Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Book review: Writing Motherhood

It's my turn to host another stop on a MotherTalk blog tour, this one for Lisa Garrigues' book, Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Writer and a Mother. (Disclosure: for writing this review, I get a free copy of the book and a small honourarium from MotherTalk.)

The irony is that I have been writing this review for 40 minutes, and I'm only on the second paragraph - not because my words are stuck or any writerly block or lack of inspiration, but because Simon decided he wanted to poop on the potty tonight - which is still an arduous task requiring a team effort - and then laptop seized up, and then dog yakked on the carpet. Writing and mothering are fitful partners. There's no shortage of material, but often a serious shortage of available time.

Ahem, so where were we? Oh yes. Book review.

In Writing Motherhood, Lisa Garrigues offers tips and inspiration for mothers who want to write but don't know where or how to begin. She's an award-winning writer and educator, and each chapter of the book examines a different aspect of writing your "momoir" woven with vignettes from Garrigues' life. Each chapter ends with a few writing prompts, which Garrigues calls "invitations," and a select few "inspirations," salient quotes from writers and mothers. The inspirations I liked, but the invitations less so. Like a few other bloggers who reviewed the book on an earlier leg of the tour for this book, I'm not really a fan of writing prompts. I did, however, tuck a few of them away for blog fodder on a dry day.

The central premise of the book is that you MUST get yourself a notebook of some sort and transform it into a "Mother's Notebook." She devotes more than a page of tips to how to select a notebook, and another page to 13 reasons why you should write longhand. And right there, she lost me. Luddite that I may be, I'm still all about the keyboard. I'm so ridiculously out of practice that it's physically painful for me to write more than a paragraph, and I type at just the right speed to keep up with my lurching brain most days. Personally, I don't find handwriting to have any intrinsic craft value. The idea of composing or even recording my first impressions without the easy capability to cut, paste and delete with a keystroke and a swipe of the mouse is nothing short of torturous. Writing longhand may be romantic and creative, but it's also tedious and way too much work. I do carry a small notebook around with me, but even I have a hard time deciphering the half-formed thoughts and scrawled observations.

I found Writing Motherhood to be more spiritual than practical; there wasn't any moment when I gasped with inspiration and leapt for my quill (or keyboard), but neither did I find myself flipping impatiently through the pages looking for something of relevance. While I enjoyed the anecdotal style, I think I was hoping for something with more discussion on the craft of writing itself, something like Stephen King's On Writing - a book I found truly inspiring, and one Garrigues obviously also admired, as she refers to it often.

Writing Motherhood, therefore, is a good tool to help you find writerly inspiration from the act of mothering. It reads very much like the sort writing courses that Garrigues teaches, with each chapter examining a different aspect of where mothering and writing might intersect. The end of the book has a great section on resources, with a few books I'd like to pick up from the library for further inspiration. What I would like to see, however, is an expanded section on moving from private musings to published work, and a much larger section on using the Internet to share your work.

Aside from my disagreement with the central premise of the book, it did inspire me to think about myself as a writer. Garrigues loves the idea of a mother's notebook, but I see the blog serving the very same purpose. I force myself to write every day on blog, and every now and then I try to shake things up with different formats and styles of writing. Like Garrigues' mother's notebook, the blog is a place where I record the minutiae that makes life as a mother both delightful and devastatingly difficult, and also a place where I can play with form, style, and voice. I am slowly giving myself permission to consider myself a writer, even though I've yet to get the elusive external validation of a byline in the mainstream media.

Oh, and while I didn't completely forget that I offered up my slightly-used copy of The Big Payoff from my last MotherTalk review, I'm a little late. Congratulations to Myra! I'll e-mail you for your snail-mail coordinates.