On Writing

posted in: Writing 94 comments

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.This post is inspired by Jennie of A Lady In France.

It came in an ordinary-looking envelope, white, I think. My name and address scrawled on the front, confirming that its contents, were indeed mine. I’d never won anything in my life (nothing I really wanted, like these cassette tapes!), and this was exciting.

My first I-really-wanted-this-prize came from a poem I submitted to a local radio station, who read it on air. I was 15 or 16, and I may have missed part of the reading of my not-very-good-poem about a bird and a tree, when it aired. The details of the poem is lost, I don’t have a copy, nor do I remember any of it, except that it wasn’t very long, and it was the first time I sent my writing out into the world.

It was also the last time, for a very long time. I still wrote – more bad poetry, song lyrics, angst-filled journal entries about boys and all the things teenagers worried about, which seem so trivial now, all kept private, read by no one. I had dreams of becoming a journalist only because I really, really wanted to meet *Tom Cruise in person. Not because I thought I could make a living out of writing or that I loved words.

My love for words was never spoken, nor was it realized. I didn’t stop and think, “Ooh, I really enjoy writing, I should do it all the time.” No, it was something I did. Just as I played the piano, or chased my sister around the house, or ate breakfast.

None of the writing I did when I was 18 to 35 meant anything. Thoughtful analysis of Shakespeare and Jane Austen in college, critiques of film techniques and theorizing of criminal sociology in university. Press releases, biographies, newsletters, proposals, advertorials, advertising copy, reports in a 10-year career.

I was given a ‘My Baby’s Coming’ journal when I was pregnant in 2009. After two entries, where I scrawled out “It’s a Boy!” and ‘My back hurts”, it’s empty, save for the weekly weight and belly circumference measurements.

I did not write about my feelings of impending motherhood, or how I thought my life would change. I did not write about how I thought I’d mother my son, or how I feared parenthood would change my marriage. I did not write about my son’s first year, where I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. I did not write about the first month where everyday I felt like I was dying little by little inside. I did not write about the first smile, the first step, the first tooth, the first anything. I did not write about my relationship with my husband, how it nearly broke us, and strengthened us. I did not write about the deep love and the breathtaking depths of feelings that motherhood brings.

I took many pictures and videos, but I wrote nothing.

Even when I started to blog, I had no intentions of writing about mothering.

However, and unexpectedly, my words have a life of their own. They spill out onto the pages, my fingers typing furiously, my mind whirling with ALL THE THINGS I need to write now before I forget.

The words have continued to come, and with them, a rush of emotions I did not expect, a burden of memories from my own childhood and feelings about my mother, bubbling to the surface. Scars of wounds I never knew were there, are itching to be scratched, urging me to break through skin and bleed words.

I am afraid to scratch some of those scars. I feel like I’m tentatively emerging as a mother who writes, who hesitate to say, “I am a writer”, and who is unsure whether some stories are meant to be told.

I am no longer that teenager who sent our her words so eagerly, in exchange for some cassette tapes.

What I am, is a mother who wants to tell her stories, to capture the stories of her children until they’re old enough to write their own, to still time for a little while with her words.

I hope I’m doing that well.

* I no longer love Tom Cruise.

BlogHer ’13 has opened submissions and voting for Voices of The Year (VOTY), and I have a few posts there that I would love a vote for. If you could take a couple of minutes to do so, I’ll love you forever and ever. Thank YOU. My posts are about blogging, mothers judging other mothers, intrinsic goodness of peopleraising boys, the girl way, and this post about writing.

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • April 10, 2013 sarah

    Alison, can I tell you something? I think this is my favorite post of yours. It’s SO authentically you or what I’ve learned of you. It’s beautiful. I really mean that.
    sarah recently wrote…#ippp- Oh God MarieMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Aw, shucks, Sarah. Thank you, so much.

  • April 10, 2013 Amber

    I love this.

    And I don’t blame you for no longer loving Tom Cruise.
    Amber recently wrote…Hey, It’s Okay Tuesday!My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Amber.

      (Tom Cruise must be really old by now, yes?)

  • April 10, 2013 Robin

    This is exactly how it was for me too. I won a writing contest when I was about 16, but I never thought about it as something I loved to do, or should do more of. And I never, ever thought my writing would be inspired by motherhood. But there you go. Like you, writing has released thoughts and stories and memories that probably would never have seen the light otherwise. What a wonderful gift, yes?

