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Writers changed by motherhood

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, highly recommended reading on writing and motherhood, including finding the time, missing the kids, and integrating the experience of being a mother. A brief excerpt from the article, written by Geeta Sharma-Jensen:

When Milwaukee poet laureate Susan Firer’s son was young, she’d often determine the length of her poems by his fingers.

Holed up alone in her writing room, she’d look up to see his fingers running back and forth in the space beneath her door. From the other side of the closed door, she says, he was wordlessly signaling that “it was time to come out and play.”

Her poems, then, were necessarily short; she never knew how long it’d be before the little fingers would slip under her door.

“I tend to be pretty obsessive about my writing, so my children have brought more balance to how I live,” Firer says. “Both my life and, consequently, my poems would be something very different, in fact unimaginable, without my children, who have greatly impacted both what I write about and how I write.”

Writing moms, like all writers, take life in all its aspects and use their imaginations to transform it into art. But motherhood does things to writers – from stealing their time to swelling their emotions to making them silly and dizzy with this strange, overwhelming protective love for another human. They’d often rather be with this human who’s taken over their life, their thoughts, their fears. And yet, there is their artistic impulse, a call so strong they cannot go long without yielding to its siren song.

Somehow, then, they have made time for their work, and the children are there, too – in their art, the result of the twinning of maternal instinct and artistic impulse.

The full article is here. Whatever you do, don’t miss reading this essay by novelist Alice Mattison (opens as a PDF), which is linked within the article. It’s an absolute gem.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. thanks, miranda! poetic: poem length determined ‘by the length of his fingers..’ sums my feelings up completely.

    what i’ve found that is pertinent to this post, is how since becoming a mother, all my poems seem to be about my kids or about being a mother. that’s a lot of poems. that’s 14 years of poems.

    big case of write what you know.

    July 27, 2009
  2. Motherhood provides a multitude of material for writing possibilities, that is for sure!

    July 27, 2009
  3. That’s true. Motherhood does influence our creative process as well as the subject matter. Even though I write mostly fantasy and paranormal fiction, I still find myself creating characters that remind me of my daughters. In a recent eerie ghost story type tale that I wrote, I included the main character’s young daughter as a sort of inadvertent heroine.

    July 28, 2009

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