The Reluctant Writer

My mother is a writer. She’s written more random material in her disorganized collection of notebooks than some published authors. Her notebooks overflow with shopping lists, diet tips, sad stories about parents who equated love with control, parents who didn’t value this insecure middle child, and angry laments about a marriage that crumbled. Mom would never call herself a writer, would rather die than have anyone peek between the covers of her notebooks, but she’s a writer nonetheless. Reading, absorbing information, dreaming up and telling stories are what she spends her time doing. And isn’t that exactly what a writer does?

Mom reads the newspaper from front to back every day. And she doesn’t just read; she takes that newspaper and renders it unrecognizable. She folds it into elongated rectangles, cuts out articles to pass along to others, and tears it down the middle to make the pages easier to manage. Magazines aren’t safe either. She unceremoniously removes subscription cards, perfume samples and all the pages that are printed on heavier paper than the rest of the magazine… including the cover. Then the pen comes out. She marks the remaining cover with a list of pages containing information she thinks I should read in an attempt to exert a kind of control, over the periodicals and me, which harkens back to her childhood.


Thanks to technology, my mother is no longer limited to material in print. I bought her a Nook when they first came out and was constantly called upon to load it with new titles she’d learned about from Oprah and NPR. She can’t, or won’t, learn how to load the books herself. It’s a minor frustration that keeps me both enslaved by and involved in my mother’s reading list. She used that Nook hard and killed it within a year. Now she uses the old Nook as a coaster and has switched to a Kindle which I’m still required to maintain.


When I was a child, my mother’s vivid imagination was the source of both my oppression and creativity. I was never allowed out of her sight but in exchange she would create elaborate worlds for pretend play. She’d make up wonderful games and unexpected treasure hunts. Now that I’m no longer imprisoned by her imaginary fears I am delighted by the stories she invents to round out the lives of strangers in the car beside us at red lights or of the people whispering in the restaurant booth nearby. She does this to fill awkward silences and avoid the uncomfortable scrutiny that goes with them.  I see them as a beautiful expression of her creativity. She sees them as the incessant chatter of someone uncomfortable in her own company.

Mom blindly thinks everything I write is pure brilliance. The support she gives me has always allowed me to soldier forward with my writing even when I get rejected, or a workshop leaves me devastated, or I can’t seem to write anything at all. No matter what anyone else says, my Mom thinks I’m a genius. I wish that long ago, somebody had told her that she was brilliant. I wish that I could go back in time and tell her that her stories are fun and creative and that her ideas are wonderful. I wish that she would turn her ideas and her notebooks full of stories into poetry and prose for all the world to see.

Some of my best material is inspired by my Mom. Do you have some great stories about your parents?

  • Write a poem about something you wish you could change for or about your parents.
  • Write a poem that helps you to work through something you don’t understand about your parents.
  • Write a poem in which you are the parent to your parents… how would you parent them differently from the way they were raised? Would it be different from the way they parented you?

Please share your poems with me in the comments below!


BPP Spring 2015 Intern


2 thoughts on “The Reluctant Writer

  1. Great blog! You have this thread of letting go and pulling close working throughout – that creativity and control. At first the fight of whether or not mom is a writer, or called one. Then the wonderful image of mom gutting magazines and bending papers but trying to control the writer by sending her the articles to read. Then the freedom of resources that technology offers mom juxtaposed with the way she needs help working it, which keeps the writer “both enslaved by and involved in [her] mother’s reading list.” The mother’s imagination and the mother’s imagination – both the beautiful stories and imaginary fears – just beautiful!

    I love the prompts at the end – especially the last one because I’m now wondering if I would still be me.


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