A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
My Advice to Young Mothers: Don’t Stop Writing
To all new mothers I send a message: do not stop writing fiction just because your children are little! To some degree, that’s what I did, and now that my children are 19 and 23, I regret it.
I did continue editing Poets & Writers Magazine for a while, and to exercise my writing brain, I wrote the newsletter for my children’s day school, and a few freelance articles, including travel pieces for The New York Times. But it was fiction I really wanted to work on and it came slowly.
I couldn’t find a writing workshop where I live in rural, Western Pennsylvania. I could have in Pittsburgh, but that’s an hour away without traffic, which meant childcare and extra driving when I was already exhausted from a daughter who didn’t sleep through the night for two and a half years. My other problem, if you want to call it that, was that I didn’t want to miss a minute of my children’s young lives– not a field trip, recital, soccer game, or teacher conference. I had moved to the deep country from Manhattan, where so many nannies ran the day-to-day lives of children, and that wasn’t my idea of child rearing. But did I overdo it? Maybe.
On the positive side, I have two well-adjusted children. In retrospect, one day a week probably wouldn’t have altered that equation, and it might have given me back the creative self I somehow lost after giving birth. It wasn’t until five years ago, after my youngest had left home (and I am still tired!), that I joined a fiction workshop called Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. Started in 1979 and for women only, Madwomen classes are filled with mothers, students and career women from their 20s to 90s, who, for one reason or another, can’t seem to go through life without writing.
My wonderful teacher, Evelyn Pierce, improved my writing enough that last summer I was accepted to Bread Loaf. I was thrilled (imagine ten days all to myself to think about nothing but writing) but also nervous that, at 58, I would be the oldest person there and everyone else would be young and hip, wearing black, rectangular glasses. To my surprise, I found writers of all ages, many of whom were women finally getting back to what they loved. And for the 50ish mothers in my dorm (Bread Loaf grouped seven of us together in Robert Frost’s cabin) the experience taught us all that we weren’t alone and that we could indeed write while working or raising children (albeit older ones).
Had I not put my fiction life on hold, might I have gotten to Bread Loaf and publication earlier? Probably. I now know I should have saved some energy for myself, made that drive into the city, and found a community of fiction writers. It would have nurtured my soul.
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