Gliding with your mouth open

Here’s a lovely writing prompt for you all.

A few months ago I shared a writing exercise called Sex and Death. In honour of my Writing Motherhood workshop this weekend, I’ve adapted it to suit the theme, with Labour and Swimming.

First, here are the steps: 

  • Write as many words, phrases, or sentences you can think of to describe labour/the moment you gave birth. Be descriptive, real, pared back. Time yourself, 4 minutes
  • New sheet of paper – write as many words, phrases, sentences you can think of describe swimming. Time yourself again.
  • Take the labour page: shape and craft a poem about swimming using these words.
  • Take the swimming page: shape and craft a poem about labour, giving birth, using these words.

Because giving birth is such an intimate, unique experience feel free to really play with what’s in front of you. Edit as much or as little as you like, and use as much or as little as you like. If only one phrase works for you, but frames a whole piece, use that. Whatever you do and whatever you write, be open to new ways of articulating the experiences of either, and follow where the writing takes you.

A few more notes… 

What I found liberating about this exercise was the freedom from old emotional baggage. I carry some guilt and disappointment with the way labour went for me. Writing about it this way allowed me to explore new angles. I let go of old grievances and therefore any creative restraints. It allowed me to see the new horizon, as opposed to fixating on what was behind. I also discovered that I was writing about two things – 1) the moment of giving birth and 2) the act of letting go of how I’ve always perceived it. The poem found this conclusion way back in the notes I’d already made on wading the waters:

‘I might scream, 

or open my mouth, into this new horizon. 

It’s serene, almost. Gliding with your mouth open.’