    Also, Tom Cruise. Hee.
    Robin recently wrote…Deep Breaths and Thank YousMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Absolutely a wonderful gift. I remember years ago when someone suggested I blog, I said, “About what? Who would want to read it?”

      And here I am. Here we are.

      Can’t believe I confessed about Tom Cruise. Sigh.

  • April 10, 2013 KalleyC

    I remember sending out my badly written poetry and short stories out when I was younger as well–even lucky to be published more than once. But I never did thy again.

    I really love this post about you. Thank you for sharing your story.
    KalleyC recently wrote…Having A Younger SiblingMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Kalley.

  • April 10, 2013 Susanna Leonard Hill

    You’re doing it very well, Alison! And this blog and all the writing and memories and thoughts and feelings and experiences you’ve written here will be something you and your boys will treasure!
    Susanna Leonard Hill recently wrote…Would You Read It Wednesday #83 – Giant At The Gym (PB) AND The March Pitch PickMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Susanna!

  • April 10, 2013 Jessica

    I love this post and watching your evolve as a writer on this blog, seemingly, before my eyes! You are a writer and wish you all the best in your writing pursuits!
    Jessica recently wrote…I am a studentMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I appreciate your constant support, Jessica! (and for telling me again and again that I am a writer. I find it hard to call myself that still, so THANK YOU).

  • You do it perfectly!
    And Tome Cruise… yeah I get that. Just like Bradd Pitt. What happened?
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…Playmobil when you are a child versus Playmobil as an adult.My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I still sorta kinda like Brad Pitt – I had his posters on my wall all throughout university, heh.

  • April 10, 2013 Jennifer

    I think if I ever really write something that I want someone else to read, I am going to have to enlist a ghost write (or enlist you!). My way with words isn’t as beautiful and flowing as yours. I understand the “It’a a boy” and “My back hurts”. I have a couple of those books myself, and after a while the sizes aren’t even listed in there!
    Jennifer recently wrote…Runner and Place Mats From The HGTV HOME Line from Jo-Ann Fabric and CraftsMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Aw, you’re too sweet, Jennifer. 🙂

  • April 10, 2013 Susi

    Alison, this is beautiful. I love your writing. Going to vote now!!!
    Susi recently wrote…Beautiful Florida {Wordless Wednesday}My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so very much, Susi!

  • April 10, 2013 Vikki

    I have a similar journey…a poem published in Young Kansas Writers (about Billy Budd – ha), angsty poetry and journals. I started writing a memoir about my mother long before I had kids but, having kids, gave me the perspective to bring depth to those old stories. Scratch at those scars. Do it.
    Vikki recently wrote…Peep Week 2013 – The EndMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I want to, badly. But I’m scared. 🙂

  • April 10, 2013 My Inner Chick

    *** They spill out onto the pages, my fingers typing furiously, my mind whirling with ALL THE THINGS I need to write now before I forget.***

    Thank Goodness you are writing, dear, because
    you. make. a. difference. xxxxxxxOOO
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…An Imitation Life on Carnival Cruise LinesMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      You make a difference to me, my friend. xo

  • April 10, 2013 Tamara

    Just..wow. I gasped several times when I read this. Since a comment from a teacher in 5th grade about how my writing is so sad, so that I don’t have to be (I often wrote about the sudden death of my father that happened in front of me when I was not even four) I have thought about writing differently ever since. I excelled at it in high school and college, but then took a five year “break” when I thought I was dried up and worthless. It happened with photography too. The birth of my daughter brought photography back instantly, and I started this blog when she was eight months old not knowing at all what would happen. Well..a lot had to be said! I love this post forever.
    Tamara recently wrote…It’s About Relationships.My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Tamara, thank you so much for your kind, sweet comment. And I’m so sorry about your father, and the trauma it must have caused 4 year old you. Whether your writing is sad, or introspective, or whatever verb someone choses to use it to describe it – it’s who you are, right there in that moment. Let that carry you. Your photography is beautiful!

  • April 11, 2013 Jessica

    I’ve always known I was better at writing than other things but I never expected that I would one day do something with my writing.
    Jessica recently wrote…Spring Into Barely ThereMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Yeah, me neither!

