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Stolen Moments Of A Writing Mum

November 8th, 2021

When do you write? Where do you write? Do you listen to music whilst you write, or does it have to be completely silent?

I see these questions frequently when I read writing magazines, books and blogs. My mum gave me a book last Christmas: The Art of Writing Fiction, by Andrew Cowan. There’s a fascinating section called ‘Writers’ routines’, which lists how, when and where certain famous writers liked to reach their daily word count. For example, Barbara Cartland dictated her novels to her secretary whilst reclining on a chaise longue. Novelist and biographer Margaret Forster only wrote until lunchtime, and always with a fountain pen. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing at a lectern, often naked. He would use a pencil, and only sat down when typing dialogue.

But it’s not only famous writers who have rules and routines. I constantly read of writers saying ‘I like to write first thing in the morning until lunchtime,’ or ‘I have a special writing playlist that I listen to whilst I write, and I do that between 4 and 7pm.’ I understand the logic and comfort of this. Writing can seem a lonely and aimless pursuit when you don’t have an agent or editor setting deadlines or asking for corrections. I say ‘lonely and aimless’ when I actually mean ‘peaceful and liberating.’ But still, the need for self-motivation is huge, and routines and rituals help to provide structure and comfort.

I, however, have no such routines or rituals. And this isn’t out of choice – it’s because I’m a full-time mum with a part-time job. Since Covid, I don’t travel to an office for my one working day a week, but sneak in my work hours around nap-times, school-runs and episodes of Peppa Pig. And my writing gets the same treatment – it’s a thousand stolen moments where I’ve learnt I might get to write half a chapter, but more likely it’ll be two words. Often it’s nothing. So I read these wonderful, luxurious accounts of writers choosing when they get to sit down and create, and I think ‘one day, Ruth, all this will be yours.’ Perhaps not the writing naked or dictating to a secretary bit, but the uninterrupted time bit.

I’ve had a taste of this – my toddler recently started nursery three mornings a week, and in those glorious, silent two-and-a-half-hour stretches I can sometimes finish my paid work, and then get some writing done. It’s the beginning of a routine that I hope will grow and flourish, perhaps when my second child is in school and I can think about upping both work and writing. Or (dream of dreams), combine the two.


Ruth Clarke-Irons is a musician, actor, writer and mother who lives in Kingston-Upon-Thames. She loves writing flash fiction and short stories, and has recently started a blog at www.ruthiewrites.co.uk

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