For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Nadia Colburn’s Writing and Not Writing Motherhood and the Self.
A “curious conundrum” is one way to describe the subject of Nadia Colburn’s essay “Writing and Not Writing Motherhood and the Self.” In the piece, Colburn contemplates the fact that, as loving and devoted as she is as the mother of two teens, their lives and her experience of motherhood have provided the content for very little of her work. Interestingly enough, the author’s first pregnancy marked the genesis of her endeavor into writing. External bodily changes led to internal reflection, compelling her to examine the journey through the written word. “I wanted to create a new story of motherhood, a new story of what it means to birth and nurture life.” And so it was that in both poetry and prose, Colburn initially explored her pregnancies as well as topics such as the first year of mothering her son and the whimsical exploits of her active young daughter.
More than a decade later, though, Colburn takes note that much of her subsequent writing did not (and still does not) pertain to her maternal experience. She ponders what this means, and what, if any, are the broader implications. Will her beloved family interpret their general absence from her work as a measure of their importance? Has she represented the whole of her life in a fragmented manner? After thoughtful, introspective analysis, Colburn concludes that “my writing teaches me again and again that there is no fixed location for my identity, for my self.” Tenderly yet firmly acknowledging that she and her children “share so much more than what’s on the page,” Colburn affirms: “I write, ultimately, not to express myself in a kind of static way, but to explore possibilities. I write from the part of myself that can’t be actualized in other ways. I write from the places I do not know myself and need to meet myself again.”
Is your writing centered on your experience as a mother and the lives of your children? Or does it explore other topics related to your life and identity? What do you feel your choice or tendency in this regard says about your purpose for writing?
Read Colburn’s essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by August 21, 2020, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “August Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay; rather, paste the response in the body of the email.