I’ve never not been a writer. I fancied myself a poet at the tender age of five. My elementary school artwork always came home with a story scribbled along the margin. By the time my mom handed me a proper diary at around nine and said, “Write it down,” I had plenty of material to work with. I journaled my way through high school, college and beyond and I’m still going. Writing gives voice to thoughts I don’t always know how to say out loud. It helps clear the clutter in my head and refine my ideas. It’s like weeding out a large, overgrown garden to reveal the few sweet blooms struggling for sunlight.
When my good friend Nicki Gilbert asked me to participate in a Writing Process blog hop, it gave me the chance to really think about and appreciate why I write. Below are my answers to the four questions traveling from blog to blog. Next week, three wonderful writers – Kristina Cerise, Susannah Lewis and Laurie Wagner will share their thoughts on writing via their blogs.
What am I working on/writing?
As a stay-at-home mom of three daughters, I write about what I’m living, which is mostly motherhood, marriage and approaching mid-life. I focus on what it’s like navigating these realms and what I learn about myself on the journey. My toddler’s spilled juice leads to a certain kind of acceptance; my 6th grader’s tears over a shifting friendship remind me that it’s okay to be sad.
I’m also at the tail end of the daily April A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s been electrifying and exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding to know I can write everyday if I really want to. I chose the very broad theme of love to carry me through the alphabet and it’s led me in so many different directions. Motherhood and marriage fit nicely into the category of love, but I’ve also found myself writing scenes from my middle school and high school life and even acts of love I’ve witnessed rather than lived myself. It’s refreshing to write out of the motherhood box.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
It feels like the topic of motherhood and all it encompasses has been discussed, debated, written about, fretted over and researched to death. So what do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? Recently I watched a video of the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright and actor Tracy Letts speaking about How to Live a Creative Life. One recommendation Letts humorously makes is to steal other people’s ideas because honestly, there isn’t a subject in the world that hasn’t already been written about. The trick is to write about it your way. It’s taken me years to find my voice and feel confident about it, but I finally do think it’s my distinct perspective that differentiates my writing from that of the other talented writers out there tackling motherhood.
Why do I write what I do?
Motherhood is challenging for me. I went from working full-time to consulting to staying at home full time over the course of two babies and two and a half years. I went through periods of profound doubt and guilt-inducing resentment mixed with indescribable joy and contentment. Writing, mostly privately, helped me through the tough times but also challenged me to keep the positive in mind. By the time my youngest arrived almost three years ago, I was ready to embrace my motherhood, both the gory and the glory, and write about it in a more public way. When my words resonate with others, it brings me a great sense of belonging that can often be so elusive in the throes of motherhood.
How does my writing process work?
Often my pieces begin as wild writes. I started this wonderful practice with my friend and teacher, Laurie Wagner (see below), about seven years ago. Once a week, I come together with a group of amazing women to write from a prompt and then immediately read that writing out loud without introduction or apology. What ends up on the page almost always reveals a truth I didn’t realize I had in me. I go back to this writing again and again to find starting points that become finished pieces.
I usually write my essays at my desk on a laptop, but I’m happy writing anywhere with coffee and a window, even if that place is my car in between a grocery store run and school pick up. I write in phases, mostly because life happens and I have to stop to make dinner or help with homework. I used to hate these interruptions, but now I welcome them. I even purposely step away from the screen for a short walk. Physically leaving behind the act of writing makes space for sorting and distilling. I’ve learned to trust that I’ll find the right words for the right story, even if I’m not actually writing in that moment. When I think I’m done with a piece, I let it sit, even if it’s just for a few hours. When I come back to it, I read it through and start editing. I’m a die-hard editor, willing to kill the darlings and go deep to find just the right word or turn of phrase. When I’m 97% sure a piece is done, I throw the other 3% of doubt over my shoulder and hit “Publish.” It’s one of the best highs in the world.
Now let me introduce you to my fellow blog hoppers:
South African by chance and Californian by choice, Nicki Gilbert lives in the Bay Area with her husband, four kids and an aging dachshund. With dreams of reporting live on CNN, she majored in Drama and Journalism at Rhodes University in South Africa, met a boy, married him and moved almost 180 degrees west to San Francisco, to live her life as a wife, marketer, event coordinator, non-profit board member, and eventually stay-at-home mom. There was very little writing and even less acting during those years. Last year Nicki started blogging for Times of Israel, and now writes on her own website Red Boots – from dancing to walking and everything in between, and beyond. As a reluctant yet full-time, barely-at-home mom, writer, avid reader, country music lover and wannabe surf diva, she writes to keep perspective about it all. With tears, humor, skepticism, love, pain and truth. Trying to keep it real. Follow her at www.redboots.me and on Twitter @nixgilbertca.
Kristina Cerise is a Seattle mom trying to find a little meaning in the madness. She has grazed on both sides of the stay-at-home/working-mother fence and now knows that the differing shades of green are just an illusion; divots and dandelions are present in all pastures. Her biggest checks come from her day job as a land use planner but her favorite checks come from freelance writing. She is a contributing blogger for Brain, Child Magazine and recently received Honorable Mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Her essays have been featured in a handful of publications that magically transformed (in her mind at least) from obscure to under appreciated the moment they printed her byline. Kristina caffeinates daily, blogs regularly at Defining Motherhood and tweets occasionally @DefineMother.
Susannah B. Lewis is a freelance writer, blogger, aspiring best-selling author, wife of one and stay-at-home mother of two. She was chosen for the Top 13 in Blogger Idol 2013 and contributes pieces to The Huffington Post and Hahas for Hoohas. Her work has been featured in several humorous e-books, Southern Writers’ Magazine, The Humor Daily and on the Erma Bombeck website. When she’s not putting pen to paper, bandaging boo-boos or spraying “Shout” on unidentifiable stains, she enjoys reading, playing the piano and teaching her children all about Southern charm. Read her humor blog, Whoa! Susannah and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @whoasusannah.
Laurie Wagner is a writer and writing teacher. She teaches Wild Writing at her home in Northern California + hosts the 27 Powers Traveling Writers Series, which brings the brightest, grooviest, most unusual writers to Alameda to teach. Her books include, Living Happily Ever After: Couples Learn about Longtime Love, and Expectations: 30 Women Talk about Becoming a Mother, both from Chronicle Books. Her essays have appeared in Salon, Glamour, Brain, Child + The Berkeley Monthly. She blogs at 27 Powers Writing True Life.
Lisa Sadikman is a writer living in Northern California with her husband, dog and three daughters, the third one arriving just as she began dreaming of a life beyond motherhood. Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again except this time she’s wearing heels and blogging about it. Now a stay-at-home mom, she’s also worked as an ice cream scooper, a department store clerk, a congressional staffer, a mortgage trader, a reporter, an editor and a content and user interface strategist. Drawn to the power of telling true stories, Lisa writes to find balance, make sense of her world and carve out a safe space to sort through the chaos. A lifetime writer with a Master of Journalism, she blogs at the Huffington Post and on her own blog, Flingo. Her work has appeared in Salon, Babble, Literary Mama, The Sun and The Monthly, among others. You can read about her adventures navigating love, motherhood and a grown-up life at Flingo and by following her on Twitter @LisaSadikman.