Writing Motherhood
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Writing Motherhood

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by Lisa Garrigues

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Have you always wanted to chronicle your experience of motherhood, but never knew how to begin? Are you looking for an outlet for self-expression, but can't imagine how you could juggle one more thing? In Writing Motherhood, longtime writing teacher Lisa Garrigues dispels the myth that motherhood is an impediment to creativity. Drawing on her own efforts to


Have you always wanted to chronicle your experience of motherhood, but never knew how to begin? Are you looking for an outlet for self-expression, but can't imagine how you could juggle one more thing? In Writing Motherhood, longtime writing teacher Lisa Garrigues dispels the myth that motherhood is an impediment to creativity. Drawing on her own efforts to balance the demands of motherhood with her dream of writing, she shows readers how everyday life can be a rich source of stories, and how writing can provide a means to both understand and document their experiences. Whether you are a new mother or a grandmother, someone who has long aspired to write or someone who has never written before, Writing Motherhood will help you find your voice and tap into your creative self.

Filled with insight, honesty, and humor, each chapter of Writing Motherhood weaves together stories from the author's life with wisdom from other writers and mothers. In daily writing Invitations, Lisa then encourages readers to tell their own stories. Along the way, she reveals how to:

  • Start and fill a Mother's Notebook — in just fifteen minutes a day.
  • Silence the critical voices that stifle creativity.
  • Throw away the rules that bind the imagination.
  • Carve out the time and space for writing.
  • Find a community of other mothers who want to write.

Beautifully written and thought-provoking, this inviting and inspiring book will strike a chord with any mother looking to explore and reflect on her experience of motherhood. Here she will discover that mothering provides endless material for writing at the same time that writing brings clarity and wisdom to mothering. Writing Motherhood is an essential guide for mothers at every age and stage of life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I wish Writing Motherhood had been around when I was a new mom. Women deserve to own and record their words. Writing Motherhood — honest, practical, and inspiring — helps us overcome our fears and unlock the thoughts and feelings we all have inside. Thank you, Lisa Garrigues!" — Brooke Shields, author of Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression

"Lisa Garrigues is the real animal, a trailblazer and a muse. Her techniques are both grounded and inspirational. May she lead a revolution." — Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way

"During an afternoon absorbed in Writing Motherhood, I suddenly realized that Lisa Garrigues was describing what my head and my heart and my hands have been doing ever since I became a mother. Lisa's inspirations and invitations smooth the path to recording motherhood in real time, exactly how we wish our mothers and grandmothers for generations before us had done. My mother and I are now sneaking Lisa's book out of each other's homes, knowing that it will be missed within hours, and loving that it will be days before its return."
— Melinda Roberts, author of The Mommy Blog and Mommy Confidential: Adventures from the Wonderbelly of Motherhood

"Writing Motherhood reclaims the old-fashioned, spirit-lifting, life-grounding act of writing as an elemental part of our motherly lives. Grab your Mother's Notebook and a speck of time, throw away the rules, and start writing!" — Miriam Peskowitz, author of The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother?

"I thought I'd read Lisa Garrigues's intimate, lively book in an afternoon — but I kept putting it down to grab pen and paper instead, so inspired was I by her determination to to clear the hurdles, duck the obstacles, and write —no matter what. For any mother who longs to find more time for herself, for any writer who wonders if the demands of motherhood will compromise her craft, here is a welcome reminder that art and life are gloriously, messily, inextricably intertwined. At once creative writing manual and mothering memoir, Writing Motherhood inspires us to honor our own everyday lives as mothers by giving shape to them on the page."
— Katrina Kenison, author of Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry

"Writing Motherhood is a fantastic resource for any woman who finds herself transformed by mothering and seeks to give a literary voice to her experience. With both practical and creative advice, Writing Motherhood guides the literary mother towards giving birth to herself as a writer."
— Andrea Buchanan, author of Mother Shock and co-founder of LiteraryMama.com

"With both wit and wisdom, Lisa Garrigues depicts creative ways to capture and communicate the essence of motherhood. I will wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman I coach who wants to explore and express her experiences as a mother and learn about her Self in the process."
— Bria Simpson, MA, Life Coach and author of The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Self

"Motherhood was the catalyst for making my dream of writing a book a reality, and I believe there are many other mothers who also have a story or passion to share but they may not know how to begin. Writing Motherhood is a wonderful guide to help mothers channel the creativity that is at the core of mothering into art."
— Cali Williams Yost, author of Work+Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You

Product Details

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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt



The day I left the maternity ward at New York Hospital and came home to my apartment on Eighty-fifth Street and West End Avenue, I drew down the blinds, crawled into bed, and hid under the covers with my newborn baby. We stayed there for two weeks. The overhead light was too bright, the street noise too loud, and the kitchen smells from neighboring apartments too strong. Shadowy figures came and went, walking on tiptoe, talking in whispers, as I sat propped up on pillows, my newborn at my breast, a La Leche coach at my side. I could not breast-feed my baby, much less change a diaper the size of a cocktail napkin or clip fingernails that curled under like cellophane. The last time I had felt so disoriented and alienated was the day I turned twenty-one and landed in New Delhi, India. The doctors called my condition postpartum depression. I knew better. I was in culture shock.