  • April 11, 2013 Kim

    “…to still time for a little while with her words.” I can’t tell you how much I love that line. (Don’t get me wrong – I love the whole thing.) I have a similar writing story in that I did, then didn’t, and now do again. I am so glad to be writing again; I missed it, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
    Kim recently wrote…FlyMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Yes, that, exactly. Missing it and not knowing it til later. And, thank you.

  • April 11, 2013 Kimberly

    I won a writing contest for a poem I wrote. Then I was all “English is stupid” and became a nurse instead. I kept writing though. Then I married Shawn and decided that I was hoarding journals so I threw them out. all of them.
    I really love this Alison. I really do.
    PS. Tom Cruise is an alien
    Kimberly recently wrote…We Broke The Water Bed Because We’re Good At SexMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      You’re so brilliant at this writing thing.
      Yes, Tom Cruise IS an alien. Hah!

  • April 11, 2013 Natalie

    You were a writer the whole time and didn’t even know it!
    Natalie recently wrote…These Are My ConfessionsMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Hah! Thanks Natalie . 🙂

  • April 11, 2013 Elizabeth Kane

    Yes – you’re doing it very well 🙂

    I have the same sentiment towards writing as a teen – the lyric/poetry writing, the heartbreak journal entries, the “what I need to improve on/who I want to be when I grow up” monologues found in notebooks long ago. I guess it’s always been a part of me, I just never thought until the past few years to myself (when I started taking it seriously) – “I like to write. I am a writer.” I think it’s amazing to hold a pen and paper and just do a stream of consciousness writing – emotions get involved – and you’re writing things you never knew you thought/felt. Powerful stuff…

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      It is powerful stuff, indeed. I usually free-write, as I find having a structure/ framework, difficult to work with (unless it’s posts for social media and my articles at Everyday Family). And free-writing is so liberating and surprising. Love it.

  • April 11, 2013 Justine

    It’s funny but it’s writers who, I think, find it the hardest to call themselves a writer. I’m still having difficulty in that. Similarly, I started running six months ago, and even though I’ve run ten miles and I’ve run in frigid 9-degree Fahrenheit weather, I’m reluctant to call myself a runner. Why is that, I wonder.

    Glad you’re finally coming around to owning this part of yourself. Someday I hope to as well.
    Justine recently wrote…Rainy daysMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Oh Justine, you are definitely a runner. And a writer.

  • April 11, 2013 Kristin

    I’m really, really, REALLY glad you no longer love Tom Cruise.

    And I love that Maya Angelou quote. It’s so true. 🙂
    Kristin recently wrote…We Name Our Furniture HereMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I’m glad too. SO glad.

  • April 11, 2013 Jennifer

    I love these. LOVE!
    Jennifer recently wrote…So you’re having a c-section, Part 5My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Jennifer!

  • April 11, 2013 Alexandra

    Somehow, it was this new space here that became like opening a corral to wild horses. Go, be free, RUN.
    Alexandra recently wrote…I Wish You Could Have Known HerMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      It feels that way, doesn’t it? Thank you sweetie.

  • April 11, 2013 Leslie

    Like you, I had no intention of writing so much about my family…but that’s one of the wonderful things about having your own space. And as far as parenthood testing relationships, you’re not alone. I’ve loved reading your stories, and look forward to reading more over on BlogHer (headed there now)!
    Leslie recently wrote…{Weigh In Wednesday} Week 14My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much, Leslie. I appreciate you as a bloggy friend, and getting to know you through your writing.

  • April 11, 2013 Olga

    Alison, I can very much relate to this, as probably many other bloggers can. Some of us have been writing quietly and some of us have been taking a break from writing. But all of us have words and have always had them. Sometimes it takes a turning point, an experience, an awakening. And then the words come and all we can do is dutifully record them.

    I love the words on your blog, they’ve certainly been inspirational to me and I am sure to many others. Keep it up!
    Olga recently wrote…A Few Clicks Away From StupidMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you for your kind words, Olga!

  • April 11, 2013 Christine

    I really love this post and the Maya Angelou quote too. I love hearing more about your journey. I totally get the rush of words and the burden of emotions that comes along with them.
    Christine recently wrote…Be Your Own AdvocateMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Christine. The emotions scare me sometimes. I’ll be like, whoa, where the heck did that come from? 🙂

  • April 11, 2013 RJ

    Awesome post Alison! I have so many things I would love to write about, but there is always a fear there of digging that deep. This post inspires me, Thanks.
    RJ recently wrote…Tuesday Takes Cozy CabinMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Yes, I fear that too, the digging deep. But I’m going to try anyway. I may not publish it, some may never see the light of day, but I think certain stories need to be written down.

