I have always wanted to be “a writer”. When I was young, I read voraciously and then tried to mimic authors’ approaches to plot, character, and style in my own writing. I tried to craft romance stories full of angst, tension and passion. When I was a college student at New York University, I sat in Washington Square Park and experimented with different forms of verse as I soaked in the vibrancy of the city.
My freshman composition professor, a student in the MFA program, hated my essays. Everything I turned in came back bearing a grade I was unaccustomed to seeing on my own schoolwork, especially on my writing. It was nothing personal; in fact, Mary and I became friends and she introduced me to the creatives of the NYU community. However, no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many revisions I handed in, Mary never had any positive feedback for my papers.
Perhaps Mary, who was aware of my ambitions, was trying to teach me the importance of editing, or was trying to thicken my skin in anticipation of the rejections I was sure to receive were I to pursue my dream career. Or perhaps she really thought my writing sucked. Either way, I decided that if she thought my writing was worthy only of a pity B-, then obviously I had no talent and I switched majors and schools.
In truth, my writing back then really did suck. It was tinny and forced and hollow. It lacked depth and emotion. I was trying so hard to be avant-garde that I was paying more attention to form than to substance, and in the process wasn’t really delivering either. Ultimately, it came down to this: I had nothing to write about. I hadn’t lived. I had no story of my own to tell. I was taking other people’s stories, imagining myself into them, and spitting them back out, and it was unreadable.
Now it is twenty years later, and I am a mother of two young children. In motherhood, I have finally found my voice. Through the act of conceiving, gestating, delivering and parenting two human beings, I have finally tapped into something powerful and universal and beautiful, something worth writing about.
I was utterly naive as to how much a child would change my life. My inability to deliver my children naturally had me questioning my femininity and fitness to mother. Postpartum depression darkened my earliest days of motherhood. Parenthood rocked my marriage to its core, and my husband and I had to travel a long, hard, and scary road before we found a new place of stasis that is, happily, better than what we had before. My commitment to issues of social justice has had to take a back seat (for now), and I have found new things to be activist about. I write about the mundane and the profound, the personal and the global, and everything in between.
I no longer harbor fantasies about writing the Great American Novel or living in an artist’s colony as I did as a teenager. Now I write because I want to, because I need to, because it is empowering and therapeutic to put my story out into the world. Through the experience of being a mother, I have finally recovered that creative part of myself that I gave up all those years ago. It may be clichéd, but that is because it is true: having children is the most profoundly and inherently creative thing that we, as humans, can do. We make a whole new person pretty much from scratch, and then we create a home and a family for that person, and we ultimately help that person to create a life for herself. The act of committing my stories to paper (or screen) and looking at them in the light of day, pulling them apart, turning them over, putting them back together, and hearing what other people think about them makes me better able to create the experiences I want for my children and for myself as their mother.
Kelly Coyle DiNorcia lives in rural northwestern New Jersey with her daughter, son, husband, and various four-legged family family members large and small. She is a mother, non-profit administrator, recovering scientist, educator, writer, reader, and activist. When inspiration strikes, she blogs at http://ahimsamama.com and she hopes that you will visit her there and join the conversation about conscious and peaceful parenting!