No matter how prepared we think we are — how well informed or widely read — becoming a mother is like landing in a foreign country. Only after we disembark do we discover that motherhood is a geographical place with its own language, customs, rituals, and taboos. The terrain is dizzyingly rugged in some places, deadeningly monotonous in others. The weather is unpredictable year-round. No sooner do you adjust to one climate than the temperature changes: Your angelic baby hits the terrible twos. Your talkative preteen turns into a mute or a monster. Like me, lots of mothers — especially new mothers who have recently traded in briefcases for bottles, high heels for house slippers, and pagers for nursery monitors — typically experience feelings of isolation, loneliness, and exile. Most of us acclimatize with time, but then we realize with a gulp that there is no going back. We are lifelong citizens of this other country.

Even before I became a professional writer, I had always turned to writing for help in navigating my life. As a teenager, I kept diaries with yin-yangs and peace signs on the covers. Late at night, burrowed under the blankets, I wrote about my crush on a boy who never so much as looked at me from behind his blue eyes, blond curls, and bubble-gum cheeks that ballooned when he played the tuba. Around the time I left home for college, I stopped keeping diaries and began writing journals. Bored with the self-pitying stuff of adolescence, I filled my journals with reflections on books I read, foods I ate, people I met. After college, when I landed a job as an editorial assistant in midtown Manhattan, I stopped writing for myself altogether. During all the years I spewed out manuals, newsletters, and magazines for corporations, museums, and universities, I never wrote one page for or about me.

Then I became a mother.

I don't know what prompted me (it might have been desperation), but soon after my first child was born I began my first writer's notebook, which sounded more grown-up to me than the diaries and journals I had kept in my teens and early twenties. In the beginning, I wrote in fits and starts, with weeks, sometimes months, between entries. But in time, I managed to make writing a daily practice, and I practiced writing the only way I knew how — the same way I had practiced cello as a teenager, by starting with whole bows on open strings. No matter how hard I tried to do "real" writing, however, my life as a mother bled onto the pages of my writer's notebook. Interspersed among exercises on dialogue and scene and setting appeared recommendations for child care, tips for gaining admission to preschool, notes from teacher conferences, a recipe for dinosaur nuggets, sketches of Halloween costumes, bits of backseat conversation overheard on the way to baseball practice. Soon I found myself writing in my notebook in doctors' offices, at bus stops, on hayrides, in toy stores, on the swing set, in the bleachers. Without my willing it, my writer's notebook became a Mother's Notebook, a receptacle for all the notes and stories, all the scrap paper and scraps of my frenzied days as a mother who writes and a writer who mothers. For nearly eighteen years, my Mother's Notebook has been my passport to motherhood, and my pen the needle on the compass that points my way.

From before my children started preschool until now as they look ahead to college, I have written almost every day because, at every step along the way, there is so much to sort through and so much to say. In the pages of my Mother's Notebook, I have written about the moments I will never forget and the moments I would otherwise never remember. I have written about having too little time and too much to do. I have written about pockets and closets and toy chests, and about all the things I have saved or lost. I have written about names and nicknames, busyness and boredom, grief and gratitude and guilt. I have written about planning ahead, and about improvising along the way. I have written about holding on and letting go. I have written about my children's missteps and my own mistakes, and about forgiveness. I have written about mothering my mother, and about longing for the woman she once was. I have written about seeing myself in a magnifying mirror because motherhood exposes every blemish and scar. I have written about the softening of my body, especially my heart, and the sharpening of my vision, because once I became a mother, I saw things I didn't see before. Scribbled in black on white, the pages of my Mother's Notebook illuminate what it means to be a mother in all its colors and complexities and contradictions. And as I keep on writing, I hear the echoes of mothers everywhere — across the canyons of race and place and time — singing the universal song of motherhood.

Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Garrigues

Meet the Author

Lisa Garrigues is an award-winning writer and experienced educator. In addition to teaching Writing Motherhood, she leads a variety of courses and workshops in writing memoir. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and earned a master's degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, with her husband and two children. Please visit www.writingmotherhood.com.

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