  • April 11, 2013 Lady Jennie

    I’m FINALLY here. Wednesdays do me in each week, but I’ve been wanting to read this.

    And I’m not disappointed, of course. 🙂 I think being a young mom (or a mom to young) steals our words. I don’t think I had any words during that time. I’m not sure I had any brain cells.

    But I’m glad you’re flexing your writing muscles now because it’s good.
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Life in the Trenches – Chapter 14My Profile

    • April 11, 2013 Lady Jennie

      it’s good writing (not – it’s good to write). although it is
      Lady Jennie recently wrote…Life in the Trenches – Chapter 14My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you. I think I’ve improved, from writing more AND reading more. Reading writers like you. 🙂

  • April 11, 2013 ilene

    Words do take on a life of their own, don’t they? It’s almost as if our words call us to action to write them, I loved reading about your process!
    ilene recently wrote…Facing Fears and Finding FreedomMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Yes, the siren call of words! Thank you, Ilene.

  • April 11, 2013 Tracie

    I love that you have found your words.

    For as long as I have been reading here, I have thought of you as a writer. You have the gift.
    Tracie recently wrote…Tips For Running A Successful Twitter ChatMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Tracie, thank you, that’s so sweet of you, and high praise!

  • April 11, 2013 JDaniel4's Mom

    I think you are doing it very well!
    JDaniel4’s Mom recently wrote…Kids Art Project- Plastic Jug JellyfishMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you!

  • April 11, 2013 Leighann

    when we write our truth it flows beautifully.
    Leighann recently wrote…Cool as a Muther Heffin’ CucumberMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Our truth. Yes, that’s the key.

  • April 12, 2013 Runnermom-jen

    Oh Alison, I could have written parts of this…especially the parts about my own childhood memories coming to the surface and I’m wondering if I should write them (I have written some of them, just not hit the publish button).
    And that last part, you are doing that SO WELL!! And you are a writer!!
    *I no longer love Tom either, but I love him in Top Gun…sigh.
    Runnermom-jen recently wrote…Making Lemonade…My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I’m glad you wrote them. Whether you publish or not, that matters not. That your stories are emerging, that’s what matters. You are amazing, you know!
      (Tom was such a cutie back then. Now, notsomuch)

  • April 12, 2013 Mariann

    So real, so relatable, so inspiring. It’s great to know when you’re not alone. That’s just what this post did for me. Thank you, welcome back and good luck!

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you Mariann!

  • April 12, 2013 Elaine A.

    I just love that the words continue to come and that you can express things about your past, your now and your future, here, for us to read.

    Also, I feel I should mention, that I DID chronicle my first pregnancy, in WORD. And I lost it all when our home computer CRASHED completely and we were unable to recover any of my words. I lost photos to but I think I cried harder about my writing. Another reason I am glad I blog and that I want to make my posts into books and why I back up my blog! 😉

    I really like THIS post. xo
    Elaine A. recently wrote…Give Yourself a BreakMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Oh gosh, that would totally devastate me 🙁
      Good call on the backup. Heh.

  • April 12, 2013 Adrienne

    Mmmmm…this post is delicious! I love it! I could say some of the same things about my blogging journey. It’s been therapeutic for me in many unexpected and scary places. Beautifully written!
    Adrienne recently wrote…Sometimes, it’s good to be bad.My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Adrienne!

  • April 12, 2013 Ado

    Keep on writing, keep on writing! PS: You no longer like Tom? Me neither.

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Oh I will!
      (No, I don’t. I haven’t for a long time, even before he acted like a crazy person on Oprah.)

  • April 12, 2013 Heather

    I, for one, am glad you’re such a fabulous writer (and no longer in love with Tom Cruising Off The Deep End). Haha. Voting now!
    Heather recently wrote…Spring/Summer Check List 2013My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Hah! Cruising off the deep end – LOL. (and thank you!)

  • April 13, 2013 Keely

    I’ll give you a prize of cassettes any day. That’ll be my new standard of of writing excellence.
    Keely recently wrote…Mini Kitchen Makeover, Part 3, AKA P.J. Thinks The Backsplash Looks FINE.My Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Hah! I’ll just need to find something to play them on….

