This month we're sharing posts by mama-writers as inspiration for our latest creative activity, Book of Mum, (doodling an imaginary book cover for that book you're going to write, one day...).
Today just like any other day, I have four kids tearing around the house, washing to do, food to prepare, husband due home and a constant nagging feeling that I should be doing something else. Often that feeling is connected to the fact that I have forgotten some school admin or neglected the ironing pile, but increasingly it is the pull of wanting to indulge my creativity.
Like many mums I have long held the ambition to write a book, but it had been a dream that kept dropping to the bottom of the pile as my tendency for procrastination, avoidance, insecurity and multi-tasking for everybody else's benefit took precedence.
Just over a year ago I decided it was time to make a change and put myself back at the top of my ‘to do’ list. My fourth (and final!) child was just coming out of nappies and gaining independence and the time felt right for me to stir up my brain soup. I wanted to make writing a regular habit and actively plan it into my day - but how could I justify that when it wasn't 'a proper job' and didn't feel as justifiable as clearing my mountain of ironing?
By treating it like a job and setting myself a deadline, some targets and personal and professional objectives. I challenged myself to write 30 different pieces for entry into 30 different writing competitions over 30 days and to start my first ever blog to share my experience throughout.
Being required to write something new each day would help me establish the habit, I would have to drop the procrastination as I would be accountable to blog followers, and I would pick up a valuable set of professional skills by teaching myself blogging and social media.
I identified competition opportunities and found that many were poetry writing competitions. In spite of the fact that I hadn’t ever read much poetry, I discovered I had a real passion for the micro blasts of inspiration and escapism poetry offered me - perfect when the kids keep you on your toes!
The more I shared my work, the more positive feedback I got both from poets and from ordinary women like me who would regularly say ‘I never liked poetry until I read yours'. That was such a thrill in the beginning and spurred me on to write more.
In the months that followed I did a lot of reflecting on my writing and the story that I had been feeling so compelled to tell for so many years. I was about to turn 36 years old, the exact age my own mum had been when she died of breast cancer. I was just 11 when she died and the loss of that mother and daughter relationship had profoundly impacted everything in my world. I realised it was time to share my journey and poetry became the vehicle for me to express it.
I penned a sample selection of poetry and submitted it to an American publisher in anticipation of a positive response. They declined and I was crushed, but then I grew defiant and decided that I had put too much effort in to throw in the towel now, and so I made use of the network of poets I had got to know via social media and asked those whose work I had admired to take a look and give me honest feedback. They were honest, but also encouraging and gave me the impetus I needed to rework my collection and to spill my guts right into it. I resubmitted the revised collection a few weeks later and this time it was accepted. I was thrilled - and then terrified - and then thrilled again!
One year on from that first blog post, I have just released my first book entitled 'Melodies of my Other Life' and most wonderfully for me is that one of my own daughters features on the cover art work. For anyone who thinks they won't enjoy poetry, I would urge you to give it a try. My collection spans soft pretty observations and memories, dark and gritty reflections through to an uplifting resolution. It may be in the form of poetry but it's a story nonetheless and because of its form it means that if you literally only have a few seconds to spare you can grab bite sized pieces of art that are completed in as little as three lines or you can sit with a cuppa and soak up a whole volume!
Vanessa's top tips for writing your book:
- Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself and work to a timeline if necessary.
- Get the support of your family. If they are on board, they should respect the fact that you need time to create and should leave you alone to get on with it.
- Set objectives for yourself that you can tick off as you achieve them.
- Don't put it off! Give yourself as much priority as everyone else and use up all of the time you have allocated to yourself.
- Whether you are writing for pleasure or to pen a bestseller, have fun.
The following excerpt from Melodies of my Other Life appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing. COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Vanessa Matthews
Love Locked In
You came to me
in the earliest days of January
Unfurled palm revealing
A lock of your hair
Snippet of conker
bound in raspberry satin
To remember me
I didn’t know
Silver reflected in your eyes
as you took a swirl
of mine in black
To take with me
I didn’t know
you were going
We'd love you to come and join our #somum Make Date on twitter this Wednesday 10 April from 8.30 - 10pm UK time: let's play at writing the stories of our lives and have a go at doodling our own book covers. All welcome!
EXCITING NEWS HOT OFF THE PRESS: Vanessa is offering us an amazing prize for a Book of Mum competition coming up soon: a unique poem written especially for one lucky mama! We'll announce how to enter at our #soMum Make Date.