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.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

6 thoughts on “Book review: Writing Motherhood”

  1. I love your blog, because it is a mom blog and I love other blogs like yours, too. My blog is just ‘not there’ in terms of a ‘good mom blog’ because I just can’t write about the daily wonders and struggles of motherhood and post it for all to see. I do, however, keep a beautiful notebook at home, filled page after page, about my son, and motherhood, and the things my boy does daily that amaze me. My true feelings are words are in that notebook and the notebooks to come. I can freely write in that, knowing only my son and I will read it. I just can’t do it on the Internet. I have tried but I only post some things, like what we did, what new words he is saying, how fun he is, how tired I am, etc… I just can’t openly write about motherhood on my blog, like I do in my notebook. I just cherish some things and consider them to be private and that’s why I keep the notebook with pen by my bedside!

  2. Part 2
    I also consider myself a writer, as by profession, that is what I am, starting my last year in University when I was hired by The New RO as a news writer, so writing news was what I started with, and then moving on to writing for radio and being a reporter on-air – writing, reporting, and editing go hand in hand. From there I moved on to Rogers TV and got to be creative there and then working in the government as a comms advisor, and editor and now I get to write all day long, although nothing THAT creative… and I had a few articles published in Ottawa Life Magazine and I thought that was cool. I think I should have gotten into print instead of TV and radio broadcasting, to be honest with you! I’d love to publish a few children’s books in the future…ya never know!

  3. Very good review. Thanks. I have been wanting to read this book and now feel I have a good idea of what I have been — or not been — missing.

  4. I wondered if the book had a site, googled the title and ended up on Oprah’s book club site and found this:
    “While I was writing, he spit up orange juice on the tablet that I was writing on, and I distinctly remember writing around it, because I thought I had this really perfect sentence that might not come back if I stopped and wiped up his puke.”
    — Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon, Paradise, The Bluest Eye
    I like to think I’d wipe the keyboard. Probably.

  5. I actually started my blog to take advantage of the time I’m at home with the kids, especially when they are young, to capture some of the experiences while they happen. With my memory, they get lost rather quickly :). And it’s also “my time” – to enjoy my love of writing. I never really intended it to be for others, but since I’ve been making some blog pals and getting more traffic I’m finding it more gratifying to be able to share my little world.
    I’ve also bought some beautiful diaries in the hopes to actually write notes in – but like you, I find it so much easier to type on the keypad. I get cramps with longhand too! My son finds it miraculous that I can type without looking at the keys. I didn’t win my Gr. 9 speed-typing contest for nuthin’!

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