, M is tossing around in her crib - sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, making sounds, but most certainly NOT napping. Her shades are drawn, the white noise is on, she's been fed, we sang songs, we read books but today M just might not sleep despite the rather nice accommodations that have been made for her.

You can't force it - a sleeping baby or writing, but when it happens, it's like magic every time.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *