This post WAS supposed to be sponsored by Grammarly, but they failed to deliver on their promise of compensation, so their sponsorship credit has been removed. Should they decide to keep their promise after all, I will reinstate it. However, based on this unfortunate situation, I can no longer recommend them. I sincerely hope that’s temporary. Grammarly did eventually sponsor this post and make good on their promise.
This myth is near and dear to my heart, mostly because I believed it until fairly recently. If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time, you know I have twin toddlers, a full-time job, and a variety of part-time jobs and projects all vying for my time. Oh, and a husband. And two dogs. Can’t forget them.
Point is, I’ve got a lot going on. And despite the fact that writing is who I am and as important to me as breathing, I’ve let it slide since the kids came along, and I’ve used them as an excuse.
There. I said it. I used my kids as an excuse. I did it because I was scared. I did it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good anymore, that after I became a mom I wouldn’t have anything important to say that didn’t involve my children (who are remarkably adorable) or their bodily functions (which are remarkably gross). I did it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a mommyblogger.
Most of all, I did it because I felt like it was time to put on a new identity — someone’s MOM — and I didn’t know how the old me fit into that.
Well, I figured it out: The “new me” suffered greatly as a result of ignoring that voice inside that told me to WRITE IT DOWN. Over the last several years, without taking time to reconnect with myself and my thoughts and my goals and my reactions, I stopped dreaming. I lost touch with what makes me happy, what exhilarates me. I became clumsier and clumsier at expressing myself. My thinking and dreaming and speaking and writing and finding joy and LIVING are all tied together.
I’ve had time. I didn’t use the time, because I didn’t think it was important enough. I was wrong.
Writing, for me, is existence. It’s survival. Just as you can continue to subsist on poor nutrition while your body gradually functions less and less efficiently until you have some major health crisis and get a clue or you just live out your days in chronic ill health, I have not died without writing. But I certainly haven’t lived. Not truly.
Confessional poet Gregory Orr wrote an excellent book I highly recommend called Poetry As Survival. His poetry, in fact, was a mainstay of my sanity after the death of my youngest brother in 2003. (At age 12, Orr inadvertently killed his brother in a hunting accident, a topic he addresses in many of his poems.) He has written extensively on the transformative role of poetry in helping people process trauma, pain, and suffering.
I contend that, when not processed and understood, the collective unexamined experiences of daily life can compound, leading to great pain. I further contend that it is in particular those experiences that cause us to question our purpose, our worth, who we are, and what we hold dear — like the experiences we have every single day as moms — are the most important to process and can do the most damage left unexplored.
In 1991, poet Dana Gioia posed the question “Can Poetry Matter?” in a piece he originally wrote for The Atlantic Monthly. As he neared his conclusion, he wrote:
Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it–be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters.
It’s no exaggeration to say that poetry saves lives. But it’s not the only form of writing that does this. I am focusing on poetry now because it is the written form that I experience most deeply and with the greatest intensity. It is the strong, distilled spirit of creative expression, and it burns in my throat and warms my veins every time I consume it or create it. Although not all of my blogging falls into this same category of experience for me, much of it does. In some way, I see blogs filling the gap that is created as poetry is increasingly marginalized.
However you get in touch with your inner poet, whether in verse, in prose, or in bulleted list on the back of a napkin, you don’t have time not to write. Even if you never share it. Even if you immediately discard it after you write it. Make the time to put it down on paper or in pixels.
If you choose to share it, all the better. Blogs like Dooce, Whisky in My Sippy Cup (now reincarnated as Shannonigans), The Bloggess, Mamalogues (sadly silent since 2011 but still a great read), and, during my pregnancy with the boys, a host of hyperemesis blogs, have sustained me through various phases of my fertility journey, pregnancy, and parenthood. The community of women (and a few men) at BlogHer.com is astounding in its depth and breadth, and the passion these writers share. Putting these words, these experiences, these challenges and triumphs out there for others to experience and cry over and be inspired by — it matters. It changes them and it changes you and it MATTERS.
Whether you choose to share them or keep them to yourself, your written words matter. They matter to you and they matter to your kids because of how the process of fixing them into some permanent format changes your brain and and how those changes create a ripple effect through the rest of your life.
Make the time to write. It will be one of the most valuable things you do for yourself each day. It may be 5 minutes on the toilet using a crayon and the back of the grocery list while little fingers wiggle under the closed door, but carve it out. Give this gift to yourself. Give it to your partner. Give it to your children. But really, most of all give it to YOU.
Don’t be among Oliver Wendell Holmes’ (1809-1894) “The Voiceless”:
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them.
Use your voice. Sing out on the page. Don’t waste time. It’s fleeting.
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