On Motherhood and Writing, Because Both Are Tricky (And Wonderful)

Today’s post by debut novelist Joy Calloway | @JoyWCal

Today we’re visiting with Joy Calloway, author of THE FIFTH AVENUE ARTIST’S SOCIETY, and one of our featured authors this summer. She’s sharing a bit about her writing routine and this is something we’re always fascinated by, no matter the circumstances. Let us know if you can relate to her story!

Joy Calloway

Joy Calloway

I started writing novels before I had kids—about two years before—and was honestly terrified about how my daughter, now two and a half, and then my son, eleven months, would change my routine and my writing. It’s a common fear, I think, to wonder how a child will turn your life, because inevitably becoming a mother does change you.

Over the past years, I’ve had quite a few expectant authors ask me how motherhood changed my work, and I could feel the hope and fear in the question. I remember wondering the same, fretting about the time I knew I’d lose. I thought I needed hours each day to work out scenes in my head, hours to dream up my characters’ every quirk, hours to rework one sentence over and over until it was perfect. How could I possibly be a writer if I didn’t have time to let inspiration spark and flame? How would I be able to work when I didn’t have the luxury of spending a full day lost in my novel?

I had a good routine pre-children. I would sit down after working my day job as a marketer and write until my brain turned to mush. I would take snack breaks and make tea (The Fifth Avenue Artists Society was written in a haze of too much late night Lady Grey tea, tubs of peanut butter filled pretzels, and Sour Patch Kids); I’d walk my block and think things through. When I got pregnant, I worried that having my baby girl would mark the end of my writing, or at least a years-long break, because I knew that I’d put my dreams on hold for my kids if it came to it. Without a doubt, I knew they’d be the most important treasures of my life, and I wasn’t wrong about that, but I was most certainly mistaken about motherhood pausing my dreams.

Motherhood didn’t stifle me. It didn’t snuff out my writing like I’d predicted. In fact, becoming a parent made me more efficient. I’ve always been between a plotter and pantster, and that hasn’t changed, though I do appreciate my rough outline. The moment I put my kids down for a nap, I grab a cup of coffee and it’s go time. I know I have between an hour and a half and two hours to write, so I try to skim over my outline in the morning if I’ve been able to finish a scene the day before or at least read the last paragraph I wrote to jog my memory about what I’ll be writing that day. That way, the instant I sit down at the computer, I’m ready to start typing.

Some days are better than others, some days I’m inspired and some days I’m not, but that’s just life. The biggest thing is that I’m writing. Since my kids were born, I’ve finished three manuscripts. They’re not remotely perfect. They need editing and polishing and maybe major rewriting, but that’s okay because they’re a testament to the fact that I’m still doing what I love—and I challenge you all to do the same. Maybe you’re not a writer. Maybe you’re a crafter or a baker or an accountant or a teacher. Regardless, you’re telling stories to your kids by your passion, letting them know that it’s important to let your dreams live with you your whole life long—just like the women who inspired my characters in The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

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The Fifth Avenue Artists SocietyThe Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

2 Responses to On Motherhood and Writing, Because Both Are Tricky (And Wonderful)

  1. Sarah June 16, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    Oh, Joy, you are magnificent. And so is Fifth Avenue! You most certainly have made it as a writer with kids.

  2. Heather June 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    I’m late commenting on this one, but maybe for an appropriate reason– I’ve been traveling for my day job as a lawyer and finishing up a revised version of my novel for my agent. So this post is of particular interest and I must say, very inspiring! I’m so, so impressed with all that you’ve been able to accomplish. And I very much look forward to reading your stories! I also appreciate your honesty in sharing about your concerns and doubts. Happy writing (and mothering) to you!

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