Writing “The Things This Mother Carries” was not easy, nor was it fun. It was very
different from the writing I’ve done for the past 13 years as a freelancer in my community which,
I admit, has become so second-nature I don’t have to think too much or work too hard to get it
done. Developing and editing my essay for Labor of Love: A Literary Mama Anthology made
me realize that I haven’t really pushed myself out of my writing comfort zone.
It is easy to become complacent in most everything one does regularly, including writing.
You simply go on autopilot and coast. This hasn’t been a bad thing for me, especially because I
juggle several part-time work endeavors. There are many weeks when I just need to get work
done, so if I’m not setting the world on fire with my writing, it doesn’t really matter.
Or does it?
Soon after I heard about the anthology, I had a nugget of an idea for this piece, quickly
banged out a draft, and submitted it, not really expecting it would go anywhere. To be honest, I
don’t know that I cared all that much. I had spent over a decade plowing the same row, not
paying attention to the acreage of possibility around me.
But upon acceptance of the piece and the need to flesh it out more, it became clear that
while I’ve been very good at making my particular row fruitful, it might be worthwhile to clear
some brush and plant something new, add some much-needed variety to the garden.
Of course, as any gardener knows, readying the beds, the hoeing and tilling, is wearying
work. I was working muscles that had atrophied; perhaps some had never developed all that
much to begin with. I was stretching myself as a thinker and a writer and seeking feedback from
new writer friends with new eyes.
I was still in the nonfiction vein for this essay that I’ve long worked in but adding more
flesh and bone, more narrative and creativity than my normal writing allowed. This felt tiring, and
it also felt a little terrifying, a little thrilling. I both hated it and got excited by the prospect of
working on it. A small flame had been sparked by the time I submitted my final draft.
In the months since, I’ve been adding kindling to it, making time in my life to write
outside my normal assignments, submitting to journals and websites I wouldn’t have made the
effort to submit to in years past. I don’t know if these will go anywhere. I’m still not looking to set
the world ablaze.
But I’m happy for the heat that this essay has generated. I needed a fire lit under me and
didn’t know it.
Labor of Love: A Literary Mama Staff Anthology was released on January 26th, 2024. Edited by Amanda Jaros, this collaboration with Small Harbor Publishing celebrates Literary Mama‘s twenty years of publishing the best writing for and by mothers. We asked the contributors, all Literary Mama staffers from across the years, to share thoughts about their writing process, their inspiration, or their work in the book. We’ll share those musings here on the Literary Mama blog.
Read Carrie’s essay by purchasing Labor of Love, now available on Amazon.