Maeve Binchy and Motherhood

The other day,  I happened on a  bit of a snit on Twitter among some writers about an article that appeared in The Telegraph online: If Maeve Binchy had Been a Mother.

As a writer and a mother, I certainly hope that nobody judges my writing on the fact that I’ve had children. Of all the things to point out about Ms. Binchy, THIS is what the writer of the article chooses to focus on?  I mean. Just. Wow. It’s so insulting to Binchy—a woman who wrote many best sellers, including a few that became movies.

But, that said,  I thought several points the writer made have definitely been within my experience.

Before I had kids, I was more focused and had more energy to write. Very true. I wrote in an office every day, studied and wrote poetry at night. You can’t deny that most of us women who choose to have kids are not as productive or as immediately successful as our colleagues. But I’m not whining about it. I made my choice. I still write, even though I’m a mother—even though I sometimes yearn for the peace of mind and solitude I had before I became a mother.

Has being a mother made me a better writer? Hell, yes. It’s made me a better person. But it doesn’t work like that for everybody.

As to this point she made about Binchy’s characters:

“Binchy, whose first novel was about a 20-year friendship between two women, didn’t need the experience of motherhood to write about love and friendship in a way that charmed millions. But she might have dug deeper, charming less but enlightening more, had she done so.”

Perhaps. But she also could have brought more depth to her characters by working in homeless shelters, joining the Peace Corp, or meditating on a mountain in the Far East. My point is this: All writing is based on each writer’s personal, emotional experience and resonance.

One experience doesn’t count more than the others. Not even motherhood.

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