Monday, July 24, 2006

Lisa Moore on Writing from the Midst of Domestic Life

Lisa Moore on writing from the midst of domestic life:

Virginia Woolf needed a room of her own. I need this house with its creaking staircase and the dryer tumbling and the lingering smell of cooking. The very faint sound of my husband practising guitar on the third floor. I need the chaos children bring to a life, the sensuality they bring and the imagination. I need the street outside too.

Lisa Moore (with Eva Crocker), “Yolk” in Constance Rooke, ed., Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life (McClelland & Stewart, 2006).


bloglily said...

By "need" I hope she doesn't mean "I need to have my children in the room with me when I write." I have three boys and -- believe me -- if they were in the room with me while I was trying to write, I would not be writing.

If she means "I need to be living a full life so I have lots of influences on my writing," well, I agree with that completely, but I'd point out that it is very difficult to raise children and write at the same time, regardless of whether you stay home with them or work outside of the home. Either way, you are working at something other than putting words on the page a lot of the time.

The trouble is, I don't know what she means. If it's the former, I'm troubled by the superwoman suggestion here -- that we can have it all. I don't think we can. And we do each other a disservice as writers to say otherwise. Women write when they have childcare, and when they have some financial security to pay for that childcare -- or they write like Tillie Olsen, late at night, while they're also doing the ironing or in the other snatches of stolen time between doing all the other things they do. And if they have to write that way, they're tired a lot and one thing I respect about Olsen is that she never lied about the difficulty of trying to write while having children.

I'm not meaning to slam Lisa Moore at all (particularly since I'm not quite sure what she's saying). It's just that something about her tone here reminds me of the sort of myth- creating around the real work of writing while you're caring for children, or your parents, or your demanding job, or whatever work you must do before you can sit down and write. And if this comment is unedited and a little incoherant, it's because my six year old has spent a lot of the time I've been typing it asking me to tell him who the pictures of famous people on a deck of cards are. (Who's that? Betsey Ross. Who was she? She invented the flag. Who's that? Ulysses S. Grant. What? Ulysees Ant? No, honey, Ulysses Grant. You get the idea.... )

Kate S. said...


From your response, I fear that I’ve done Lisa Moore a disservice in posting that excerpt without providing any context. She makes the difficulty of writing while raising children quite clear in the rest of the essay. But in the end, she arrives at the conclusion that all of the domestic chaos that seems to distract from her writing ultimately contributes to it in indispensable ways. I’d like to quote more from the essay, but it’s difficult to do as Moore does a marvellous job in it of echoing the domestic chaos in the structure of the work, even weaving into it bits of her eldest daughters writing. I think that you’d like the essay as a whole.

I should note though that one of the reasons why that excerpt intrigues me is that it illustrates how different Moore's writing process is from my own. I need a bit of stillness around me for my writing to thrive. Then again, I think that those who must write figure out a way to adapt their process to their surroundings.

bloglily said...

Oh Kate, it's so hot here that my brain is officially half-baked and I could have misread pretty much anything! Thanks for your gracious context-filling-in.

I'm with you on the stillness (hopefully in a cool room). I also think that, to a certain extent, we make the lives we lead, or we learn to shape them so they fit us, and it's possible to write effectively in a lot of different situations. This post made me think of a neighbor of mine -- a woman who has four children and a husband who is a fine writer. She has churned out book after book in the last five years, all the while talking about how much carpooling she is doing. Thing is, she has two nannies -- but she never talks about that. Instead, she'd have you think she's writing those books with one hand on the wheel at the other holding a fountain pen. I like it so much better when people tell the truth about their lives: and it sounds like Lisa Moore is one such woman. I just looked her up on Amazon -- she sounds wonderful.