We the breeders

Sage CohenProductive writing, The life poetic2 Comments

This week, in a curly-headed flourish of time marching on, my son turned three. This anniversary of our shared birth into the context of family has been accompanied by my interview in the We Who Are About to Breed series of We Who Are About to Die. Both have me thinking. About what it has meant to become a mother. How this identity has sculpted me many layers deeper into the quick of what is most tender in me. And how this evolution has seasoned me as a writer.

Just as chiaroscuro teaches us that shadow sculpting light is the tension through which shape can actually be perceived, motherhood has held for me the tension of obstacle cradling opportunity–thereby releasing a fresh perspective on what is possible in this latest incarnation of writing life. What’s been uniquely valuable to me in the realm of parenting is a new, high-stakes sense of accountability.

Once entered, motherhood can be incredibly confronting in its non-negotiable, no-escape, rest-of-your-life claim on a person’s life. In this way, it is uniquely useful in forcing our hand. The more we are squeezed in service to someone else, the more we are forced to decide how we make use of the crust of time that belongs to us. We no longer have all day. We no longer get to decide how or when we sleep or eat or do much of anything in those early years. So, if we’re going to write, we’d better make it matter. We’d better carve out a space where we-the-writers get to exist alongside of we-the-life-support-system-diaper-changer-around-the-clock-everything-giver.

I wrote one book while pregnant and a second in my son’s first year. My entire life distilled to the interior chamber. Together, we fattened on the sweetness of the present tense. One word at a time. Body on body. Stretched beyond who I believed myself to be into something simpler and more universal.

Of course, parenting is not the only path that leads to such discoveries. But what makes it so profoundly useful is that you don’t get to quit. You simply have to find a way. And, often that way looks entirely impossible. Until the crossing is made.

Are there difficulties or limitations in your writing life that have shaped you? Have there been surprising rewards that have been available to you only because you found your way through constriction into some more spacious or possible place? What if we were to be grateful for all that we didn’t have that we thought we needed to write? What if we were to recognize that this may even be the greatest gift of all?

2 Comments on “We the breeders”

  1. This post resonated deeply with me, as a mother of three young ones. Carving out the writing time is never easy, but I know I am a better person and a better mom when I am writing.

    As for the questions you pose at the end of the post, I would say this: For me, becoming seriously ill when my children were tiny made me realize that today is all we have. If I wait to write until the children are older/I have more time/fill-in-the-blank-reason-here, I may never write. In this way, becoming ill opened the door to the writing room a bit wider for me.

    Thanks for this post.

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