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


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


On Choosing to Write

I didn’t write for the first ten years I was a mother. If you’d have asked me back then if I was happy, I’m not sure how I would have answered. There was little room for emotion, for I was but a vessel — first literally, to house my babies’ bodies, then later metaphorically, for their needs. I poured myself into them so completely that most days I came up empty.

The winter I gave birth to my second daughter was the bleakest time, a tangle of postpartum depression, sleep deprivation, and loneliness. One day I managed to escape to a mutely colored therapist’s office, where I sat under framed Buddhist etchings, anxiously checking the time remaining on my three-hour nursing window.

Photo by Jena Schwartz

Photo by Jena Schwartz

The therapist asked me what I used to do before I became the hollow vessel before her, using up all her Kleenex. I mentioned that, among other things, I used to write.

“Don’t say ‘used to.’ Say ‘I am a writer,’” she said.

“But I’d be lying,” I said. “I don’t write anymore.”

She cocked her head thoughtfully. “Well, let’s examine that. Why don’t you start writing again?”

“When?” I asked.

“Maybe when you’re nursing the baby?” she suggested.

Unbelievable. Did this woman think I was an octopus? I wondered. She had no children of her own, and truthfully, I judged her for it; or rather, I judged her ability to offer me advice because of it. I walked out that morning in a huff. Writing while breastfeeding! The mere thought made my blood boil.

Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I realize that what made me angry that morning was not that the therapist failed to understand the mechanics of balancing a laptop and squirmy newborn atop a Boppy pillow. What made me angry was that she was suggesting that I was making a choice by not writing. Hers was a sensible suggestion, even a feminist one — after all, modern-day women have a veritable buffet of choices in front of them. Surely the fact that I was so miserable meant that I had made the wrong ones.

Today I can say that I’m making the choice to write, but that choice is largely possible because my children are in school and I’m fortunate enough to have a spouse who supports my creative aspirations. Still, undeniably, something was lost in that decade I didn’t write. Not only was my writing pretty terrible when I started back, memories had been swept away, eroded by the passing years. I cannot fully conjure the ancient civilization of my life with babies; I can only stumble around its ruins in my mind. Here lies the scent of new skin, the sound of rosebud lips forming a new word, the touch of a skull’s downy soft spot.

If I could sit in that therapist’s chair six years ago, this is what I would tell the empty vessel before me. One day the fog will lift from your brain. A door will open in your mind and for once, you’ll have the time and space to enter. In the meantime, keep a descriptive journal. Write one observation each day of something you felt or saw. Aim to write at least three metaphors a week. Do it as a gift to the future you, for the bright morning on which you’ll wake to find the bonds have loosened, and you’re free to make a different choice.


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.

Sarah Curtis Graziano grew up in the South but now lives in Michigan with her husband and three daughters. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in River Teeth, The Huffington Post, the Brevity blog, Literary Mama, Mamalode, and elsewhere. An MFA candidate at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she is at work on a nonfiction book.

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This is wonderful. I have been going through the same thing and my daughters are 18 and 11. Thank you so much for sharing - this piece is a motivator for me!
Marvelous! Sarah, you are honest, funny, so encouraging to ANY writer who faces an obstacle (surely one or two exist?)I will be looking for your work!
Thanks, Catherine, Anne, and Christie! Your comments mean a lot. Yes, we all have obstacles but if we didn't, what would we have to write about? ;) Thanks for reading.
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