Creative Mothers Series – Art and Soul

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!

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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My son was 9 months old when I began writing my first (as yet unpublished) novel – Art and Soul – in August 2013.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.

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Still my favourite cartoon about the reality of motherhood. I wish I knew who drew it, but I haven’t been able to find the source. If you know, please tell me so I can credit them!

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.

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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.

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As you may have noticed, Cathy Thorne appears to read my mind and encapsulate my thoughts in funny cartoons. She’s great.

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.

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You can find out more about Claire on her blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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20 thoughts on “Creative Mothers Series – Art and Soul

  1. Great post – and I concur wholeheartedly, having written my book whilst I had one, then two, young boys. I love the way you count ‘writing in your head’ as writing – this way, you can feel that are you being productive even when you haven’t had time for a wee, let alone to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. I might start doing housework in my head…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your face is lovely! Thank you for being a part of it, you offer such an interesting perspective as I said at the top.Fascinating about how your worry put your little boy into your novel more than the story needed, and amazing that you had the self awareness to realise why. I completely agree with motheringfrights about the writing in your head point…I love it too. I’ve been thinking about it loads recently, I definitely do all my best writing in the shower! Thank you again x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Art and Soul and commented:
    I’m proud and delighted to be featured in occupation:(m)other’s Creative Mothers series today. In the post I go on a bit about my writing and motherhood. There are also cartoons to stop you all getting bored with my ramblings!

    Oh, and please be warned: this article features an enormous pictures of my FACE. I was unprepared and got a nasty fright 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on finishing your first book. I agree with you about finding the time to write while they’re napping and grabbing every opportunity. I started writing when my husband was away and my children were in bed and my third book is coming out in May so it can definitely be done.
    I get a good proportion of my writing done while my kids are in swimming lessons and at band practice. It’s about remembering to make the time (and carry a notebook everywhere). Good luck on your publication journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! I’m still trying to fit in my latest round of edits. It’s so encouraging to hear from other writers who have managed it and to have published three books which taking care of children is amazing!
      Sorry I took so long to reply to your comment. We’ve been laid low by illness and then half term… I’m sure you understand! 🙂

      Like

  4. Great guest series Lucy! Claire I’m so impressed that you’ve completed a novel, let alone done it in the spare moments of mothering a baby/toddler. I love you messager that you can be creative anywhere and in the smallest windows of opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I just wish I could get more done in the evenings. But unfortunately by then my brain has turned to mush 🙂
      Sorry I took so long to reply to your comment. We’ve been laid low by illness and then half term happened. Just getting back in the swing of things now!

      Like

  5. I’m very impressed – as someone who has taken part in NaNoWriMo a few times (pre-baby), I know how hard it can be to find time to write even when you don’t have kids! I struggle to even find time to blog sometimes, but I try to sneak in a few words here and there during naps and in the evening – if I’m not too tired! #bestandworst

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve found NanoWriMo and JuNoWriMo very helpful just to force myself to write anything particularly when exhausted at the end of a long day.
      Well done for sneaking in any words at all. Finding the time and energy can be so difficult.
      Sorry I took so long to reply to your comment. We’ve been laid low by illness and then half term…but I’m sure you know how it is!

      Like

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