Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Finding Creativity

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire


The Other Side of the Mind


First, I was a poet, writing in a silence I tried to break because I quickly became lonely. Turn on the radio. Get in the car and ramble. Now, I’m a wife, mother of two, a magazine editor, and then, a poet. I only experience the quiet time I now know I need to write late at night.

My day starts at 5 a.m. when it’s always dark. I read Natalie Goldberg’s Living the Writer’s Life and drink coffee. During my hour commute, I focus on 10 tasks waiting for me when I get to my desk at 7 a.m. The office is excitingly quiet. My analytical mind crackles. I’m always working on three magazine issues: putting one to bed, editing content for the next and assigning the one after. When I leave, I’m tired. When I arrive home, I’m more tired.

My daughter, who’s 5, is sparkling, chattering. My son shrieks as he cruises along the couch. Around them, I also multitask like a pro: prepare dinner, color a picture, pack a lunch, change a diaper, and pick a bedtime story. Yet, I’m also more fragile. Kids are unexpected; they go from happy to total meltdown over a dropped toothbrush. I love and nurture them; I need to be gentle. But, oh yes, I’m tired.

After everyone has slid into sleep and my body and analytical mind are tired, I must, as Jane Hirshfield writes in Nine Gates “… find a path into concentration,” into the other side of the mind. The truth is, many aspects of my personal life go half-done: Where I worked out daily, I’m lucky to hit the weights weekly. Where my diet used to be gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free, it’s halfway there now. It’s the same with writing. Where it was a daily marathon, now it’s occasional jogs.

You know how Flaubert sniffed a drawer of past-ripe apples to enter writing mode? Switching from analytical mind to poet mind is like sniffing those apples. I find a gate to go through to enter poet mind where I become attentive in a different way, where I become ready to breathe in the Muse and exhale writing that matters. My gates are usually other poets’ work: I pull poetry books from my shelf and leaf through them. This time it’s Lucille Clifton and Franz Wright. As I read random lines and poems, I shift away from tasks and into an open, air-filled space where ideas form. From Li Po’s “I Make My Home in the Mountains,” this is where “…even my soul remains quiet:/it lives in the other world/which no one owns./The peach trees blossom./The water flows.” Once I’m deep in, I write and revise.

It’s not easy working a fulfilling, but demanding, job, and then sitting down to write at 10 p.m. It’s not easy to always be patient with young children who require, and deserve, most of me. The way I’m still learning to parent, I’m still learning to be a poet who burns the midnight oil.

I’m an editor and poet because I have a love affair with words: The need to write burns bright within me. It’s fire that never goes out. Sometimes it burns to embers, or it flares, almost consuming me. I can’t douse it. Analytical mind pushes me to cross into poet mind. Poet mind sparks my creativity, and keeps my analytical mind hopping at work. And my kids? Well, having them is transforming my writing in beautiful ways.


Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.



Nicole Rollender’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Radar Poetry, Salt Hill Journal, THRUSH Poetry Journal, West Branch, and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of StarsArrangement of Desire and Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, forthcoming this year. She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Princemere Journal.

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