From a New Yorker article about Martha Nussbaum:

“When Nussbaum is at her computer writing, she feels as if she had entered a ‘holding environment’—the phrase used by Donald Winnicott to describe conditions that allow a baby to feel secure and loved. Like the baby, she is ‘playing with an object,’ she said. ‘It’s my manuscript, but I feel that something of both my parents is with me. The sense of concern and being held is what I associate with my mother, and the sense of surging and delight is what I associate with my father.'”

Rachel Aviv, “Captain of Her Soul,” The New Yorker, July 25, 2016, 34-43, at 40-41.

Given some of the things the essay says about Nussbaum’s parents and her relationship to them, I’m a little surprised that writing is so comfortable for her if she feels they’re with her then, but never mind that. Maybe what’s with her is her sense of the ideal parents. The quotation did make me wonder how to create such a sense of delight and playfulness. I’ve had it at various times, but it comes and goes. It seems strongest when I write every day.

Sleep begets sleep. Writing begets writing.

I scrapped the 450 words I wrote yesterday, but they made today’s 494 better words possible, and now I’ve written two days in a row, and starting to feel some enjoyment in place of the dread that was building up.

3 thoughts on “Holding environment

  1. I read that Nussbaum article a few months ago. I was struck by that too — her parents did not sound at all like anyone I would like to be raised by.

  2. “Writing begets writing.” Yes.
    I tried to read the Martha Nussbaum piece, but the knowledge that she gets $10,000 per lecture kept distracting me. What would I do with $10,000? I’d ask myself, and before you knew it, I was on a meditation about fixing something in the house, which Martha Nussbaum probably has People to fix, and there went the reading time.

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