Monday, July 02, 2007

Review: Writing Motherhood

A couple months ago Mother Talk had a blog tour of reviews of Lisa Garrigues book Writing Motherhood. I was really interested because as it happened I had just received a review copy in the mail. I hadn't started reading it yet because I was in the middle of a couple other books, and also because I was a bit put off by the cover. It's bright orange and has a line drawing of a white mother with a peach infant in her arms. I know it's petty and silly but orange is not my color. Perhaps there was a tad of resistance to another book about how to get started as a writing mother. I had to wait till I could gather my courage and dig below my pride, ego and fear to put myself in the learners' seat for this one.

I am there now and enjoying reading it. It is written mostly for beginning writers, which I don't think I am, but I always find it works for me to use the beginner's frame of mind if I want to really learn something. I feel like Dawn and Susan do, in that I don't like cute little gimmicky games and exercises. I want to write about the itches bothering me; I don't want an assignment to write about how I chose my children's names or tell my birth story again. BTDT. So I am ignoring the specific assignments and trying to use some of the advice to strengthen my writing habit and push myself to work when it feels difficult.

I am only a third of the way through the book so I imagine I will post more on this book as I work through it. A couple of responses to the first few chapters:
  1. Garrigues is really strong on the idea that you should write your "mother's pages", or daily writer's notebook entries in long hand on paper. She give "13 Reasons to Write Your Mother Pages by Hand" on page 30. I want to argue with every one of them. She says writing with a pen is a physical effort and working with your hands is a craft that connects your brain with the medium. I am a keyboarding teacher and I say typing is also a physical effort. I think you use more muscles in your hands to type. I think I can focus more on my thoughts and what I am saying when typing, because it is smoother and easier. I type faster and more fluidly than I write. I have dyslexia, though, and dysgraphia. Perhaps it's different for people whose brains work differently than mine. I really HATE writing with a pen on paper. It makes me angry and frustrated.
  2. In spite of this, I have (again) started a writer's notebook (on paper) in the past two months. I have done some of the exercises she suggests, and it is working OK. Last night instead of going on the computer I wrote up a "small moment" of a train trip I took with the boys. It was frustrating and took a long time but it went OK. Now I have to rewrite it to type it up as a blog entry, which is a tiresome thought. If I had typed it to start with I could just edit it some and post it. I like keeping lists and prompts in the paper notebook, but do all my drafting on the computer. The only good things I can see about keeping a paper notebook is that it is portable and easier to keep accessible for a long time. I don't see myself having time to write during the day when I am out and about (as Garrigues suggests) anyway, as my kids are too young to be occupied without needing attention.
  3. I do like the idea she has of writing a disclaimer in the front of your notebook. I always hear that internal critic saying "your handwriting it terrible. Your spelling is atrocious. This is ugly. You have nothing to say. That sounds dumb." and on and on. After I wrote the disclaimer admitting that and turning off the editor I felt so much better!
I have more to say about this book but right now my kids are calling me. Read these other reviews on the book: Half Changed World, Three Kid Circus, Postcards from the Mothership, Kateri, and Lilian.

1 comment:

AMY said...

I'm a super fast typist and up until this year I've only resorted to writing long hand when I was grounded from the computer (as a teen) or when I was physically unable to type. I've found that forcing my writing and thinking to slow down as much as is required by writing long hand has had some surprising benefits. I remember more of the details in my "small moment" episodes. My specific word choices are more precise, cuz the "perfect" word has more time to surface. And I don't jump back and forth manically between writing and revising---which allows me to write the whole scene or episode without losing the raw emotions or momentum. I have to say, though, the first several "small moment" stories I wrote were unbelievably hard. It's become much easier, though. My disclaimer would also include a line like "These entries are just seeds, lots of them are junk seeds, only some will grow."

Anhwho: Congrats on your efforts. Writing Motherhood sounds inspiring.