>> Tuesday, June 8, 2010
"When would I write?" I asked. "I've been at work, or I've been with the kids. And don't say at night, because I know you know I don't have the energy for that."
"I get why you haven't been writing. I'm just saying you act like you've given it up for good, and that I don't get. What you need is time, but you seem to think it's something more than that. It's like you've bought into the idea that a mother can't also be an artist. Or shouldn't be."
"I just find it hard to go from breast milk and peekaboo and diapers to, you know, bigger things."
"But that's saying breast milk and peekaboo and diapers aren't bigger things, or don't represent bigger things, which seems like a very male point of view. A fixation on your mother is subject for literature, but actually being a mother isn't? Well, guess who set those rules? If obsessive interest in your own penis wins you the Pulitzer, then what's wrong with obsessive interest in your own breasts?"
"Are you writing about your breasts?"
"No, but I could," she said. She glanced down at them. "At this moment I can't think of what I would say."
- From Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
I devoured Leah Stewart's novel, Husband and Wife this weekend. And while the plot is about (you guessed it) the relationship between a husband and wife and infidelity, the whole book really delves into the issue of losing or burying or hiding from the selves that we are before we become mothers. It's not just for artist-mothers, although the protagonist is a poet. I think the book will get every mother thinking about what parts of herself that made her her have been missing or disappearing since having children. I can't get enough thought or discussion on that topic.
Stumbling across this book so soon after being part of Greetings From Motherland was serendipitous. In time, I hope to share some of the artwork from our show, so stay tuned. If you haven't yet read it, I guest-posted at the GFM blog a few weeks ago on the experience of making art with a group of mothers of very young children. You can read it here.
If you haven't yet, go search out a copy of Mamaphonic - a collection of essays written by women who are "balancing motherhood and other creative acts." I read it about a year ago, and it inspired me to dive back into my creative writing again - my poetry, my fiction, as well as the type of essays I sporadically post here. I recommend it to everyone, and my friend Corinne actually just wrote about it recently on her blog.
Other must-reads on the topic:
I've said it before, but Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write ("a book about art, independence and spirit") is a treasure that was thrust upon me by my friend Nancy (thanks Nancy!), and of course Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is inspiring, and she'll give you the best advice on writing out there -- you can't write because you want to be published. You have to write because you love to write, because you must write or your head will explode. (I'm paraphrasing.)
We all have that creative spark flickering inside. Give it a little oxygen. These books will fan the flame.