For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on these responses, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Ellen Dooley’s essay, “Writing Fiction, Raising Teenagers,” and Diana Renn’s essay, “A Foundation for a Fortress.”
In her essay, “Writing Fiction, Raising Teenagers,” Ellen Dooley discovered the blessing of parenthood to be more difficult than she originally imagined, much like she experienced when turning her writing career toward fiction. In trying to control both her stories and her children, Dooley notes a commonality among these disparate callings, writing: “The common denominator in parenting wisely and writing well is the ability to listen—wholeheartedly, single-mindedly, emptied of need or agenda, utterly open and receptive, turned in full to the person at hand, to the waiting page, warmly and fully present.” Control, as it turns out, isn’t necessary or even possible; it is enough to be there, for her family and for her words.
Like Dooley, Diana Renn compares an imaginary relationship with her child to reality in her essay, “A Foundation for a Fortress.” Thinking her son will share her love of reading, Renn begins curating a stack of books as a future gift for him, selecting each volume based on a part of his personality. “I clung to my ideal in spite of a disappointing reality,” she writes. “What I didn’t expect when I dreamed up this project was that my son would become a reluctant reader.” Ultimately, Renn willingly lets her fantasy go in favor of celebrating her son’s choices, a decision that brings them both creative freedom.
Where our grand ideas and reality collide, we find struggles but also authenticity. Write about a time—either in motherhood or writing—when you discovered reality wasn’t what you expected it to be. What did you learn from your experience, and how did it change you?
Read Ellen’s and Diana’s essays and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by December 1 for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “November Prompt” in your subject line. We’ll publish our favorites on the blog.