“Being centered to write is accepting the mess, loving the mess, celebrating the mess, and writing about the mess.”
~~Dacia R. Ball
A few weeks ago, I posted about solitude. As one who lives alone, my perspective was obviously limited. Today, poet Dacia R. Ball offers insights about balancing the call of the creative life with the demands of motherhood. Welcome, Dacia!
by Dacia R. Ball
I was a floundering mother with fears and self-doubt who carried within me an ardent need to understand life in all its intricacies. This was a blessing and a curse. I saw the other side, the transcendent parts of living not visible to plain sight, but I was contained within the physical demands of feedings, dirty linens, and a body fighting postpartum depression.
Through the encouragement of a community of fellow writers, I was able to return to a craft I began in my twenties and had set aside while becoming a mother in my thirties. Poetry and essays became an outlet for my musings. My sporadic blog posts ranged from theological rants to accounts of spontaneous road trips.
Since returning to school to complete my undergraduate degree, I have written the occasional poem for my own enjoyment, and I have written countless papers for the requirements of my degree. The challenge of writing as a mother is not a lack of material. It is a lack of confidence and the centering of my soul. I’m sure tending to the latter would improve the former, but how can I center my soul when the catalyst to writing in my twenties was silence and solitude? My life as a mother is the polar opposite.
There is no magic fix for writers who are mothers, but the truth is, if you are a writer, you will most likely be compelled to write no matter how crazy life becomes. The key is staying awake. When the weeding, cleaning, commuting, planning, and scrolling become a haze, and your breath is forgotten like the small gears which move a machine, when your mind hasn’t been pulled back into your heart for ages, you know it’s not another cup of coffee you need. You need a moment to be awake. You need to sit across the table from your child and watch him eat, watch him hum between bites. You need to stare in the mirror of your new morning face, pausing over every line and wilting eyelash, loving the wisdom that has aged your skin.
As a mother, being centered to write will never mean hours of contemplation. Being centered to write is being awake long enough for that flash of light that fixates on your soul, reminding you the dying green beans in your garden are the storyline in your next poem. Being centered to write is accepting the mess, loving the mess, celebrating the mess, and writing about the mess.
Motherhood can be the most overwhelming role of life and the most boring. In a recent poem, I referred to that special chaos that ensues while making your children wait for anything as the “fanfare of boredom.” The most important choice I made when I returned to writing was that I would not create a mommy blog. I needed an escape from the fanfare. There is nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to blog about her children, but, for me, I needed a calm of my own making. Sometimes that included a story about my children, but most often it did not.
You cannot wait for the perfect moment to write when you become a mother. There have been many poems I’ve written on my phone, using voice -to-text while driving home from the library. I have found Zen study music on Youtube that enables me to focus and write while my children are wrestling with their father. I have left the dishes in the sink and grabbed my laptop to center myself into a fresh Word document. There’s nothing quite like seeing that blank page and plunging headlong into its mystery. Don’t wait for the moment that seems right to empty your thoughts on the page. Accepting your weaknesses, your flaws, and your mess are the only way you can move forward in your strengths.