Welcome to the second edition in the Creative Mothers series where bloggers and non bloggers are encouraged to share thoughts and experiences about the impact of motherhood on their personal creativity.
Last week you showed lovely blogger warmth towards our first Creative Mother, Laura (a non blogger!), thank you. If you missed it you can find her post along with information on how anyone can join the series on the Creative Mothers page.
I’m delighted now to introduce you to Claire Huston who blogs at Art and Soul. I am in awe of Claire, because, while I consider a productive day with my child to be one where I’ve managed to whizz the Hoover round, Claire has written a novel since becoming a mother. That’s right, written a novel!
Having written her first women’s fiction novel, Art and Soul, Claire is now working towards publication. She is also a Spanish-English translator, avid reader, brilliant baker, one of the friendliest bloggers I’ve ‘met’, oh and a mum!
So on with the post…I really love the way Claire describes how her life and emotions at the time of writing the novel seeped into the story – in both good and bad ways! It’s a fascinating look at the process of writing and her tips at the end for finding time to write are real gems…
Motherhood as Inspiration
My son was 9 months old when I began writing my first (as yet unpublished) novel – Art and Soul – in August 2013. The idea behind the book had been brewing for a couple of months, a couple of months in which my husband, baby and I moved from Spain to the UK. Once again I was in a new town far from my family; although this time I was fluent in the language and a mother, something I couldn’t say back in 2007 when I moved to Spain.
While house hunting we rented and lived out of boxes. My husband worked long hours in his new job while I worked part-time from home. Well, part-time in paid employment, full-time caring for a baby. During the autumn and winter of 2013, my husband was often away for weeks at a time and I found myself alone, struggling to cope with motherhood, conveyancing (always a joy), work, housekeeping, shopping (without the convenience of a car)… Sleep didn’t always happen.
You don’t need to be Freud to think this context may explain why my novel’s heroine – Becky Watson – is a struggling single mother, working in a job she hates to keep a roof over her son’s head while dreaming of returning to the career she loved pre-motherhood. I also believe my situation at the time explains why I finished this novel. Over the years I’ve started several books only for them to trail off at around the 40,000-word mark. But with Art and Soul, I could see the ending before I knew how I would get there and giving up wasn’t an option because I couldn’t deprive Becky of the happy ending she deserved.
Dylan, Becky’s son, also gave me the chance to immortalize my own little boy in fiction. The downside of including him was that real-life mother’s guilt seeped into my fictional world. One of my beta readers (also a mother to a young boy) commented that Dylan featured a little too much. I laughed. I had worried about neglecting him and written him into extra scenes. My reader reassured me: busy mothers often read fiction to escape their kids and no-one would think badly of me if a two-year old who had little to do with the immediate plot only popped up when absolutely necessary. I promptly send Dylan off to play happily in the safety of the story’s margins.
Finding time to write
Since my little boy said goodbye to his afternoon naps, writing has become increasingly difficult. By the time he goes to bed in the evening my brain often refuses to generate anything creative. Apart from a 30,000-word effort during November for NaNoWriMo, progress on my second novel continues to be slow. Taking care of my son and paid work have to take priority, and I do my best not to worry that I’m letting my unfinished draft sit idle. After all, it’s not as if I have a deadline I’m failing to meet.
Besides, while nap time may be a thing of the past, my son is now three and has just started pre-school. I hope to make at least some of my two hours and forty-five minutes alone into writing time. Who knows? I might even get the chance to publish Art and Soul and finish novel two before the end of 2016! Watch this space.
I’m no expert, but here are some ways I’ve squeezed in some writing when caring for a young child:
• If they have naps use some or all of this time to write. Writing even a few words a day soon builds up. If your mind isn’t numb by the time they go to bed, write in the evenings.
• I have found my mobile and the Evernote app helpful. I still walk everywhere with my toddler and while on the move I’ve recorded quite a few voice notes when inspiration has struck. And when at soft play I’ve been able to write a few notes in my phone. I can write them up later.
• Even if you’re not writing with a pen, I spend a lot of time writing in my head. Usually in the shower and when pushing a buggy up hills. But this all counts as writing.
• Don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t write and everyone else you know has enviable word counts. Unless writing is your paid employment, you have other priorities and you shouldn’t feel bad about putting making playdough models, making the dinner or having a well-earned rest first.