I am taking a break from writing. This sounds like a disingenuous claim, seeing as I am writing these words to you, dear reader. Know that this is my first essay in months, which, when compared to past productivity, almost constitutes a break.
My fickle friend Facebook has been reminding me that five years ago, I was blogging daily. Four years ago, I scaled back to maybe three posts a week, a more sustainable rate which lasted for a good long stretch. Then I had a baby and rebranded my blog, and I was pleased if I could publish an essay a month. That was, until recently, when any desire to share my writing dissipated altogether. I wrote a handful of things which I hated, rewrote a few and still hated them, and then stopped drafting anything altogether.
When people—that loyal minority of readers who have noticed the embargo—ask why I am not writing, I conjure up any number of excuses and equivocations. All of them are true, too. Having a toddler is so wildly much more exhausting than I could have imagined. (I fully personify that cliché of just wanting to sleep whenever the baby is asleep, and while she isn’t, too!) I started a new job, and most of my cerebral efforts are siphoned into professional projects. I also believe that breaks can be good and healthy and can promote new growth and fresh insights—so long as the break doesn’t veer toward the semi-permanent and then the indefinite.
But all of these reasons address why I don’t have as much time as I once did to write. Why I feel too tired at the end of a day to write. None of them get at the foundational culprit: I don’t want to.
Years before I was a mom, I published my first solo book project. I am certain that at some point in the process, I likened writing a book to having a baby. I’d done the former, but had no notion yet what the latter actually felt like. Not that there aren’t similarities between writing and parenting. Both require love and patience, flexibility and fortitude. I am Dr. Frankenstein for book and baby both (with a tip of the hat to my husband, of course, with regard to both). I feel investment in the success of my creations. They’ve each brought me joy and pain and pride and caused any number of internal crises. But rapture and anguish, wonder and love; those I reserve alone for my child. I don’t love my book, and my book cannot love me back. After all, a book is a book is a book.
Writing causes all the feels, oh yes. If creativity takes the shape of a parabola, weaving its highs and lows, keeping the creator coming back for one more success, parenting is without shape or limit. It fills you to exploding and depletes you so entirely that energy becomes a foreign concept. And then there is the intense, flayed-nerve sensitivity that comes with motherhood.
Pre-parenthood, my threshold for soul-baring and perceived rejection was more than met by the act of sharing my writing. Hitting ‘publish’ or ‘send’ was enough bravery for me in a week. This determination to overcome the fear of exposure and judgement, and accept that mortification was baked into creative nonfiction—or my expression thereof—has never stopped requiring persistence and conviction.
After the last essay I shared publicly, I wrote to my mother, “I think my creative crisis of late can be attributed, at least partially, to not wanting to feel so naked all the time. Every essay just feels like such a bald declaration, and I’d rather be quiet—and clothed—for a while.”
Now that I have a child, I am suffused with a vulnerability so much more potent than I’ve ever experienced before. That which is tender and unprotected about my daughter is somehow mirrored in me, too. That which hurts her, hurts me. That which disappoints and frightens and saddens. So much the worse when the cause of her upset is me. I feel constant, if varying levels of, defenselessness; borne of crushing love, borne of vincibility, borne of uncertainty. There’s my heart, outside of my body, living in another, and I can only do so much to protect her. There is my heart, outside of my body, living in another, and I fall short of parental perfection all the time. Is she all right? Within the ranges? Is it a phase or something to worry about? Is it our fault? Is it our failing? Does she know how cherished she is, even when we are so fallible?
I am maxed out on raw emotion. I haven’t the reserves for more, or different kinds of, heart-baring or -sharing.
I know from observation, now more than ever, that we grow out of things. Clothes, habits, likes, dislikes. Even love of some kinds. Fear has a way of persisting, but even that can be transitory. If parenthood expands your heart (and does it!), perhaps it eventually bolsters your confidence or provides anything resembling reassurance. Or else how could anyone survive the kiddo’s first dance, first date, handing over the car keys, college?
As much as writing engenders a sensation of ‘pantslessness’, it is also an outlet for parental ennui. I recognize that regaining a measure of imperviousness would be a good thing, and I wonder how long this will take. Are there any experts on this subject? A formula I can follow? What is the relationship—if indeed there is a relationship—between the growth of a child and the regrowth of parental creativity?
If and when I should discover the answer to this, I will of course share my findings. For the time being, though, I will remain swaddled and (mostly) silent.
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