A word-by-word thing

In the last twelve weeks, I’ve written less than ever in my life.

          The only thing I’ve been consistently writing is a sort of diary, each entry covering a week of my new life and usually scribbled down at 3am with my baby daughter dozing off on one shoulder. As a first-time mother, I’m learning that writing can be squeezed into tiny spaces and that even on four hours sleep, I can be imaginative (though it’s a slog). When my babysitter’s here (and I wouldn’t have a hope of finishing Dreamrunner without her), I write in the next room, separated by a glass door that doesn’t shut properly, and with constant, happy interruptions – I’m welling up with empathetic emotion while writing a dramatic scene in the novel when suddenly it’s time to feed the baby, or I’m rushing to form an idea which could really be something when I need to go through and sit with my pretty little girl snuggled to my chest until she falls asleep, before transferring her to the sitter and going back to my laptop.

          So I’m writing Dreamrunner in a helter-skelter sort of way, not really pausing to look back at this stage as I just don’t have the leisure to. It’s a new way of writing – I used to love editing and re-editing my chapters as I went along, inserting new threads and removing all the extraneous stuff, and just fiddling – and so far, this new way is exhausting (there are times when I’d honestly rather be catching up on lost sleep) but it’s good, too, because it’s teaching me to be flexible with my writing.

          I’m realising that novel-writing doesn’t have to be done in peace, by the sea; it doesn’t have to be done in grand instalments, nor does it have to be an intensely private, don’t-you-dare-look-over-my-shoulder endeavour. It’s a word-by-word thing, so it can be grabbed here and there… kind of like lost sleep. J

6 Responses to “A word-by-word thing”

  1. Renee, November 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I know the feeling, trying to fit writing around a tiny baby! I write short fiction for magazines and even getting back into a short story isn’t easy with so many distractions. Writing has to take second place for now, things will get less hectic as the baby gets bigger…

  2. Ryan, December 12, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Hi Clare! congrats on finishing your second novel. We’ve met before at the dream conference in Sonoma. (#lucid dreaming). the transparency you provide about your writer’s process is really inspiring. take care, Ryan

  3. Clare Jay, December 12, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Renee,

    yes, it feels as if everything non-baby related is squeezed into the few hours when I’m not feeding her!
    Good luck with your own writing.


  4. Clare Jay, December 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I remember you from Sonoma, of course! Lovely to hear from you. I saw that we both wrote to Jeremy Taylor’s blog within minutes of each other 🙂 I’d literally just sent the Dreamrunner draft to my editor an hour or so before writing that post, it’s such a huge relief to have got it done… although there will be revisions now!

    Hope all is well in your dreams and creative life,


  5. Jane Porter, March 1, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Clare, I stumbled across you while researching trance writing and have spent the better part of the afternoon on your site. I was especially touched by this blog post, as I, too, wrote a book this summer with a new baby boy and it was a bittersweet experience at best. I wanted time to hold him but needed time to write. But yes, the books can work despite being squeezed out around life. I missed the focus I once had but wouldn’t trade the little body against mind for anything.

    I look forward to reading your fiction.

    My best,


  6. Clare Jay, March 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Jane,

    lovely to hear from you. Do write more about your research into trance writing, it sounds interesting. What’s your book called and is it out now?

    I know exactly what you mean about missing the focus we had before we had our babies; I was thinking recently that’s where the stress emerges from – the fact that concentration is never total because my eyes and ears and thoughts are always with the baby even when I’m writing. But of course, having a baby is so gorgeous that everything pales into insignificance beside them.

    Having just had a mad weekend ‘squeezing in’ at least 15 hours of work while I checked through the copy-edited manuscript noting all the changes that still need to be made, and writing a synopsis for a competition my publishers want to enter Dreamrunner for, I’m now feeling huge, huge waves of relief to know it’s all over at last (at least for now!)

    Good luck with your own balancing act!



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