I had many ideas about the intersection of motherhood and writing. Most importantly, I did not want to become a “mommy blogger,” whatever that was. In this I was adamant. I had no problem admitting that I would post about my new reality as a stay-at-home-mom and the inevitable truth that our little one would become the center of my universe, but I wanted my writing to have flexibility, depth, and perspective that reflected a multi-faceted human – not just mom.
As any parent will tell you, there is no such thing as just mom or just dad. They are titles that cover everything. There are more curve balls tossed at you than in any other single pursuit of your life (including playing a baseball game). Despite a booming baby product industry and thousands of well-meaning books, we can and do swing and miss….a lot. Children force us to reconcile our inner thoughts with our outer example. While they are often referred to as shadows, I think it would be more appropriate to label them as mirrors. We want the absolute best for them. We agonize over how to get them to Best and cringe when they pick up our Worst.
I read Use Your Words by Kate Hopper from Foreward to Epilogue. I read the Appendices. On this first reading I was looking for writing voices that differed from the enamoured first-time mother, domestic diva, and slightly neurotic homemaker. I was listening for voices of loving mothers, disoriented honest women, and the telling of stories that authentically revealed the creation of a new person – not by shedding the skin of the “previous girl” for the “absorbed mama” but by mingling the two. I was reading for permission to find that voice for me.
I am a mother. I am a writer. Those two intersect often. But not exclusively. This is an excellent resource for mothers who want to tell their stories but don’t know where or how to start. There is no pressure in the book to write something in order to sell it or to make a career of it. Hopper writes so that other mothers may know better how to write about whoever they are becoming as a mother and all the chapters include specific advice, optional exercises, and outstanding examples. If you are interested in eventually publishing your work, there are several points of advice as well for you – from blogging to publishing.
I expect my next reading will involve an anaylsis of the more technical suggestions and exercises relating to tone, boundaries, and perspective. The included essays are provocative and powerful in their own right – I will be rereading and analyzing them, too, no doubt. It is a valuable resource for skill development and many of the exercises are great brainstorming starters.
So why a writing book specifically for mothers? What’s so special about motherhood that merits a book about how to write for it or about it? The book covers familiar writing areas such as voice, tense, humor, fear, perspective, structure, and editing. It also acknowledges the delicate relationship between the parent and the child. The “mother” title does not come without children, whether biological, adopted, or deceased. One depends wholly on the other for nourishment, protection, and guidance. By writing of fears (ours or theirs) and failures (mostly ours) and boo-boos and personal moments in our children’s lives, we tiptoe through the heart of that relationship. The writing advice is useful for any writer; acknowledging the nuance of a parent writing about a child and how that impacts writing strategies is empowering.