Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Writing Prompt Reader Response

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Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Ellen Dooley's essay, "Writing Fiction, Raising Teenagers," and Diana Renn's essay, "A Foundation for a Fortress." We invited readers to: "Write about a time—either in motherhood or writing—when you discovered reality wasn't what you expected it to be. What did you learn from your experience, and how did it change you?" Below is Wendy Coats's response:


Write Now Before It’s Too Late

By Wendy McGuire Coats

I'm just now admitting how much I want to write creatively. It's not time, work, or parenting that’s in the way of my writing but my own, deep, dark, crazy-ass fear that I will suck. It doesn't help that a brooding jerk of an assistant professor, with his all black garb and eyeball pinkie ring, put me in the "you’re not serious enough to write" box and mortified me in front of my 1995 creative writing seminar. Maybe after 20 years, it’s time to tell that voice to shut up. Even writing and admitting this is a bit scary because the "discovered reality" is that the part of me that wants to write hasn't been snuffed out. It's a speck of light, a tiny little thing that's been waiting for me. And apparently, quite patiently.

Motherhood isn't in my way. I am. If anything, motherhood has probably kept that little dream aglow. I look at my spunky seven-year-old girl and I hope fear doesn't stop her in her tracks. And so, I've started "doing" things that I've always wanted to pursue as an exercise in showing her how not to bail. I didn't expect the type of courage I would find inside myself as a mother. The courage to have uncomfortable conversations. The courage to go back to a dream that I let gather dust. The courage to love deep, big, and aloud. The courage to be vulnerable, to be laughed at, and to proceed with abandon. The courage to lean-in, to grow, to prepare, and to savor.

Motherhood has shown me that there is no time to wait and that waiting isn't just a waste but is incredibly dangerous. Watching my daughter transform from babe, to toddler, to kid in what feels like a blink is a tangible reminder of time's relentless swiftness. Like finally beginning piano lessons at age 40, failing to pursue my own writing is one of those "always wanted to" moments that if permanently ignored, will leave me disappointed in myself for never finding the courage and commitment to go for it.

That fabricated future where I have more time and few commitments is not guaranteed. And that future where I'm less afraid of rejection and failure; it doesn't exist. Motherhood reminded me that I'm still a work in progress. Motherhood is where I've started listening to my secret hopes and where I've found the courage to write my way to them.


Wendy McGuire Coats lives in Northern California with her husband of 19 years and her daughter, named after the "brightest witch of her age." To date, her writing has focused primarily on her work as an appellate attorney. Her favorite quote is Helen Keller’s, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Outside of her family, she is most thankful for life's gifts of good books and great girlfriends.

Andrea Lani writes about the nexus of motherhood and the natural world. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Maine Review, SaltFront, and Brain, Child Magazine, among other publications. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program, a senior editor for Literary Mama, and a Maine Master Naturalist. She lives in central Maine with her husband and three sons.

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Dear Wendy, You give words, eloquent and real words to the heart of my quest in the world. I write from inside motherhood because writing warms the pipes of my own voice. And warmth, like yours, lets me know I am not alone. Thanks to Literary Mama for hosting our words and posts like yours, Wendy, that are filled with so much hope. Your daughter is lucky to have you! xo S
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