Liz Rognes is the author of Cities of My Body, which appeared in our October 2015 issue. We connected with her about the writing process. Here are her responses.
What inspired you to write this essay?
I was pregnant while I wrote the essay. Pregnancy felt like such a powerful transition space for me. My son’s due date was right around the ten-year anniversary of what I consider to be the beginning of my recovery. I had great gratitude for my body, and I was keenly aware of the stories and struggles that my body had endured. I think, too, that writing this essay felt like embracing a space of questioning and change—not only the literal space of pregnancy, but also the space of what I call recovery.
How do your children inform your writing?
The writing I’m doing now is definitely informed by who I am now. I can’t write about my past without looking through the lens of this current moment. On the one hand, it helps me to find and articulate insight, but, on the other hand, the lens of now can be complicating when I’m writing about my past. For example, I identify as queer, but in the current moment, my life looks like a snapshot of heteronormativity: I have a male partner and a biological son. We bought a house. I’m working on some essays about sexuality, and my lens of now is a different lens than the one I might have looked through five years ago or ten years ago. It’s not a lens that is any better or worse; it’s just different. It’s the same for motherhood. I can’t write about the history of my body without knowing what my body has done for my son. I can’t write about my own childhood or my mother without an awareness of my own role in my son’s childhood. So the answer, I guess, is that my son doesn’t necessarily inform the content of my writing in an explicit way (unless I’m writing about him); motherhood, though, alters the lens through which I look.
How do you balance writing and motherhood?
Well, I don’t get to write every day. I also work full-time teaching English Composition. I’m also a musician. I schedule time for writing, and I do it. I take on a limited number of projects, and I (usually) meet deadlines. When I’m lucky, I can find the time and money to pay for a babysitter so I can write. I use naptime. I write on the bus. When I have a burst of inspiration or a bout of insomnia, I write in the middle of the night. But I try to give myself some flexibility, and I’m lucky to have a partner who values and respects my creative space. His mother lives nearby, too, and she is an incredible support for us, who gives us both space for work and creativity.
Do you share any of your writing with your children (if they are old enough of course)
My son is a year-and-a-half, but I’m open to sharing my writing with my son (if he’s interested) when he’s older. I don’t want my past or the content of my writing to be a secret from my son. I want him to know that I’ve struggled but that I’ve survived. I want him to know that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that there is no shame in telling stories about those mistakes. I also look forward to sharing some of my favorite writers and essays and poetry with him as he grows up. I want him to hear many different kinds of stories from and about women—not just me.