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 Victoria Livingstone’s Exhaustion and Rest: Motherhood and Creativity and Linda Collins’s Write of Passage: Telling a Daughter’s Story.
Victoria Livingstone’s essay “Exhaustion and Rest: Motherhood and Creativity,” opens with observations of her daughter’s movement as the little one explores the living room on hands and knees. “Her explorations are part of her rapid development,” Livingstone notes, “but she is not chasing a particular goal.” This prompts the essayist to reminisce about her own youth, when she explored the world without regard to practicality and productivity. As an adult, her focus turned almost exclusively to work, monetary compensation, and activities that advanced her career.
In “Write of Passage: Telling A Daughter’s Story,” Linda Collins examines her daughter Victoria’s suicide and investigates the emotions that arose as portions of her daughter’s diaries were published, referenced, and analyzed by others in their quest to understand the circumstances that lead some people to take their own lives. Collins mentions the insight her daughter had regarding work and creativity, evidenced when, at the end of a day visiting her mother at the office, Victoria asked Collins’s coworkers “Do you like your work? The office looks horrible to me . . . all the pressure, and those . . . bosses.” Collins reflects on this: “[A] lesson I was trying to mirror for her was the reality of life, that it was about finding a job you could do well in, in order to function in the crappy capitalistic society we live in.”
Both writers discuss how the conditions and requirements of motherhood, while vastly different for each, have moved them both from an emphasis on capitalistic expectations to a place of reflection and enhanced creativity. Collins writes, “I now realize that I did not show [Victoria] enough hope and the possibilities for joy.” She joins a master’s program in creative writing and pens a book about loss. Her daughter’s work, while painful, continues to inspire Collins’s creativity, and her daughter’s spirit serves as a guiding force in her projects. Livingstone writes that while she spends a lot of her day “performing tasks that cannot be commodified or marketed,” like playing with blocks, doing laundry, and reading picture books, motherhood affords her the opportunity to rest, unplug, and be fully present, all of which have led to increased productivity in her creative work. “Motherhood has not destroyed my creative life,” she says, to the contrary, “it has renewed it.”
Has motherhood impacted your creativity in unexpected ways? Has observing your children’s approach to life or listening to their comments about it changed your focus?
Read the essays written by Livingstone and Collins and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by January 10, 2021, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “December Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay; rather, paste the response in the body of the email.