Jessica Johnson is the author of the essay The Intertidal Zone. We spoke with her about writing and motherhood. Here is her story:
What inspired you to write this essay?
When I started this essay, I had just started teaching creative nonfiction, and as I helped my students think about the structures of their essays, I got ideas about how I might write about my experience at the Newport aquarium. That moment in Newport seemed tied to many other parts of my life, but in order to write it, I needed to get an idea about how to structure this multifaceted story.
What was the greatest challenge in writing it?
I had trouble figuring out where to start and where to end, and I wrote many, many drafts.
How do your children inform your writing?
I’m enchanted by my children. They’re like a big ball of light and love in my consciousness. On the other hand, when I take a more detached view, my children—their developmental phases, their ways of seeing the world, the surreal aspect of being around them—are fascinating objects of study, full of unexpected insights. I write about them and the experience of raising them, but even when I’m not writing about them, the imperative of love and care hopefully permeates my writing.
How do you balance writing and motherhood?
Most of my writing friends now have small children, and we talk about this question all the time. One of them recently said, “All I can do is get up early.” That seems about right to me.
Do you share any of your writing with your children (if they are old enough of course)
My oldest child is four, and I have never shared my writing with her, but I often imagine her grown-up self as my true audience.