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The virtual edition of the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop is an ongoing series. All photos by Colin A. Danville

Everything is a learning opportunity. Hosting the first ever virtual space for this workshop was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I am buzzing with ideas for how to make this an even bigger and better experience for the participants and the facilitator in October! I feel like I ran a marathon, and I’ve never actually run one, but that’s the word that keeps coming to mind. I think the smartest thing I did was simplify my vision 3 hours before the opening session was to begin. Sometime between the munchkin artfully deconstructing the blinds, sucking on the soles of my shoes, and smearing liquid poop from his loaded diaper–I hope I got it all– I realized I was trying to do too much on my first attempt EVER at producing an online workshop process. I spent a good deal of time worrying that people would be disappointed that I had not delivered something akin to the elaborate programming you might find in Oprah’s Life Class. Then I reminded myself that my intention was pure: I am creating more spaces for mothers and those active in our mothering work to be present with our authentic selves. It’s all worth it, no matter how basic the technology.

I’m still amazed that I was able to design what I did, and I’m even more amazed by the people who “showed up” to participate. There were these golden moments throughout the day when I was certain I had maybe stretched my arms out too wide, but then I’d get another email registration from a mom a million miles away expressing a genuine enthusiasm to be a part of the journey. It felt like someone was hugging me back, like someone was stretching their arms out too. It was a marathon, but at least I wasn’t running alone.

This, like everything I do, is an experiment. I am literally learning as I go. My hope was to create an opportunity for all the mommies, and sisters, and community folk who support my work and my writing to meaningfully engage in the process that I share locally with my community in Washington, DC. In just these past 24 hours I have seen ways that I can grow this virtual experience into a more sustainable model. I am already working out the details for the October session.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a bit of the virtual workshops with folks who missed yesterday’s program. Below are the opening summaries for each of the five workshops that were accessible over the course of 12+ hours yesterday, with beautiful people tuning in and sharing their stories from around the globe. Be sure to register for the next virtual workshop that will begin in December, and if you’re in the Washington, DC area, join us for the live workshops happening every month.

Thank you to everyone who made the inaugural virtual journey a success!

~~~

photo 1-6Part 1: My Writing Process Is Whole

In this section, you are invited to see your particular needs and creative methodologies as abundant, viable, and specifically relevant to how and what it is you seek to write. Oftentimes, our mothering work expands into all parts of our lives and we struggle to “make the time” for our writing. When we research tools and guides for cultivating a writing process, we don’t see resources that reflect our unique perspectives as mothers or as those who are active in our mothering work.

The intent of this workshop is to identify and develop an appreciation for the writing process that is authentic to how we need to create–whatever that looks like! Once we realize the inherent power our own writing process gives us, the more we will be able to access the energy–and time!– it takes to write and share our stories. Remember, our words matter! And the path we stumble along to find our words matters too!

photo 2-6Part 2: These Are the Stories I Need To Tell

In this section, we are going to spend some time mapping the roots of where our stories come from. By stories, we aren’t just talking about writing in fiction or personal narratives. Everything we write, be it a poem, an essay, a make-believe tale, a play–all these things are connected to the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and the experiences we’ve had.

The intent of this workshop is to trace the origins of the themes we are drawn to when we write. Many times we may experience a sense of blockage or frustration when we set out to write a particular thing. What if the stagnation we are feeling in our writing has less to do with a lack of skill, and more to do with a part of ourselves that we’ve buried and forgotten how to access? Maybe there was something upsetting or traumatic that happened years ago and it’s very hard for you to identify the language for it. Maybe something from your childhood happened and you never understood why, and the adults around you wouldn’t answer your questions. Maybe you’re busy raising children and haven’t figured out how to catch your breath and reflect on some major parts of your life. Perhaps you don’t even have anything in mind to write about. That’s okay too! The beautiful thing about our story is that it can never leave us. We are our stories, and so recovering them is mostly a matter of listening and feeling for what’s already within.

photo 3-2Part 3: Writer’s Block for the Mothering Soul
What is “writer’s block” anyway? How many times have we labeled that complicated tangle of inspirations and frustrations as having writer’s block? In this workshop, we are looking at “writer’s block” in a way that translates to our experiences as writers who are active in our mothering work. For us, it is less of a “block,” and more of a “knot.” An emotional knot, that is. In this section, we invite you to explore how we can untangle those knots that keep us from feeling the flow in our stories, or poems, or whatever else we want to write.
Before we get started, jot down some things where you feel there’s writer’s block. If nothing comes to mind, think back to any time in your life when you felt particularly stuck with writing or any other creative project. In today’s activities, we are going to identify specific emotional spaces that may house the root of what causes the knots in our story. We will then experiment with the tools in our writing process that can help us begin to unravel these knots.

photo 4-1Part 4: “Who Am I?” An Experiment in Character Development

We often think of “characters” when we are working on fiction, but in this session we invite you to consider yourself as the main character of your writing process. Much of how we see ourselves and the experiences we have lived through shape the content and perspective of our writing. In this workshop we will peel back some layers of ourselves so that we may better understand why we write what we write.

For a moment, imagine you are sorting through the therapist’s files that chronicle most of your life. What things are written in the margins? What are the questions that linger about you, scribbled on the sticky notes peppered throughout the folder? What major life moments are noted with a red pen? If we were to fill in the pages of this make-believe therapist’s records, we would begin to weave together the elements that make a person interesting to know about, or in the writer’s case, to read about.

As people active in our mothering work, this process of looking so deeply within can be even more complicated because much of what we contribute to the world is invisible to humanity. Many of the parts of ourselves that we could find momentum to write about have become lost to us. Whether because we’ve been told to be silent, or we’ve become experts at dimming our light, or we’ve grown afraid of what it really costs to live courageously in the midst of our flaws, we mothering hearts must take extra time to gently look beneath the surface of who we think we’ve become. These exercises are just the beginning. The search, as many of us know, is a lifelong journey.

photo 5Part 5: My Favorite Omissions, and Other Things That Are Hard To Write

Sometimes we learn more from the absence of something than from its presence. Likewise, when we are writing, we gain profound insights into our process by becoming aware of the things we are not willing to reveal in our words. These gaps in our stories, we call omissions.

In this workshop we will explore the opportunity that omissions give us to reinvent ourselves, and by extension our stories. No matter the genre we are working in, whatever it is we are afraid to say will give shape and meaning to what we do say. Before we get started, think of some secrets you hold dear to you. Think of something that is maybe even so uncomfortable that you don’t even write it down because you don’t want to read it back with your own eyes. Make some notes about these things. Was it an incident? An experience with someone? A childhood memory? Even if you don’t want to be that specific, just write down the emotions that arise from thinking about whatever it is.

The nature of secrets is to take up space in our bodies. For all the very good reasons we might have in keeping them, secrets can still weigh on our spirits, cause tensions in our bodies, and contribute to bouts of writer’s block and other creative frustrations. In these exercises, we will gently discover how writing can help us alleviate some of the burden of our secrets. Even if we never tell another person, we can lighten our load when we tell our words. As we journey through this workshop, consider this question, “What am I willing to tell my words today?”

~~~ 

photo-91The NEW MOMMY WRITERS’ WORKSHOP is open to all mothers, pregnant women, and to women who identify as mothers, and/or are engaged in any form of mothering work. MOTHERING WORK includes, but is not limited to, being a mother, caring for children, being an auntie or godmother, wanting or trying to get pregnant or adopt, healing from the loss of a child or trauma in the womb, working to heal your relationship with your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother, providing care for a mother or parent figure, being a midwife, doula, or birth worker, being an artist, and working in service to women, mothers and children.

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