Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Image from PORT.

There’s been a long conversation on writers being mothers—whether it makes them less efficient writers, the extent to which it ushers them onto a new creative plane. There have been books by mothers on their relationship to motherhood: South African writer Megan Ross’ poetry collection Milk Fever (2017) and Canadian novelist Sheila Heti’s Motherhood (2017) come to mind.

In an interview with Vulture‘s David Marchese, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, mother to a two-year-old daughter, discusses how motherhood feeds art and why she didn’t think she would make a good mother. Plus a bit on her next novel.

Here is an excerpt from the interview.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

INTERVIEWER

Were you worried about what having a child would mean for your art?

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

CNA

Yes. I used to think I wouldn’t be a good mother because I was so dedicated to my art. I said to myself, I have nephews and nieces who I adore, and I helped raise them, so those will be my children. That’s what I thought for a long time, because I felt that I couldn’t be true to both my art and my child.

INTERVIEWER

What changed?

CNA

Getting older. I like to joke and say that you’re ready [to have a child] when your body isn’t ready, and when your body is ready, you’re not mentally ready. I guess you have the best eggs when you’re, like, 22, but at 22 you don’t even know yourself. Then when you’re 38 and know yourself, your eggs are not the best quality. Anyway, we’ll talk about eggs another time. But my baby happened, and it’s important to talk honestly about this, because having her changed a lot. Having a child gets in the way of writing. It does. You can’t own your time the way you used to. But the other thing that motherhood does — and I kind of feel sorry for men that they can’t have this — is open up a new emotional plane that can feed your art.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a current idea for a new novel?

CNA

Yes, but maybe not.

INTERVIEWER

That’s a coy answer.

CNA

I might be doing some research for it. Maybe not.

INTERVIEWER

I guess we’ll have to see how that next novel — whatever it may be — turns out to know if your ideas about motherhood and creativity hold true.

CNA

He said with a veiled threat. I really do think motherhood feeds art. How that will be executed is another question. But having access to the emotional plane that comes with birthing a child: I can see the world through her eyes and notice things that I wouldn’t have noticed without her. I’ve lost out on time, but I’ve gained quite richly in other ways. At least that’s the theory I’m working with now.

Read the full interview on Vulture.