Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Why We Write


A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...


Why We Write

I wake before first light, stealing hours from the night. I hold my breath. I pass the boys’ bedroom, careful to avoid the creak in the floorboards. I pad softly, stealthily to the kitchen, greeted by its cool, familiar tiles. I pour my coffee companion—always in the same yellow mug, and piping hot.

Once at my bedroom desk, I tap quietly at the keys, silently cursing their jaunty click-click-click. I know you are out there too. I think of you and am comforted by the distant company of a faraway friend.

This is when we write. In hidden hours no one else sees. In the placid perfection of pre-dawn darkness or long after nightfall, in houses heavy with sleep.

We resist hiring child care, for this is not work that yields a return.

We are reluctant to call it real—we’ve traded various degrees of decaying value for this writing life. At any moment, we are fearful we'll be exposed as frauds.

So why do we do it? Why do mother-writers write?

We write to hold on.

To capture the moments that pass us by even as we’re living them. Our children grow older each day; their youth and ours hurtle by at whiplash speed. Writing lets us keep what we can't bear to part with, not yet. The little things—a plump hand holding mine, an endearingly mispronounced word, warm, sleepy breath—we collect them like so many smooth stones along the shoreline. Water-weathered. Ordinary, unassuming, easily missed. But with a story all the same.

The blank page acts as a sand-filled pocket, storing our finds along the way. Allowing room for new ones, once we are assured that the pieces of our past are safely stashed. Written, recorded, and so with us always.

And we write to be heard.

When the day begins, we open blinds, we fix breakfast, we butter toast, we button jackets.

We wipe stick off hands and crumbs off countertops.

We climb jungle gyms and cushion falls, pour baths and brush tiny teeth. We read stories, scratch backs. We tuck wispy hair behind ears; we whisper goodnight.

And then we wake only to do it all again.

And sometimes we get lost.

We may once have walked among the masses, but now we are often out of sight—buried in basements, sidelined from society. On a lonely hamster wheel of housework and home.

Our bodies are transformed—not what they were and no longer our own. Our minds tortured by to-do lists and tantrums, beset with worry and wonder. Our speech reduced to its most basic form—“no,” “come here, “don’t touch,” “say please”—refrains on repeat. Dispensed reflexively. Often falling on deaf ears.

We give of our time, our bodies, our selves.

Sometimes these words are all we have left.

We write to turn inward, to check that something remains—something all our own. And then we reach out, sending our words into the world to remind us that it is still there. That we are too.

We write to remember who we once were. To discover who we are now.
To feel whole.
To feel heard.

We write to hold on.
To wrest meaning from the mess.

We write to look within.
And then to reach out.

To connect with others.
To preserve ourselves.


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.  

Dina L. Relles is a writer with work in The Atlantic, Atticus Review, River TeethSTIR JournalBrain, Child Magazine, Full Grown People, The Manifest-Station, The Washington PostThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. You can find more of her work on her own site, Commonplaceand you can connect with her on Twitter She lives in New York with her husband and children. Dina is a former blog editor for Literary Mama.

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You nailed it, Dina. Oh yes, you did.
Loved this, Dina. Thank you.
This is so beautiful Dina, and oh so true. I laughed at the opening because I had planned on waking at 5 today to write, but couldn't untangle myself from my warm sleeping toddler who snuck into my bed :) But when I do I'll be sure to think of you and all the other writing mamas out there.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Beautiful Dina.....I love this!
utterly gorgeous. the words caught in my throat. each one was so filled with deeply understood volumes. beautiful, thank you....
Yes. So intimately familiar. Furtive and euphoric, my fingers race and my breath catches as the time I've taken unlocks the words and so many revelations.
Dina- Wow wow wow. Yes, to all of it. And thank you for identifying us, for making what often seems foolish into something admirable. I am proud to be a mother-writer when I read this.
Yes. This really resonated with me: "We write to turn inward, to check that something remains—something all our own." It's true without me ever even realizing it was true. Beautiful post.
Thanks for this. Yes, absolutely. So lovely to read.
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