For Mothers Who Write —
Welcome to The Other Mother
Writing Workshop for Moms
Introduction to The Other Mother
Writing Workshop for Moms
Part 1 of 4
About the Writing Workshop
Before you had kids, you thought you were busy. How ridiculous! Now you might have a million ideas—but not enough time to sit down and write. I teach a class called Just Write. It’s one hour long and we read the rules for writing practice (which you can find here) and then write for five minutes about missing a train or sixteen minutes about your three wishes and then we read the fresh dough of new words aloud to find doors — the places to write into.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished in one hour — brilliant beginnings, whole poems, or just pulling at the threads of truths to find out what matters, where the real story’s hidden. I’m a firm believer in writing practice (though once I’m working on a novel I do use outlines and time lines and plans—all of which change as I’m writing), in just writing, as often as possible. It’s an exercise like any other; the more you do it, the better you get.
I started writing The Other Mother, my third novel, shortly after my son was born and people started asking, “Are you working?” Well, of course I was working, all the time, changing diapers, feeding, walking, soothing. And writing, too—I never stopped, but I realized how quickly people wanted to put me in one camp or the other, and I kind of belonged to both. And neither. It’s isolating however you slice it.
Later I had a babysitter and a few hours a week to write. Later still it was more hours, and now there’s school. But still: I’m neither and both. I went in to my publisher for a marketing meeting the other day, and as soon as I parked the car the cell phone rang: my son’s school (never mind that I had a babysitter lined up for the afternoon). Thankfully, it wasn’t the nurse, but I thought: maybe once every other month I’m more than a few miles from home during the school day, and a few times a week I’m teaching, and that’s when the phone rings and I have to answer it. Pick someone up. A snow day.
You’re never fully free once you’re a mom, and most of the time, that’s okay, and sometimes, it feels absurd. One escape is writing: you get to invent your whole world, you get to make everything up, you get full freedom to make mistakes (your characters can do it for you), to be whomever you want.
I can hear your giant collective moan—you don’t have a Just Write class, and you don’t have a whole spare hour. You have work or you have the home-school association or your baby takes up every second except for laundry, cooking, and that rare indulgence: sleep. But you don’t need a whole hour.
Do this: collect writing topics (there are myriad wonderful books out there: Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (a classic), or if you’re a poet, the Teachers and Writer’s Handbook of Poetic Forms (pick a page and try it, it’s make for teaching, so it’s easy to follow) to name just a few) and put them in your notebook.
Or better yet, come to the moms writing workshop here pick up a new topic every week. Then bring your notebook everywhere and use the scraps of time you do have. Waiting in the car queue at school pickup (don’t forget to put your car in park), standing in line at the grocery store, during a nap, when you might otherwise fall asleep yourself or pop in a load of laundry—give yourself 5 minutes, 11 minutes on the topic.
Then leave it be to rise like dough. You’re practicing, learning. The making things part comes later, when you have time to take a short-story workshop (online or in person), when you have time to go to graduate school. Now you can get those muscles going. I do it all the time. Waiting at the dentist. Waiting for the bus. Squeeze it in.
You can post your writings on this site. Think of it as a group blog, or a mini-publication if you want, think of it as a chance to post your experiences and hear someone else’s, whether the stories you tell are fictional or autobiographical. We won’t ask; this is a chance to speak your piece. Think of it as a little free version of Just Write. Maybe you’ll read The Other Mother and have your own story to tell.
Many of my writing students have gone on to do this--start a mom’s writing group in your town, or at lunch break at work. Maybe you’ll go it alone (before kids I made writing dates with friends; we met in cafes with topics). Or maybe online is all the company you need.
Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom you have truths to share, you have your own (invented or real) narrative. And since the mommy wars are a modern reality—even if it’s just your own private conflict—there are a million other moms out there who would like to hear your side of the story. It helps us make our own choices to know we’re not alone, even if it feels like we are.
Pick up your notebook on your commute (put down your Blackberry), write for fifteen minutes, get yourself in writing shape, and sooner or later you’ll have time to tell your whole story. We’ll be waiting to read it.