  • April 13, 2013 Arnebya

    Isn’t it amazing how we think we know our intention but then our true purpose reveals itself? You may not have intended to write about mothering/parenthood, but you are certainly, firmly within doing just that, and beautifully.
    Arnebya recently wrote…Doing Versus Thinking About DoingMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Arnebya, thank you.

  • April 13, 2013 Grownandflown

    It is amazing how the words can come come pouring out of us when we have a deep emotion connection to what we are conveying (motherhood.) I love that you have traced your evolution as a writer and have come to understand how you have changed. We really enjoy your site and your writing. Keep at it!
    Over from SITS
    Grownandflown recently wrote…Motherhood: It Doesn’t Get EasierMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support!

  • April 13, 2013 Bev

    I have never considered myself a writer (and in fact, for a long time I thought I was a terrible writer), but as I have started blogging regularly I have felt much more comfortable with sharing my writing. I truly enjoy reading your blog and can see that you were indeed meant to write, and I look forward to reading more of your words.
    Bev recently wrote…Five Things I Love About MyselfMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      I’ve been through that too, thinking I’m not really good at this – and some days, I still feel that way. But I keep plugging away. Practice makes perfect, right?
      (and you’re NOT a terrible writer!)

  • April 13, 2013 Julie Jordan Scott

    I am so grateful you write! Your words are so beautiful, so heartfelt.

    Please continue. And glad to read about the VOTY contest. I had wondered what the heck that was and now I know. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    (I know about embarrassing poetry. I have had stories published, too, that I sort of shrink from now. I’m in the perpetual “What was i thinking?” with some of them
    Julie Jordan Scott recently wrote…Dear You, Who Hasn’t Had CancerMy Profile

    • April 13, 2013 Alison

      You need to submit something for VOTY! I wouldn’t worry too much about the voting part (as the blurb in this post is probably going to be the only time I ask for votes), as 100 honorees for VOTY will be chosen by the reading committee. So it really IS about the writing.

      And thank you, for your support and kind words.

  • April 15, 2013 anymommy

    It’s such a vulnerable art, (I guess any art is vulnerable, but this is the one I’ve tried my hand at) to put your thoughts and feelings out into the world and hope they make a connection with others. But then, frighteningly, you can’t control anything about that other’s experience. The impact, the interpretation, the reaction is all theirs. And then on top of that, like any skill, it’s passion that makes us want to write, but practice that makes us good at it.

    Which are just my disjointed thoughts on writing, bubbling to the surface after reading your lovely, open post. Somewhere in there is the key to what makes you a good writer.
    anymommy recently wrote…Readers live a thousand livesMy Profile

    • April 15, 2013 Alison

      I think that’s what’s amazing about writing (and art), is that your writing (and in essence, you), become part of someone’s experience. It’s amazing and yes, scary.

  • April 15, 2013 Maureen

    You are an amazing writer, my friend.
    This post is beautiful and raw.
    It’s like you are letting us see your journey as a writer, love it!
    Maureen recently wrote…Finding My JoyMy Profile

    • April 15, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much, Maureen!

  • April 21, 2013 Alma

    I think I never really knew you till now.
    That was great to the core.
    I’m with Sarah on this it is also my favorite post.
    I have told you that you inspire me to be a better writer… so glad you sent in that poem … so glad you started this blog. I will keep WISHING you keep WRITING 😉
    Alma recently wrote…Spring Festival and Mother’s Day SaleMy Profile

    • April 21, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much, Alma. It feels good, opening this part of my heart here.

  • April 21, 2013 Amanda Jillian

    Yay for winning =]
    Amanda Jillian recently wrote…The Faerie Girls Week #iPPPMy Profile

  • April 23, 2013 TOI

    Food for thought.
    i was thinking about similar topic today. I always wanted to write but never thought about using blogging to do so, but I realize that every word i let out, in form of comment or post, is part of my formation as a writer
    TOI recently wrote…Week 16My Profile

    • April 23, 2013 Alison

      Yes, that is true!

  • April 24, 2013 Lauren

    I read your posts all in one go when I have the time 😉 so do keep writing, even things about being a mom, that I can’t articulate but you do it so well. you’re awesome, except that you like Tom Cruise

    • April 24, 2013 Alison

      Dude, didn’t you see that at the end, I said I DON’T like Tom Cruise anymore? (OMG he’s 50)

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